Cubs to pick 9th and that gives them plenty of options

In what will likely be the last year with a protected pick, the Cubs will pick 9th in the 2015 draft.  That is uncharted territory for the Cubs under this front office and with the current CBA in place.

We can still expect the Cubs to pick the best player available but once we get past those first 5 picks or so, who that player is becomes a bit less certain.  This could be the year we see the Cubs take a high school player or a pitcher.  But it could also put them in prime position to once again select a college hitter.  In other words, we really don’t know what they are going to do — especially at this juncture.  There is still a season to be played.

That said, we have an idea as to what type of player will be available:  a good college hitter at a non-premium position (DJ Peterson, Michael Conforto, Max Pentecost), a high school arm (Touki Touissant) with good velocity but still developing secondaries and/or command, a less polished college arm or one with health/durability concerns (Kyle Freeland, Andrew Heaney, Jeff Hoffman, Braden Shipley),  high school bats with position questions (Austin Meadows, Dominic Smith, Addison Russell, David Dahl, Gavin Ceccini).

It’s also a place where shrewd scouting and a some luck can still get you a good potential MLB player.  Players like JP Crawford,  Michael Wacha, Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, Cory Seager) could conceivably have gone in the top 10 but slid.  The Cubs have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Here are the players that could be available for the Cubs at the 9th pick:

College bats

  • Alex Bregman, 2B-SS, LSU: He may be the best pure hitter in this draft but doubts about his ability to play SS could push him down into the Cubs range.  He likely will play 2B but has the athleticism to move to other positions.
  • Darby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt:  He will likely stay at SS so it is a matter of whether he can hit.  If he shows he can, he may not slide this far down.
  • Ian Happ, 2B-CF, Cincinnati: an athlete with pop and speed but no defined position.  Sounds a little Alcantara-ish.  I think #9 is high for him but is a good fit in the middle of the first round right now.
  • DJ Stewart: LF/1B: He is the type of hitter this front office prefers — power, discipline, and a good hit tool.  The problem?  He is 6’0″, 230 lbs and while he is more athletic than you might think, he is still limited defensively.

High school bats

  • Daz Cameron, CF: Believe it or not, enough questions have been raised about his hit tool that he has become something of a question mark at the top of the draft.  At #9 he could end up being a steal.
  • Chris Betts, C: He can mash from the left side and the only reason he might be available is that not everyone is convinced he could stay at catcher.  He is further along than Schwarber was at this stage and has had great coaching his entire life.
  • Nick Plummer, OF: A guy I really liked at the UA game because of his quick hands and good bat speed.  He can hit.  Probably won’t play CF which makes him potentially available here.
  • Kyle Tucker, OF: A nice stroke from the left side makes him enticing, as does raw power and good athleticism.  He’s a name that has been known for some time and the Cubs do like having players high school players with a long track record, as we saw with Albert Almora.

College arms

  • Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal-Poly Pomona:  He has the kind of size, 6’6″, 240, velo (touches 95), ability to spin a breaking ball, and command you look for in a starter that can at least be an innings eater — and possibly more.
  • Nate Kirby, LHP Virginia: Can dominate at times when he is commanding his curve.  Can throw up to 94 but often works low 90s.  Some feel for pitching.
  • Carson Fullmer, RHP, Vanderbilt: With a great arm but undersized at 5’11 with a delivery more suited for the bullpen,   Like Nola, he could just be one of those guys that succeeds despite not fitting the profile, but he has a lot to prove next year to convince teams he can be a starter long term.
  • Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky: Another big kid with good stuff (up to 97 mph FB, above average curve) and solid command.  There may be some questions as to whether he has enough of an aggressive mentality.  I see him more as an innings eater than a top of the rotation guy, but at #9, that is kind of what you would expect.
  • Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU:  Ferrell has been a relieve and there is some pros and cons to that.  There is the low mileage but there are also the questions as to how much of his stuff (reportedly has hit triple digits to go with a plus slider) will hold up as a starter, not to mention questions about his durability overall.
  • Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt: A pitcher with above average stuff across the board to go with good command.  Like Fullmer, size is a question (6’1″, 160 lbs) — but then again, if he had good size we wouldn’t be talking about him as a possibility at #9.
  • Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville:  Big arm/stuff (up to 96, good slider, solid change) and big body (6’2, 220) but inconsistency with FB command makes me wary.  Someone to watch — if he shows a Jonathan Gray type improvement with his command, he could become very interesting, though that may also vault him past the Cubs reach.

