Cubs and Sox also competing in scouting arena: Hoffman's impending TJ Surgery will have a big impact

There is another area in which the Cubs and Sox are competing but it is off the field — the MLB Draft.  The Sox have the edge, picking 3rd while the Cubs pick 4th.  And that edge just became a little bigger now that a major injury has occured.

Projected top 5 pick and top of the rotation talent Jeff Hoffman will have Tommy John surgery.

To be honest, I spoke to a veteran scout who called this one a couple months ago.  He didn’t like his delivery and called Hoffman “an injury waiting to happen” — and if you’ve noticed me leaning toward Tyler Beede for the 4th pick, that is a major reason why.  I have tremendous confidence in this particular scout.

That leaves 4 top pitchers at the top of the draft: Beede, LHP Carlos Rodon, and prep arms Tyler Kolek and LHP Brady Aiken.

The word I’m hearing is that the Sox are leaning college arm and really liked Hoffman, but that is off the table now.

So what now?

Well, there’s still Beede and some think Carlos Rodon will fall, particularly if the Astros don’t take him first.  The Marlins are thought to be enamored with Tyler Kolek.

One potential issue for the White Sox is that their long term nemesis, Scott Boras, represents Rodon.  In the past, you could have bet the farm that they would have passed, but the environment is different now.  Picks have slotted amounts and the White Sox could try and squeeze Boras with the added leverage.  You could also view this as an opportunity for the Sox to try and renew their relationship with Boras by negotiating in earnest — and to be prepared to offer the full-slot plus the overage.

But the Sox have other interests.  They could go with high school slugger Alex Jackson, who fits their offensive philosophy well.  The fact that Jackson may be able to play 3B has to have added appeal for them.  Jackson, however, is expected to use Boras as an advisor.

They could also be creative and take Aaron Nola, who many view as a sure thing, sign him for under slot and use the money to select some of the high end talent that will be available in the second round.  Nola lacks the upside of Rodon and Beede, but he is polished and will reach the majors quickly — and that is always a consideration with the White Sox, who are looking for a quick turnaround rather than a longer rebuilding process.

As for the Cubs, I suspect they’ll be waiting to see which one (or two) of the top 4 pitchers become available to them.  Boras is not an issue as the Cubs have picked a Boras client in the first round the last two years (Albert Almora and Kris Bryant).  They’re also known to like Beede and with Hoffman off the table, there is no longer the question of who they like better.

And while the Cubs have always preferred college players when possible, they have been scouting both Aiken and Kolek extensively in recent weeks, so we should not be surprised if they go the high school route for the second time in two years.  Both pitchers are more than worthy of the #4 pick and have high enough floors in addition to their TOR ceiling to make the Cubs comfortable investing such a high pick.

A couple of wildcards for both teams are rising SS Nick Gordon, who is beginning to dispel fears about his hit tool and is the kind of middle of the field athlete both teams like and Erick Fedde, who has arguably had the best year of all the top starters other than Nola (8-2, 1.76 ERA, 21 walks/82 strikeouts in 76.2 innings) — and has the arm and projectability to match the top 4.  I suspect teams at the top will begin to look a lot harder at the tall, lanky RHP from UNLV.  Fedde would also be a candidate for a below slot deal.

One thing is certain, an uncertain draft just got a bit more foggy and both the Sox and the Cubs are under the gun to get this pick right.

Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft


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  • great article

  • FWIW, Kiley McDaniel at had Nick Gordon #4 on his board before the Hoffman surgery was announced today. He also said Gordon is reportedly willing to sign for under slot to enhance his profile, especially since he is being represented by his dad and not really losing the agent cut.

