Cubs MLB Draft Update: Pentecost on an underslot deal? Gordon preferred over Jackson?

Look for the minor league recap tomorrow morning as I received some interesting info, both from public and private sources that I wanted to share.

In what looks like a 3 player draft with 3 potential top of the rotation arms, the Cubs are in an interesting spot. There are a number of scenarios that could play out here.

Scenario #1: A top 3 pitcher drops to the Cubs:

If Alex Jackson or Nick Gordon goes in the first 3 picks, which is not out of the question, it means the Cubs will get one of the top 3 arms,  Either Tyler Kolek or Carlos Rodon is possible.  One scout has been insisting for a while now  that Rodon will be available for the Cubs at #4 while another isn’t as confident but sees the scenario as plausible.

In this scenario, the Cubs will almost certainly take the pitcher that falls to them.

Scenario #2: The BPA after the top 3 — it may not be who you think…

This is the best player available scenario with all 3 pitchers gone and every indication I have gotten is that the Cubs believe that player is Nick Gordon. Our recent poll suggested that fans prefer Alex Jackson but my information suggests the Cubs may like Nick Gordon better. It makes sense philosophically as he is the better athlete and a middle of the field player, who has enough bat to move to 2B or CF if necessary.  Most importantly he has an excellent chance of staying at SS, where his offense is a potential asset from the left side. Even in the worst case scenario, he can be a hard-throwing bullpen arm. He has a better floor than Jackson or any other high school position player in this draft. He’s the guy if they go upside/BPA outside of the top 3 arms.

Scenario #3: The underslot deal:

This is really gaining traction because there really isn’t a clear cut guy outside the top 3, especially for the Cubs, who prefer high floor/lower risk collegiate players — particularly hitters.

The problem is that this is not a good year for college hitters. The best all-around player, Bradley Zimmer, may be a tweener. The best hitter, Max Conforto, is a LF’er only and may not develop the power for the position. The best power hitter, Kyle Schwarber, will likely end up at 1B.

The fast riser right now is Kennesaw catcher Max Pentecost and he is looking like he’ll go top 10. In fact, no less than Theo Epstein went to see him today, per Jim Callis while Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, and Jaron Madison apparently went out to see him a couple of weeks ago according to Kiley McDaniel of Obviously they had a positive report to have sent Theo out to see him.

Both VPs & the SD in 2 weeks ago. 6th on my board RT @jimcallisMLB Max Pentecost keeps rising; Cubs prez Theo Epstein checked him out today.

Now this is interesting. He checks a lot of boxes for this front office:

  • Premium, middle of the field position?  Check.  Pentecost figures to stick at catcher and be a solid defender.
  • Good athlete? Check. He’s quick for a catcher, both on the bases and behind the plate, where he has a quick release and moves well to block pitches.
  • College hitter? Check.
  • Good hit tool? Check, Pentecost grades out as an above average hitter with average power. He is ending the season on a 36 game (as of this writing”) hitting streak and is batting .426/.479/.634 with 8 HRs.
  • Good approach? Check.  Pentecost has a patient, disciplined approach, walking in nearly 9% of his PAs and the ability to take the ball to RF.

Here’s video:

I like his swing. He’s pretty quiet up there with a smooth line drive swing, generating good bat speed. He transfers his weight well though he doesn’t have that explosion when he rotates, which is why he’ll probably hit for solid average but be an average power hitter. One scout I talked to liked the swing but felt he dragged his back foot a little. If there is another drawback, it’s the quality of competition he has faced, though he has played well when matched up against bigger schools.

Pentecost doesn’t have Gordon’s upside but he is a safer bet and like Gordon plays a premium position.  One key if the Cubs are close between the two is that Pentecost plays a position of need in the organization.  You don’t draft for need, but if you take the high floor and the high probability into account with the fact that he already shows the kind of approach and hit tool the front office likes, his position may be enough to help tip the scales.