High school arms

  • Kolby Allard, LHP: I like that he is young and that he can already top out around 95.  He is borderline top 10 range at this point and if he improves his secondaries, he may not make it to the Cubs.  Maddux-sized at 6’0, 165 lbs, he may still have some projection left.  This is a big year for him, could move up into upper echelon with growth, both physically and stuff-wise.
  • Ashe Russell, RHP:  Mid 90s FB a good slider, and a surprisingly good change make him an intriguing choice at #9 — especially since he still has some projection, particularly with improving what is already a good breaking ball and change.
  • Mike Nikorak, RHP: A bit of a sleeper, he impressed at the UA game with a mid 90s FB and a potentially plus curve that got plenty of swings and misses.  He hasn’t been consistent so this is a big year for him.
  • Justin Hooper, LHP:  Some of the luster is off because of persistent questions about his delivery, which has a lot of funk and more effort than you want from a starter.  That delivery, in turn, leads to questions about his command and whether he isn’t better suited for the bullpen. Nobody questions the stuff, which may be the best in this draft.  If his stock continues to fall, I think he’ll go to college.

I’m not enamored with the potentially available college arms when it comes to upside.  We’re probably looking at mid-rotation types due to limitations as far as size and command.  Ferrell is intriguing to me if he can hold up while I will also watch the progress of Buehler, Ponce and Kirby.   I’m a bit more excited about the high end potential of the high school arms here.  If the Cubs want to gamble on more upside and try to find a homegrown ace, this may be the year to do it.

I can see someone taking Bregman as as safe pick before he gets to the Cubs, so the Cubs will have to decide whether to take another Schwarber-like big bat like Stewart or go for a more athletic player like Happ or Swanson.  To me this looks like the year the Cubs skip the college bat.  I find more intrigue with the high school bats: Betts, Tucker, and Plummer while Cameron’s questionable hit tool make him more of a risk.

Whatever the case, there are a lot of questions and therefore a lot of directions the Cubs can take here.  We may see them take more of a risk than we have seen in the past and try to find that guy that should have never slipped to #9.  With a burgeoning farm system, they could probably afford to do that.  The chance to find a star player drops off substantially after the 10th pick and this may be the Cubs last chance to pick that high for a long time.

 

Filed under: 2015 MLB Draft

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  • There are a lot of intriguing options. Right now my favorite is Betts the HS catcher. I know we just got Schwarber, but catchers don't usually last long behind the plate.

  • How does this draft compare with those recently?

    Is it a weak-er draft? High-school heavy? College-heavy?

    I know that there aren't any Strasburg's or Harper's (or that there will be anytime soon) but I'd be more than happy if the Cubs continue their BPA strategy and end up snagging a positional player regardless of whether or not he's a HS'er or in college.

  • Thoughts on Funkhouser and his cannon?

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I left him off somewhat unintentionally if that makes sense. It was part oversight and part that I am not a fan because of inconsistency with FB command but I certainly should add him to the list. If I have Hooper, then I definitely should have Funkhouser on the list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He looked good for team USA this summer from I've been told.

  • I like the sound of this guy Hooper.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Ha!I wonder why?

  • It's funny - with the Cubs on the edge of becoming competitive, next year's draft just doesn't seem as important as drafts this year and last. Of course it's important if the Cubs want to keep those "waves" of talent coming, but it's just not as easy to get excited over...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It depends. I think overall you are right. There will be less excitement for the reasons you stated. On the other hand, I think draft junkies might be more intrigued because of the different options available, more players to follow, less predictability, and perhaps even a departure from conventional strategy.

    We were big on the draft in 2011 when they drafted #9 (and picked Baez) so I expect us to continue that trend with the understanding that it may be appealing to a smaller audience, but definitely an enthusiastic one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    On this site, there will be no lack of enthusiasm for the draft. This article will have way more responses than most. We, as Cub fans and Denizens, are regularly focused on the future. It's what we do and who we are.

  • In reply to Cphil:

    That is very true. I think it is ingrained in our personalities!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Tomorrow always arrives eventually.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    So does next year.