    But I'm still hoping for a SP at 1.4. I feel like Beede has fallen off some and I know Grant Holmes is rising too. The Hoffman news was a big blow to the Cubs options without a doubt.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    I've thought for a while that Gordon seems a lot like a Theo pick -- athletic, up-the middle player with a family background in MLB and, reportedly, strong make up. I just feel like, if the Cubs were leaning that way, we'd have heard something about it much like we heard about Bryant last year. But perhaps Bryant last year was just Kevin beating the drum.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Gordon more likely to me than Holmes in that spot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Professor Parks and Nick Faleris have the Cubs picking Holmes now that Hoffman is out. He's a new name for me. Any reason you think he's less likely?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    We have talked about him but I doubt it for two reasons. 1) the Cubs have said they will take a HS pitcher if they feel he is a once in a generation type player. Holmes is good, but he doesn't reach that level, imo, while the others arguably do 2) the Cubs like to pick players with a longer track record and Holmes just doesn't have the track record of the others -- though you could say he's risen about as quickly as Aiken, so who knows? I just don't see it though because he's a notch below to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hi John, I got marked as Spam asking a question about this.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Gordon was at #5 pre-Hoffman injury (in the earlier part of the article, he mentions Gordon at 5). He re-ranked once Hoffman got hurt and he actually only moved him down a spot.

  • How far does Hoffman fall? Is there a chance the Cubs take him in a later round?

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Chance he could be available in 2nd rd.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Really? I mean there's a chance but how big of one? He's a junior, so he could always go back for his senior season. Is the leverage there to sign him for 2nd round money?

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    In reply to Quedub:

    There's a good chance he won't be ready for his senior season tho'. He might not pitch again til 2016. I suppose he could red-shirt next year, play another year of collegiate ball in 2016. But that could really set his timetable back yet another year. So, basically, I guess I just don't know.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Well, obviously his senior season wouldn't happen until 2016. That would be an unprecedented recovery time. I was saying he still has eligibility left and thus has some leverage so as to not have to accept 2nd round money if he didn't want to.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not a chance. The Cardinals would take him, and he would be recovered and successful in AAA by July, and in their rotation next April.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    With the large amount of data on post-TJS performance now, I think it is doubtful that he would last until the Cubs second pick. It was widely known that Giolito would need that surgery and he was selected 16th. There are a few teams that have multiple picks in the 1st round (and thus more money to spread around), it would make sense for them to take a chance on drafting Hoffman. But any team in the mid to late rounds would likely find it worth their while.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Cards will take him now :(

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Of course...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I would also guess that it's in his best interest to take the 2nd round money. If he comes back for a senior season and loses a few ticks on his fastball, he'll lose a ton of value, and money. But for a team willing to roll the dice, even the 2nd round seems kind of high. I know John wrote a great article on TJ rehab success, but I'm not so sure I take that kind of risk, even in the second round.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Assuming he skips the 2015 season, he will have a year and nine months recovery time. That's plenty to get back to where he needs to be to get first round money. The risk is, if he's one of the few that doesn't return from the surgery well, but that's pretty rare these days.

    Of course, picking Beede in the first round and Hoffman in the second makes my head explode so I'll be hoping he lasts that long and that you're right and will take 2nd round money.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    I'm assuming Hoffman falls to the Cardinals at #27.

  • Is Kyle Freeland an option? I take it no, since you havent mentioned him. Have you heard anything on him?

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    I've heard he is an underslot option but I don't think he's worthy of top 4. That doesn't mean that some team out there may think differently.

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    Damn.... I really hope Beede finishes the year strong so I'm not as mad when Rodon, Kolek, and Aiken go 1 2 3.

  • I'm still thinking the Cubs will take Beede unless one of the other top three falls to them. The real attention will be to who Theo/Jed might acquire for our soon-to-be-dealt FA pitchers/players.

  • Blech. I was hoping Hoffman would get to #4.

    Feels like there's a drop off after the top 3 and we're sitting at 4. Really hoping Aiken or Rodon get to #4 somehow, but I'm not optimistic. Not excited about Beede and thinking they may end up turning to a position player, assuming the top 3 are all gone.

  • Ack! TINSTAAP! A thinning of the available talent worries me.

  • I can understand what makes Kolek different from most high school pitchers. His FB is ridiculous. He controls it well and thus doesn't need to throw a lot of breaking balls. Young pitchers throwing breaking stuff too early in their careers is a red flag for many, so the combo of Kolek's off the charts FB and absence of this particular red flag makes it easier for a team to take him at the top of the draft despite the risk of selecting a high school pitcher in general.

    My questions is what makes Aiken the exception to the "don't select a high school arm too early" rule?