What is additionally appealing about this scenario is that Pentecost may sign for well underslot, giving the Cubs a lot of pool money to work with later in the draft. You play to the strengths of the draft and after the big 3, the strength of the draft is the sheer volume of high ceiling power arms that will be available in the second round.

Here are 10 that I like…

  • Jake Bukauskus is a first round talent who will drop because of a strong commitment to Virginia.    He was in the 96-100 mph range, grading out with a potentially better fastball than Tyler Kolek.  Keith Law has him at a 75 and Kolek at a 70.
  • Sean Reid-Foley is a good all-around pitcher who has a #3 ceiling if he develops his change-up.
  • Justus Sheffield isn’t a fireballer but he is solid to good across the board with the potential for very good command and great pitchability.
  • Dylan Cease impressed me at the UA game because of his tremendous arm speed that generated some of the best velocity that day.  He has hit as high as 97 with the potential for a plus curveball.   Command is an issue.
  • Michael Kopesch is another guy who really impressed me at the UA game.  Excellent size and prjectability with the potential for a plus-plus fastball and a plus curve.  Mechanics need work so he may drop.
  • Matt Imhof is a lefty with tremendous size at 6’5, 220, a plus FB and a plus slider.  Command needs work.
  • David Peterson is another big LH pitcher (6’6″) who projects well, though his stuff is average at best right now.  Has potential for a plus fastball.
  • Luke Weaver is a Tim Hudson type who can hit 97 despite his slender 6’2″ frame and has a very good feel for pitching.  One scout I talked to him preferred him over Aaron Nola.  Should move quickly.
  • Cameron Varga generated some buzz this summer.  Ideal pitching frame and a FB with plus potential and two other above average to plus pitches (curve, change).
  • Kodi Medeiros is another southpaw with a plus fastball that he generates from a smaller 6’0″, 170 lbs but his best pitch is a wipeout slider that may be the best one from the left side in this draft (Ron Guidry, anyone?).  Like Nola, a concern is an unusually low arm slot but potentially has plus stuff across the board with good feel and solid command.
  • There are more, of course, and we’ll be ready with info no matter who the Cubs draft in the 2nd round.

I think the Cubs still prefer one of the top 3 arms but if one is not available, the vibe I’m getting is the choice may come down to Nick Gordon vs, Max Pentecost on a significant underslot deal.

One more reminder to join us at Pizza Serio in Chicago on Saturday from 2 to 5 pm where Baseball Prospectus will treat everyone to free pizza and have a Q and A session on the draft.  I will be on that panel along with some sharp baseball minds.

Should be fun.

Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft


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  • Yep, that is indeed interesting. I always had a hunch the FO preferred Gordon over Jackson, I guess that confirms it. We know they liked Trea Turner this winter, his poor numbers this year have dropped him to a mid-rounder, but apparently the Cubs haven't forgotten the toolkit they were so enamored with on Turner.

    Two questions: what does Gordon's speed look like? Is he a burner like Turner? And two, you've mentioned his potential as a relief pitcher, does he have much actual experience on the mound?

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    He is fast but not as fast as Turner. Gordon is plus, Turner is plus plus.

    Gordon is a good high school pitcher and would have been drafted in the early rounds, but scouts like him better as a hitter.

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    In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Not John, but I've heard his speed described as an 80 and he has pitched. In fact, pitched well enough that he could have been drafted as a pitcher. 95 mph fastball -- which gives him a cannon at short.

  • I'm liking this draft, it's really is turning into a crap shoot. It's been a while that I really have idea what is going to happen

  • Wow. interesting scenarios for sure.

    Didn't realize Pentacost checked-off that many boxes for the Cubs, but I 'll take it.

    Another name to consider (at catcher) is a kid out of Western Carolina University, Adam Martin. He is putting up really good numbers this year, and actually has similar hit and power tools to Pentacost (although with a few more Ks and a little more power).

  • I think the Marlins are the Cubs only shot at Scenario 1...lots of rumors that they are want a hitter if Rodon is off the board. Which just seems weird since a month ago Kolek to the Marlins was considered the biggest lock.

