As we’ve mentioned, this season doesn’t have the same vibe as the last two. We weren’t all necessarily rooting for the Cubs to lose, but fewer were disappointed when they lost. We all knew that in the end, the Cubs would be rewarded with a draft pick.
They’ll still likely get a top 10 pick, probably in the 7 to 9 range when all is said and done, though it’s not impossible they drop out of the top 10 altogether. Barring a collapse, they will have the lowest pick since this front office took over. In some sense, that is some “bad news” for a rebuilding team, but certainly not as bad as it would have been the past two years when the the Cubs picked 2nd and 4th respectively. That is true for a number of reasons, some of which we have talked about already.
Another reason I am not so torn about picking a few spots lower is that I just can’t get overly excited about the players at the top of this draft. This is the type of draft that can really test your scouting chops — a draft where you may be able to get a better player at 8 than you will at 5.
At this point, you can’t rank players in any specific order so I won’t do that. It’s done in tiers. Those tiers are organized from low priority follows to must follows and everything in between. It’s very fluid at this stage. Players can move up or down from one tier to another. It could end up being that players in that “must follow” tier may have peaked too early, as we saw with Ryne Stanek a couple of years back or, to a lesser extent, Trea Turner last season. Some players can add strength, make a mechanical adjustment, or simply adopt a better approach and move up. Two years ago, few thought Jonathan Gray was going to be a top 3 pick before the season started.
Those of us who went to the UA game expected to get wowed by some of those “must follows” — Daz Cameron, Brendan Rodgers, and Justin Hooper. And while you can’t judge by one game, I’m not sure I like the top of this draft as much as the past few. Don’t get me wrong. I think Cameron, Rodgers, and Hooper are very talented players, but I am just saying none of those players is a sure fire top pick. Nobody is a slam dunk #1 candidate the way Mark Appel, Carlos Rodon, or Gerrit Cole were in previous seasons.
Here is how I would divide top rated players vs. interesting players I would follow
Top Tier (must follows):
- Daz Cameron, OF, HS: Athletic with potential for 5 tools — the most uncertain of the tools is the hit tool, which makes him a bit of a risk high in the draft. Great bat speed, speed, and the ability to play CF give him as high a ceiling as there is for the 2015 draft.
- Brendan Rodgers, SS, HS: Another 5 tool type talent but they aren’t as loud as Cameron’s, but he is a smooth athletic guy who can be above average across the board. Has the skills to stay at SS, which makes that profile play up a lot. Should be a top 5 pick.
- Justin Hooper, LHP, HS: The pitcher I was most excited to see was Justin Hooper, but I had immediate concerns about his funky delivery. He’s athletic but it is difficult to repeat. He also has a low arm slot and seems to put some strain on his arm. Of course, we could describe Chris Sale that way, but pitchers like Sale are the exception, not the rule. He will be monitored closely and it’s entirely possible that this year won’t be enough. Teams may want to see him continue to prove himself in college.
- Alex Bregman, SS, LSU: Arguably the best college hitter. Considering his position (though I think he may end up at 2B), this seems like a perfect Cubs pick. I think the Astros will see how successful the Cubs have been and take him with one of their top 5 picks.
- Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke: Not the polished pitcher you normally expect his high in the draft but a mid 90s fastball, a big 12 to 6 curve, a mid 80s slider, and a developing change give him top of the rotation potential, even if it is at more of a risk than previously top rated college arms.
- Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia: Good size at 6’3″, 185 lbs with some room to grow. Kirby has a low 90s fastball, a very good curve, and advanced command. Can dominate when he has his plus command. Good all-around pitcher who should go early.
Not top 10 picks at this point but players that I would follow closely in no particular order:
- I really liked a few things about high school lefty Juan Hillman: his clean, athletic delivery, the command of both his FB and curve, his feel for pitching. But he is rather slightly built and throws in the high 80s. But we’ll have to see him put on some weight, get stronger, and perhaps adopt a more aggressive mentality. If he does, he could shoot up the draft as well.
- Skye Bolt, OF, North Carolina: Skye Bolt was a freshman sensation much like Trea Turner had been the year before. Like Turner he hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations created by that great start to his career. But he is switch-hitting, sweet swinging college bat with a good approach and good bat speed. He also adds athleticism, solid tools across the board and off the charts makeup. He’s not a burner but he has above average speed and the instincts to stick in CF. If that doesn’t sound like a Cubs player, I don’t know what does. The problem is he followed up his .321/.418/.491 freshman season with a rather pedestrian .257/.373/.353 sophomore campaign. If he can bounce back, he could climb up into the Cub range.
Grayson Long, RHP, Texas A&M could have been drafted early as a prep pitcher but a strong commitment dropped him to the flyer rounds. He is a 6’6″ pitcher who was athletic enough to be recruited as a basketball player. He has since put on 20-25 to his thin frame and still has some projection. Could be a mid-rotation type who can throw in the low to mid 90s with plane, good curve, and the athleticism to develop good command.
- I thought Mike Nikorak was raw but interesting. He has a lean, athletic build that is still very projectable. He had an easier, low effort delivery with plane and good, quick arm action. The ball seemed to explode out of his hand, making it difficult for hitters to pick him up. He got some pretty weak swings up there. He’s from a cold weather state so his arm is still fresh, but it also means he doesn’t have as much experience. I don’t think he’ll get into the top, but maybe the 2nd round or overslot later — but like we said earlier, it’s early and a lot of things can change. Nikorak is a tremendous athlete with upside so if he shows a better probability of reaching it, he could make some noise.
- Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU: A solid bodied kid at 6’1, 200 lbs with big fastball that has been clocked as high as the 95-98 mph would normally put him on the must watch list, but he has pitched out of the pen so far, so his secondaries lag behind. If he is inserted into the rotation, as many expect, than he becomes a very intriguing prospect who could go as high as the top 10 if he has success in that role.
- Chris Betts is a prep catcher with a big body and a big bat. He’s exceptionally strong and makes loud, hard contact. The question with him is whether he can stick at catcher long term. He has some good receiving skills, as he has been coached and has worked on that his whole life but does need to work on his pop times to second base. If he can, his LH bat at a premium position will move him up quickly.
- I didn’t see the best from prep RHP Ashe Russell who struggled to get a feel for his breaking ball. I think he may have been a little pumped for scouts and was overthrowing a bit. I understand, however, that he has hit the mid 90s, throws a nasty slider — which I only caught a glimpse of that day, and can already flash an occasionally solid change, a pitch he will go to more if he struggles with the breaking ball. He’s a late riser and if he can polish up some of those rough edges, he could move quickly as well.
These are just a few guys and I left a lot of obvious names out, but I just wanted to give a feel for the kind of players that might be available for the Cubs at where they will likely pick and some others who may project to move up in the draft. Not all will make it into the top 10, of course, but some may move up into a situation where they could make interesting upside picks the way Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Dylan Cease were last season.
Filed under: 2015 MLB Draft