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:
- 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.
- 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