    I'm still hoping for scenario #1 but I am coming around on Gordon. Elite athletes playing up the middle are always good trade chips if needed. I think he could struggle with the bat early on which will make the message boards even uglier than usual.

    I think Weaver will be off the board by the time the Cubs pick in Round 2, but Imhoff is intriguing. Not many power lefties in the system. Cubs will have to save a lot of money to buy Bukauskus out of his commit.

    Fun time of year.

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    White Sox are a bit of a question mark at the moment, too.

    Lots of ways this could play out.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Very true. I could see a scenario where they want a college arm who would move quickly and pass on Kolek. I have a hard time picturing them taking a prep bat.

    I think the storyline about them not drafting a Boras client is overblown. It has been awhile since they took one in the first, but the new slotting system changes things dramatically.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I agree. I can see them picking a college arm to be in the September bullpen and the rotation early next year.

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    Getting a bit ahead of ourselves (but, hell, after days like today next year's draft is all we have to look forward to), keep an eye on Carson Fulmer from Vandy. He's a reliever but the kid throws very hard, pounds the strike zone, and is utterly fearless. I like him in the 8-10 range.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I really like Mike Matuella out of Duke looking ahead to next year.

  • No surprise they prefer Gordon over Jackson, you've seemed to think, or know that for awhile. I'm preparing myself for Gordon, Pentecost or Kolek/Rodon in that order. Maybe they see if Gordon would be willing to sign underslot and if not go with Pentecost. I would not complain if they came away with Pentecost and Weaver.

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    John, hearing anything on Pat Connaughton?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Connaughton is most likely a 3rd to 4th round pick. A lot of good upside with a power arm but has a really low floor.

  • ur tease for the minor league update tomorrow.. omg

  • Best player available and all but damn the catcher is the nuts of a team. It would be an exciting pick.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    I'd be happy with it, actually. I've always liked him but 4 seemed too high, but for the way he has been playing lately, it isn;t even that big a stretch at this point.

  • Top 3 pitchers, Gordon or Jackson enough with this underslot stuff get the best player on the board don't need to reach for need u don't see the best team doing that look at the cards they draft best player look where they are at.

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    We sometimes tend to think of BPA as the highest ceiling guy but for the Cubs the best player available includes floor and probability of making an impact. College hitters are the best in that regard and the fact that he will likely stick at catcher raises his floor even more.

    I think Gordon may be the BPA but I may prefer Pentecost over Jackson because the latter is a prep player who is heavily bat dependent, that makes him somewhat risky. You may disagree and that's okay, it's a matter of preference. BPA can mean different things to different organizations.

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    And don't forget hat the Cards have only drafted 3 starter quality players since 2000 in the first round.

    And also don't forget that Theo and his team with the Red Sox drafted some pretty good players early: Papelbon, Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia, Ellsbury. I think they've actually done better than the Cards over the same time span.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see 4 since 2005 that have been good in the majors rasmus Wong miller wacha with Wallace cox and Barton bringing key prices in to help

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    And that's just talking first round pick which Boston got ellsbury bard and I'll count pedroia as he was there first pick

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    Only Wacha has been worth over 2 WAR, Huge stretch to try to make the Cards draft better than it has been. Those are some pretty low standards of success. It's the myth that doesn't die, people want to believe this even when the fact say otherwise. I don't get it. Narratives can be pretty seductive, I suppose.

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    So Bobby Hill was a great pick for the Cubs, so was Justin Jones.? That doesn't work. A good trade doesn't make that pick a wise selection. They salvaged something, but they still misjudged on the talent when they drafted.

  • Do you think Cameron Varga will be around for the Cubs in the 2nd round? Guy looks like a stud but don't think they will reach for him with the 4th overall

  • In reply to Patrick G:

    2nd round. Stud, some question mechanics but I think he goes in the first round or supplemental.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As someone mentioned on a previous thread, if we do go underslot for a player, I hope we also have traded for a compensation pick. This will give us more opportunity to use the extra cap to add signficant value.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I haven't heard anything about this mechanics but the question gas been about his age. He is one of the oldest HS players in the draft. That being said I highly doubt he is there in the 2nd round.