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Lefty with an above average fastball of his own and already has a good curveball and change and -- best of all -- he throws all 3 of them for strikes. Comparisons to Clayton Kershaw seem legit.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No, I get that he's talented, but aren't high school pitchers often considered too risky to take in the top 5 picks in the draft? I would think most of that has to do with injury risk and the prevailing wisdom is that that risk is driven up by pitchers throwing too many breaking balls and too young of an age. Isn't that what Derek Johnson is preaching? Kolek doesn't throw a lot of breaking balls because he doesn't have to. But it appears Aiken does. So what makes so many draft experts disregard this risk when it comes to Aiken?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I know you don't want young pitchers throwing breaking stuff too early in their careers, but I think you want them to at least show an above average breaking ball or secondary pitch by their senior year of HS if they're going to be picked that early.

    Kolek seems like he has a long way to go with his secondaries.

  • Out of the possible HS picks, are any more likely to take a chance and attend college first than turn pro?

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    In reply to SFToby:

    Of Aiken and Kolek? Unlikely. Bigger chance later on. Justus Sheffield, for example, seems like a lock to go to Vandy unless a team offers him top pick money.

  • This does cloud things up a but, but not too much. It all depends on Houston, if they take Rondon, it's all but certain MIami takes Konek. If Beede is there, I can't see the WS not taking him. Aiken has to be taken by the Cubs, high school kid or not.....he will be the best player there.

  • I wonder if there is any internal pressure on taking a SP with the 1.4 pick as it appears some of the picks from last year are a little slow to develop (Zastryzny as the main target here).

    Without a clear standout positional guy out there, I would think we are looking at one of the 4 mentioned above, unless there is a underslot pick the Cubs are looking at.

  • Here is what I think the Cubs draft board looks like right now:

    1) Rondon
    2) Aiken
    3) Kolek
    4) Gordon
    5) Alex Jackson
    6) Beede

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    I doubt Alex Jackson would be that high, but otherwise this list is quite good.

  • In reply to springs:

    I am not a huge fan of Jackson but I have seen him a few times and have talked to Scouts about him. They love his bat but are not thrilled about his glove.

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    Always love the draft posts. Well done.

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    I have to disagree with the "bad luck for the Cubs" take on this. Certainly a lot better news today than in July or August, after he was drafted with the 4th pick. Only person this hurts is Hoffman, IMO.

  • I've always been holding out hope for Alex Jackson anyway. Oddly, I was working on a post about him last night. And now this happens.

    Some experts seem to think that he could move off catcher but that his bat will play anywhere. But then there are experts that are enamored with his elite pop times and athleticism behind the plate and think that if he stays, he'll make a great catcher. No one seems too concerned about his bat, however. It seems like a 50/50 proposition that he stays at catcher. But I'm okay with that. The Cubs could always use another power hitting OFer, but the chance to have a great catcher is tantalizing. Not too many Buster Posey types come along. Castillo looks to be a solid to above average catcher for the next 3-4 years which lines up perfectly with a high school draftee's timeline of making to the majors.

    There have been rumors that he didn't want to play catcher as a pro. Those were squashed in an ESPN article back in March.

    Jackson reportedly has excellent make up which is a big factor for the Team Theo especially with a high school kid as it cuts down on the bust factor that has plagued many high school draft pick. High caliber make up along the lines of Albert Almora helps a player overcome the adversity of playing against older players and helps push him to maximize his potential. Also like Almora, he has been on the national scene for a while now and the Cubs prefer to draft a guy that has a track record. Aiken, much like Gray last year, has popped up out of nowhere with a huge jump in FB velo in the last several months. There's no doubting Aiken's talent, but there doesn't seem to be anyone doubting Jackson's either. Jackson has the longer track record and isn't a pitcher.

    McLeod was watching Jackson as recently as last Saturday and is quite familiar with him. Theo & Co.will go BPA regardless of pitcher or hitter, but the higher injury risk of pitchers is factored into BPA. I'm actually hoping there's a pitcher available at 4 that will be better than everyone else on the board because of the dearth of top end arms in the organization. But there is also a dearth of top end catching prospects so I'd be thrilled with Jackson as well.

    Here's some video on him.