  • My heart wants Nikorak but my brain says Bregman.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    My brain says Bregman as well but Nikorak was impressive. Lots of projection/upside there but also a good amount of risk.

  • Seems like your missing Bickford and Aiken. Or are you thinking they'll be long gong by 9?

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    My guess is this is the year the Rockies pay the Cubs back for snatching Bryant and Schwarber and grab Stewart before he gets to us.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    #3 is really higher for Stewart, but then again, people said that about Schwarber at #4 last year (me included)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He's gonna need to have a big year but I suspect he will. And the Cubs and Rockies seems quite similar in how they evaluate players. Add in the Rockies extreme pickiness about pitchers and a glaring organizational need at first base and perfect storm develops.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Other than Jacob Turner of course ;)

  • What's the tie-breaker, for draft purposes, as we finished with same record as Phils and Sox? Just based on the order of the standings on ESPN's "overall" standings page, I thought we were picking 7th.

    Does the fact that will likely be our last draft with a protected first round pick make it much more likely that we go all out to sign Lester or some other TOR? And is it protected regardless of how many FAs we sign, such that it increases odds of 2 or 3 significant FA signings?

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    In reply to TTP:

    Lester does not affect draft picks either way. Only players who were not traded mid-season and received a Qualifying Offer (1 yr, appx $15mil this year) to remain with their current team will cost a draft pick to sign.
    If your first round pick is protected, you then sacrifice a second round pick instead if you sign one of those qualified free agents.

  • In reply to TTP:

    The first round pick is protected. If you sign 3 FAs with QOs attached and your first round pick is protected, you will lose your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks. I don't see the Cubs losing any picks by signing FAs with QOs.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Whoever had a worse record the year before picks higher.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What happens where several teams tie (have the same records)?

  • In reply to copinblue:

    They keep going back until one team "wins"

  • I'm hoping for a Hoffman/Giolito type pitcher who drops out of the Top 5 because of injury. The FO won't pick him, but it lets me beat that drum for another year.

    Actually, I mostly just hope this is the last protected pick the Cubs have for a long time.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    That is an option too, though of course it's impossible for us to know that now. Aiken could fit that category, I suppose. Maybe Matuella too. Cubs like both just as they liked Hoffman, so I can see that happening if one of those two fall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Aiken is an interesting situation. Although Houston handled it horribly, and has been accused of pure manipulation, I think that they were legitimately concerned about the undersized ligament, and I suspect that there are several teams that will take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to draft him next year. I doubt that he will drop to ninth, but I also doubt that he will be drafted first, or even second or third.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Legitimately concerned maybe, but they were willing to pay him up to $5M, which was what? $1.5M less than original offer? It tells me they were less concerned about the ligament and more concerned about signing Mac Marshall. I, for one, am glad they got neither. They tried to exploit the system and the situation and it blew up on them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bingo John, actions with money always speak louder than the public relations. if the risk was too great at $6.5M, how is $5M less of a risk if one thinks he is a blow out waiting to happen.

  • Bummer about the Cubs tying with the Sox (record-wise) and losing the tie to fall from 8th to 9th pick. Slightly less money to spend also.

    This is the year where we will see all the statistical analysis prowess of Theo and company coming into play, which should be a slight edge for the Cubs.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Yeah, the Sox blew a late lead, brought in some middle relievers. Just enough to lose, I guess. It really doesn't make much difference. Mattered more last year but it turns out the Cubs weren't all that interested in Rodon at 6-7M.

  • Hate it that the Astros still get 3 picks in the top 32 and the Cardinals get 2 picks in the top 34!

    The injustice of it all! Oh well.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Me too.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    The #2 pick for the Astros will not result in the #3 in the 2016 draft if they do not come to terms, so I would think that this #2 pick will be a big under slot selection with an agreement in place before the draft. The Astros are famous/infamous for playing the under slot game and can not afford to end up with nothing to show for having the worst record in 2013. With all this being said, the Cubs may have another player that could fall to them other than the ones listed in the article. The reduction in pool allotment from the 4th pick to the 9th pick would negate a great deal of the advantage of the under slot strategy the Cubs employed this year. However, I would venture to say that the Cubs could very well have ended up with better than the 4th best player in this year's draft even without taking into consideration the under slot savings. Time will tell, but the front office has a pretty solid track record at identifying talent and I am sure that it will be no different with the 9th pick in the 2015 draft.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    That's a good point. I can easily see them going with a college player that is supposed to go a few slots down, maybe Bregman or one of the pitchers, but if I am a player or an agent I am going to hesitate about a pre-arranged underslot with the Astros after what happened this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think a college position player makes the most sense. They could agree to a deal pre-draft and not have to worry as much about the position player failing the physical as they would a pitcher.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Ultimately maybe that does make the most sense and it would follow their pattern. But if Bregman is gone it's hard to say that there is safety in this 2nd tier crop unless you reach down and take Stewart and then worry about the LF logjam later.