  • One thing, and it's about Cease. He's missed almost all spring with an elbow injury (pretty sure it's a partial UCL tear). He'll probably fall outside the second. He's also a Vandy commit and those guys are very hard to get to decommit.

  • In reply to Cameron Kmen:

    All very true, but Cubs will have all kinds of money if they go Pentecost. Injury is the greater concern for me.

  • Interesting that there isn't any momentum for the Astros to draft the Texan, Kolek. They need good publicity and fan excitement more than most teams. Rodon and/or Aiken are exciting, but Kolek is a Texan and I don't think Texas sports fans like anything more than rooting for a local boy.

    Seems like there is no chance it happens, which is probably good -- if it did, there seems no chance that Rodon or Aiken get to us.

  • In reply to springs:

    A right handed prep pitcher has never been selected first overall. Left handers are just valued more highly.

  • I'm now dreaming of Penecost in the 1st and Hoffman in the 2nd. I know it's unrealistic, but it might just happen. Saad fell to the Hawks in the 2nd.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Hoffman will not fall to the 2nd round

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    Great analysis again John. Love these draft updates. I'm beginning to be okay with the Pentecost pick given the depth in mid rounds.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Thanks Phil.

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    That video of Pentecost's defensive work was right in my back yard at FGCU! Wish I'd known about him sooner if have checked him out.

  • An underslot scenario in which the Cubs snag a top catching prospect and a strong pitching prospect in the first two rounds sure seems like a win to me.

  • Really the only way If do a underslot deal is if u have 2 first rounds picks in the top 25 like royals did last year were manaea fell do to injury but gunna cost to get him

  • Pentecost looks like Szczur in the batters box.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    More loft to his swing, and he also appears much stronger than Szczur.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    It'd be a mistake to overlook Szczur's strength, he's incredibly strong. Don't forget, he was a pretty good FBS football player. His lack of power is a result of a swing that almost exclusively uses his upper body.

  • From the group of 2nd round options, I think Luke Weaver is my favorite... Reports I hear is that he has a good fastball and change up with fade... Good live and late movement on both pitches... He also shows good command and he's from College, so he should move fairly quickly.

    According to Mayo and Callis, the breaking ball is a problem... But IMO... The change up is the key pitch... With Derek Johnson and Chris Bosio, they should be able to help him with the breaking pitch, like they have done with others like Rondon... Or he can just learn something like a cutter instead of a slider... IMO, a good change up, splitter or forkball is the difference between a future bullpen arm and a starter when it comes to repertoire because it gives them a pitch that's effective vs hitters from the other side of the plate.

    I'm not sure if this draft class is as good as the 2012 one... The Astros were able to pick Correa and McCullers, I don't see the Cubs being able to pick 2 similar players in either round 1 or round 2 respectively... But if they are sold on Pentecost and they pick him, I think it would be because they think he's better than the other options... I doubt they will pass on a player they truly like so they can spend more money in the 2nd round.

  • Shoot I wouldn't mind haveing freeland left handed mid 90s fastball plus slider plus command what's not to like

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    Freeland isn't in the mix.

  • In reply to dakota cubs fan:

    His arm angle and that fact his is rated as a very high health risk.

  • Oh boy...this could get fun...

    Ricketts wants more signs in Wrigley
    Frustrated with opposition from rooftop owners, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is offering a new pitch to get a Wrigley Field renovation underway: He plans to submit a revised proposal to City Hall that would feature more large electronic signs, additional seats, bigger clubhouses and a relocation of the bullpens.,0,5800428.story

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    In reply to North Side Irish:

    I can't tell if this is huge or just the latest move in an inordinately long chess game.