    When news broke on Hoffman today, Nick Gordon got a lot of mentions. I wouldn't lament if he were chosen either. I like the up the middle guys and he projects as an excellent defensive SS which are few and far between. He also bats left-handed which the Cubs could use. Not knocking him at all. Just wondering why Jackson's name didn't get mentioned as much. Am I missing something? Overrating him?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Excellent post. I don't know enough about his projection to add anything except that I think it lies completely on his ability to stay behind the plate.

    Catcher with elite bat: Top 5 pick

    LF with elite bat: Top 10-15 pick

  • Good article. I'm still hoping for Beede or Aiken at #4, with Alex Jackson slightly behind as the clear top position player in the draft. At any rate, the Cubs are going to get a big time talent once again.

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I'm with you, but keep an eye on Gordon. He's rising really fast and seems to fit exactly what the Cubs look for.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    As much as I want a pitcher and would take Rodon, Kolek or Aiken at 4, I like the idea of Gordon as an underslot there as well. I am not high on Beede, not to say he will not turn out to be great. If we got Gordon as an underslot and get Hoffman in the 2nd round and he comes back great after injury this draft would be outstanding. Cubs fans can always dream.

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    In reply to jswick23:

    If he's underslot, it won't be by much.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He is repped by his dad, but I agree it won't be a ton since he's ranked so high.

  • Hoffman will not drop to the second round.

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    Ugh. Who thought #4 overall could be such a nightmare?

    Our best hope is Jackson and/or Gordon going in the top three, which i really doubt happens.

    I have zero interest in Gordon. No standout tool and he seems like the kind of guy that ends up at second.

    Zimmer taking underslot money is our best chance, IMO.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    How is picking 1.4 a nightmare? We are going to get a great player just you wait and see. 26 other teams would love to trade positions with us.

  • dont be shocked if Cubs take Nola ..

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    That would be out of nowhere -- no indication they're interested.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Cubs have eyes on ill leave it at that . I have several old college buddies in Baton Rouge and all over Louisiana .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    You may well have a scoop here. However, I'll throw out the caution that it could also be due diligence, much like their scouting of Jonathan Gray last summer.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's not really true, according to Patrick Mooney and "multiple sources familiar with the team's thinking" from March 20th... "These are the 12 impact players they’re focusing on now, according to multiple sources familiar with the team’s thinking: Carlos Rodon, Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Beede, Aaron Nola, Louisiana State University right-hander: last week a high-ranking team official traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to watch his Friday night matchup against Beede in the Southeastern Conference., Tyler Kolek, Brady Aiken, Alex Jackson, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Nick Gordon, Michael Conforto, Brandon Finnegan.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    ...of course they could have just been their for Beede, but that's not what the article said. In any case, Nola at #4 is a huge reach in my opinion.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    he will sign underslot like John alluded to

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    No one I've talked to has even mentioned him and even Bryan says it's started in the last few days.

  • According to P. Mooney on CSN today...

    The Cubs are no longer looking at Hoffman at No. 4, according to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, but would consider him at No. 45, if he falls into the second round.

    Industry sources say the White Sox are targeting two prep pitchers with the No. 3 overall pick – Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken – though it’s unclear if they’ll slip past the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.

    The Cubs are also scouting Kolek and Aiken heavily. Kerry Wood went to see his mirror image in Kolek, another big right-hander from Texas with triple-digit velocity. Aiken is an athletic lefty with a good feel for pitching at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, where Cubs executives know the local baseball scene.

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Damn, I was hoping that Kenny would pass on Aiken. Too bad, they're acting like a real baseball organization just in time to hurt the Cubs.

  • I wouldn't call it a scoop , I would just say that in the last 48 hrs the Cubs have been down there , which corresponds with Hoffmans injury timing . Just saying don't be shocked not saying He is the guy, only Theo/Jed know that .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    That's interesting, because it fits into place with a couple other stories I've heard in the last few days.

  • this last month is all smoke and mirrors , who knows . I like the options the Cubs have at 4 no matter the 3 picks ahead of them . Theo / Jed will get a good player .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I agree, we will get a very good player at #4, and a pretty good haul in the next 39 rounds.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs went with Nola. I was hoping for more upside, but with only three big time upside pitchers, I think Nola is the best remaining option.

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