  • Ive been liking their m.o. so far: best combo of floor and ceiling in a bat they can find with deference to a college guy.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I agree, though getting a high floor at #9, however, may mean getting a much lower ceiling than we've been used to so far. They may to give a little on floor to get the kind of ceiling they want. It will be interesting.

  • If HS players have more upside then we should go that way

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm getting that feeling a little, though not strictly upside. More like I'd be willing to sacrifice a little bit of floor for more ceiling. A high floor guy at #9, unless it's someone like Nola or Conforto, probably won't get you a whole lot.

  • With the system stocked as it is, I'd much rather take a stab at a high ceiling guy than a high floor guy.

  • When they sign a new CBA I hope they do away with the extra
    comp draft picks after the 1st round. I don't think its fair.

  • I wonder if the improvement of the major league team and the upper minors will get them more interested in a HS player. The system has grown. The major league team has grown. There is less urgency now. As a matter of fact, it might even be beneficial to have a younger player that will progress a little slower.

    What of John Aiello? Switch hitting SS/3b. Swing looks conducive to both contact and power. Pretty big already (6' 2" 200lb) and has room to fill out more. Strong arm. I think one additional thing that might make him a target is reports are his instincts and smarts are very good. The FO seems to put a lot of value on that.

  • This is a player development draft more so then the last few draft at the top.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Just no real sure thing this year. I keep saying that if there is ever a draft to have a lower pick and take a chance, this might be it.

  • One of the reasons why I never speculate on next year's draft during the off season is that players have a whole season to play yet and there is no way of projecting who will progress the most from their junior to senior year of high school, from the sophomore year to junior year of college, or in the first or second year of JUCO. We alos don't know who will make to the draft in good health.

  • You all can slice and dice the names and particulars all you want but this regime/FO has develop a pretty identifiable strategy of targeting a lower-risk, high reward first round player despite the perceived warts that the draft experts echo out there. Bryant seemed to fall into the Cubs hands as did Schwarber and down the draft slots so did many other talents. Cubs seem to dink other clubs into taking players or hide their intentions until it is over. Almora was the only higher risk/higher reward in that he was a high school player which to me is a high risk regardless. Then the Cubs drill in and find talent that is undervalued throughout the 2nd thru 10 rounds. So when June appears I don't really think any of the experts will have a real idea except to say my bet is this: Cubs take a position player who has a lot of upside and is versatile, possesses power and OBP history and might bat from the left side. Then they do more...more pitching at less cost.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I think they will always go for higher floor (less risk) and they will always go with the BPA, which for them is the best combination of floor and ceiling. I think as you get further down in the draft through, that ceilings go down as floors go down, so they may have to give a little bit in terms of risk, as they did with Almora, in order to get the player they think can be more of an impact player.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    Besides versatility, the guy you are talking about is DJ Stewart: plus makeup, left handed - outstanding bat - good raw power - 6'0", 230 lbs but is actually surprisingly athletic in LF (better than Schwarber). He is a bit of a hybrid between Schwarber and Bryant. He very much fits the FO's mold.....but who knows in the end what they will do. A prep player I really like is Kyle Tucker as well, also LH but more versatility in the OF, has good upside but is more of a project obviously. Stewart could be on the Bryant-Schwarber fast mover plan. It makes a lot of sense if Schwarber ends up sticking at catcher.

    RE: "Almora was the only higher risk/higher reward in that he was a high school player which to me is a high risk regardless."

    Yes, it's true that prep players are generally higher risk than college players, but with respect to Almora specifically, I'd submit that he was a special case who was more of a known quantity than many college players in the same draft as a result of Almora having played on a record six U.S. national teams while in high school. That made Almora a well known commodity in the scouting ranks, who was known as a born leader with plus-plus makeup. Combine that with his ELITE ability to play CF, a premium position, and that makes for a pretty high floor.