  • John,

    Have you watched the new Ricketts video yet? Should give you plenty to write about...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Yes. Got it via email, but I am really tired, Tomorrow.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    The video did a great job pumping me up for the rennovations. It was very eye-opening to see the clubhouse "batting cages" (or lack thereof). I agree with the Cubs and think it is past the time to move forward.

    Very apropro that this happens on the Centennial.

    Go Cubs!

  • If we go underslot, I would love to get a comp pick also. In that scenario, I would love to come away with Pentecost, Hoffman/Fedde, and Weaver with the top 3 picks.

  • I know a College pitcher moving fast through the ranks and helping the Cubs make the playoffs is what we need but catchers are hard to find. Even though Castillo is a good starter we need depth. I'm sold on Pentecost if Roden isn't there. With the hitting streak he has going, I'd like to see that kind of production in Wrigley even if he has average power.

  • The tee in the club house was a really eye opener. I thought they at least actually had a dedicated tee area, not a net in the middle of the clubhouse.

    I'm still amazed that the Cubs haven't tried to leverage their heritage status further to send the opposing teams' locker and dugout back to the 1920's. Leaving in old lead plumbing. Declaring a toilet clogged by Musial a heritage site that can't be snaked. No TVs. A couple of wood benches. A weight room with a couple of medicine balls, bowling pins, and one of those vibrating tummy devices.

  • Another box Pentecost checks off on is the need for catching depth in the Cubs system. He would hopefully be developed and major league ready about the time Castillo is starting to decline.
    I like his smooth and simple (quiet) swing. Also I noticed in the video portion of him catching that he doesn't give the pitcher much of a target with the mitt prior to the delivery.

  • The only thing I don't like about Pentecost is he doesn't hit from the left side. I thought catcher could have been one of the few spots in the lineup for a left handed hitter. Obviously that's a ways away and will work itself out

  • Tom Ricketts finally decided to be more aggressive with the RTOs. ABOUT DAMN TIME. I think there was a minor missed opportunity at the 5:10 mark of the video. The neighborhood vitality also benefits from a Cubs Expansion. The hotel would bring in an influx of patrons to the bars and restaurants off season. Vacancy rates are such that the hotel has the opportunity to be 80% full during the offseason. Those people need to eat and drink somewhere. Vibrant businesses push development and drive property values. Empty storefronts could start to disappear and be replaced by burgeoning businesses.

    If this season has proved it is the Cubs need to create revenue to become competitive. Ricketts needs to give the FO the best ability to take advantage of opportunities. Ricketts has to prove he wants to be a serious owner and not just play at being an owner. Hopefully this is not lip service by Mr. Ricketts.

  • Seems like an overdraft for Pentecost. Nice swing and liked his mechanics minus his target but at 4 you want to have All Star potential. At a minimum the floor needs to be an average major leaguer for his position. He looks to meet the floor but I question if he ever would hit the ceiling. So if you are going to gamble on potential with the 4, I would rather have a College Pitcher with TOR potential versus 1.0 WAR catcher. I would rather take a chance with Gushue, Garcia, Lynch, Murray, Boulware or Greiner at catcher in the next few rounds.

  • Serious hitch in Pentecost's swing though.

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    If I arrived at 3:15 for the event at Pizza Serio, would that be ok? I can't make it earlier, but really want to attend!

  • If one of the pitchers doesn't fall to #4, then I'm more than OK with Pentecost as an underslot. I think it's time to devote a high pick to C.

    John, if Samardzija is traded, will the Cubs get a supplemental draft pick?

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:


  • I'm very surprised that Touki hasn't been mentioned in any of these conversations. There is obviously a lot more risk with his lack of experience, but that hammer curve is awesome. I wouldn't be surprised if he became the biggest star from this draft class. How much could we save in draft money selecting him at #4?

  • In reply to jkcutback:

    Cubs won't take on that big a risk at #4.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That makes sense, but the kid has all the tools to be a dominant pitcher. I just thought the Cubs may consider drafting some of the highest upside pitchers in volume this year. That's how I would search for a true ace through the draft.

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