    By the way, an interesting side note to this is that with Almora having just finished a mediocre year stats wise (but at times struggling for the first time in his life at any level), along with the outstanding ability that Bryant, Soler, and Schwarber showed this year with the bat, believe it or not, their are still scouts and baseball people who believe that Almora will still be the Cubs best pure hitter. I personally think his upside is still a poor mans Derek Jeter in CF, i.e. a .290-.300 hitter, 350-.360 obp, and 12-15 HR's with outstanding defense up the middle, and a team leader in a clubhouse full of plus makeup guys....the key for him will be his ability to truly control the strikezone going forward, so that he can draw walks, and get balls to drive for extra bases....which is exactly what he was working on this last year.

  • I haven't commented in awhile, but I went to high school a town over from kyle funkhousers. Kyle is a year younger than me, but when I saw him in high school I knew the kid was going to be a stud. I am not surprised at all to see him as a potential top ten pick 4 years later. When I saw him kyle threw a 2 hitter with about 10 strikeouts. It would make for a cool story if the cubs drafted him considering the fact that he is from the southwest side of chicago.

  • In reply to JLynch2247:

    Very cool. I think if he can show consistent command, especially with his FB, he is going to easily go in the top 10, and maybe top 5.

  • I know I'm confused on the order of draft picks but I thought John said if the teams tie in record they go back to the prior year's record to determine the lower pick. I thought there were only 5 teams with worse records and Houston may get the 2nd pick if the Aiken miss holds up. That makes 6 picks before the cubs 3 way tie. I thought the sox had a worse record in 2013 ,so that gets the sox #7. Thought the Phil's record in 2013 was better than the cubs, so why don't the cubs get #8? Not that it impacts the basis of the article but did I get the math or tie-breaker rules wrong?

  • In reply to stix:

    Oops there were6 teams with worse records . My bad sorry for yusing up too much cyber space and your time if you read the comment.

  • In reply to stix:

    Thank for catching that error. I was just about to respond and list the teams but you saved me the trouble :)

  • Thanks for the article John. Is it really still 8 months till the draft?!!! Ashe Russell and Betts are the two that intrigue me right now. In part, because I've seen Kevin G. mention that he likes them and they fit with my thinking. Bregman sounds intriguing if he makes it to us but he had a bit of a down season and will have to prove himself ready this season for me to be on board. It's going to be fun watching it all shake out.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    You are welcome. It gives us some guys to watch. Some will drop, some will rise -- perhaps even out of the Cubs reach in the top 8. But I always like having an idea going into the offseason. This may be the last draft article for awhile, but I think it's a good time to visit those options now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am embarased to say that even though I've been a Cub's fan all my life I only really started following the prospects over tha last couple of years. I was surprised last year how fast the offseason went. There is always something either going on or coming soon. Playoffs, then Gm meetings and trade season, then free agents and before I even realized it, it was a couple weeks till spring training. Lets hope for no automobile accidents this time though.

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    Not sure if I just missed it, but what players did you leave off because the definitely won't be there?

    Anyone besides Matuella, Bickford, and Aiken?

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Brendan Rodgers....he might go 1-1.

    One thing to note though, is that Matuella is a stud, but he has a short track record, if he regresses a bit this year, he could drop to the Cubs range. Also their is still a lot of disagreement regarding Bickford even after a good showing (out of the pen) at the Cape, so he really could go anywhere depending on how he looks this year. Finally, it is worth noting that Houston isn't allowed to pick Aiken with the 2nd pick unless he agrees (very doubtful), and it would be VERY unlikely that Houston would pick him with the 5th pick as well...

    So if you consider, Rodgers to go #1, and with 2 spots unavailable, it's not completely out of the question to think that Aiken could make it to the Cubs (although doubtful) depending on what happens this year and who moves up (Cameron, Kirby, Buehler, Matuella, Bickford, etc, etc)

    A lot can still happen to change things (even for those who are supposedly out of the Cubs reach right now) so we will just have to see how things play out...but I agree with others that is a great year to have the 9th pick with a lot of good players at the top, but none (besides Rodgers?) that have set themselves clearly above the other prospects.

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