McDaniel takes an early look at 2015 MLB Draft

We’re back to reverse standings watch mode again…

The Cubs sudden nosedive has them just a 1/2 game out of the 5th spot for the 2015 MLB Draft behind the Red Sox, who are desperately trying to tank the rest of the season.  With fate lending the Cubs a hand in this derby, it should be neck and neck down the stretch if current trends continue.  Keep in mind that the Astros will get the 2nd pick because of the Brady Aiken fiasco and will move the Cubs down into that 6th or 7th spot.

With that, I gave you a few names last week that I liked but I don’t get to see a whole lot of players.  Fortunately, Kiley McDaniel of does and he wrote up his early list for Fangraphs here.

Here are his top 10

  1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, (HS)
  2. Brady Aiken, LHP, (JC)
  3. Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke
  4. Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
  5. Phil Bickford, RHP, (JC)
  6. Kolby Allard, LHP (HS)
  7. Darby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
  8. Daz Cameron, OF, (HS)
  9. Justin Hooper, LHP, (HS)
  10. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

Pitching heavy at the top

If you want the Cubs to get pitching, it certainly seems like it’s going to be there — even advanced pitching as there are 4 highly rated pitchers at the JC level or higher, including Brady Aiken, whom the Cubs were known to like a lot in last year’s draft.  We know the Cubs have said that Kyle Schwarber was 2nd on their board and we can safely assume that Aiken was #1.

Aiken, of course, now comes with uncertainty because of an unusually small UCL, though nobody has a handle on what that means for him long term.  It certainly hasn’t hurt him so far and I presume that if he has a successful, healthy season at the JC level, it will quell some of those questions.

Matuella has been the big college arm but he is raw compared to most college pitchers and he has struggled to maintain a large workload despite his big frame.  McDaniel compares him to Tyler Glasnow.  I wonder if he might have to be brought along more slowly, thus erasing some of the benefits of getting a college pitcher to begin with, but if he develops strength and stamina, he is a potential #1 starter.

Phil Bickford is a hard throwing pitcher who seems to be getting better quickly.  My early reports had some believing his high effort style and one pitch repertoire (FB) would land him in the bullpen.  He has since improved and developed a slider, which makes him someone well worth watching given he is throwing as high as 97 mph.

Walker Buehler is a good all-around pitcher who throws hard and has good secondaries with command, but has a slight build — can he maintain the type of work of workload required of a top end starter.  He may be the Aaron Nola of this draft in that sense.

The Cubs are currently in the 6th slot and the player McDaniel has there is another CA prep lefty, Kolby Allard.  He is small and slight of build but also the youngest in the class, which bodes for greater growth potential.  Some have suggested he could be this year’s Aiken.

Slipping players

The first thing you’ll note is that OF Daz Cameron and LHP Justin Hooper have both fallen out of the top 5.  Whether that presents opportunity or not depends on how they do this spring — but if they perform well and answer questions they may once again leap out of the Cubs range anyway.

Alex Bregman may be the best hitter in this draft but a slight sophomore slump and increasing doubts about his ability to remain at SS have him at #12.  We know the Cubs like college hitters and few are more of a sure thing than Bregman.

Draft Strategy Guess

I think the Cubs will once again be very particular about the pitchers they will consider selecting.  If the Cubs have a chance to nab Aiken I think they will do so.  I also feel that is true of Matuella, who embodies a lot of what the Cubs seem to look for with pitchers.  But after that it gets dicey.  Bickford and Allard will require more evaluation as the season goes on to fully determine if they are worth a top 6 or 7 pick, but if the Cubs aren’t comfortable with any of the available arms, we may just see them go the safer route again with someone like Bregman or a true SS with hit potential in Darby Swanson.  Another alternative would be a big high school bat like Betts, especially if they think he can stay at catcher.

If the draft were held today, I would guess that Rodgers goes first to the Rangers and then the Astros to try to make up the lost development time from last year’s pick with a college/JC arm and choose between Matuella, Bickford, and Buehler.  You can do the math from there but it looks like the Cubs will once again have to either get good fortune or get creative again.



Filed under: 2015 MLB Draft


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  • The number of SS prospects around baseball right now seems insanely high. I know a bunch will eventually move off the spot, but I can't think of another time with so many, and it appears that even more may be added to the crop with this upcoming class. Crazy. If there is anything that might drize down the trade value of any of the Cubs shortstops it might be the fact that seemingly every team has a good SS prospect right now.

  • McDaniel indicates a steep drop off in talent after the first 3. Assuming they are high on 1 or 2 of the next tier of players, perhaps a setup to try and duplicate this year's draft strategy might be in play.

  • The last 6 games against MB & SL will determine where they draft

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    Is there any chance that Houston takes Aiken? Is it even allowed?

  • In reply to mblum876:

    He has to sign a consent form to allow it. If he doesn't want to deal with them again, he can choose not to sign the consent. But it might push him further down the draft and cost him money. Will depend on how much actual bad blood there is.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think he will demand overslot money if he is not selected in the top 5 because of what he turned down this summer.

  • In reply to mblum876:

    They have to have his permission and I will be floored if he gives it to them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yea, Aiken seemed to take the Astros' decision very personally. He didn't seem to want anything to do with them after they low-balled him. I would have done the same thing. I don't see how the Astro's can make up for the talent they lost with the second pick this year.

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    Is there any chance Houston loses the 2nd pick?

    What if Nix takes them to arbitration and wins the contract he was promised? That would mean they went over budget and should lose two picks as a result.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    I was wondering the same thing. They may still keep the extra pick because it was based on not signing Aiken. This is suppose to be resolved after the season so we will see.

  • In reply to Cphil:

    I am assuming they'll keep the pick because it is comp for losing Aiken.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Might they keep the extra pick (based on losing Aiken) and potentially lose their regular pick if the Nix arbitration goes against them?

  • I will be writing up something on Cubs Den about the draft and what is the most important part of it. I also think he is over acting to Hooper's velocity.

  • I also think people are under estimating Ashe Russell.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Hmm. Now you have me curious Kevin. I look forward to your article.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I've heard some concerns over his arm slot and a possible BP destination. I haven't seen him so IDK.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's a true 3/4 slot.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Russell was in that top 15 and I had him on my list of guys to watch. I don't think he's top 10 but he's the type of guy that could get there with a good season.

  • Best talent available

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    Buehler seems that interesting.

    Seems similar to fellow Candy guy Sonny Gray? Gray made it to the show pretty quickly.

    At this point in the rebuild, us there a premium value placed on a SP getting to Chicago soon?

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Possibly, but we can pretty much assume Cubs are BPA again and that promiximity is but one of the factors in that decision.

  • It seems like DJ Stewart has the Cubs all over him. One of the best college bats with good feel for the strikezone. Plus might underslot giving them money for later rounds.

  • In reply to CubsFanMI:

    In the abstract I'd say yes, but going to be hard to fit so many LF'ers on one team.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah. Scwarber might not be a lock for catcher, but the possibility changes his outlook.

    Best college bat with no defensive versatility + our current options ? I feel like at some point pitching has to win out.

    I mean, I realize they aren't going to force it, but in a year with college arms... why fight it?

  • Lets hope a good college pitcher is avaliable since pitchers are
    getting so hard to come by

  • As much fun as I have with the draft stuff and dreaming about potential superstars in a Cubs uniform, the realistic, boring part of me would be shocked if 5 of those guys were still in the top 10 come May.

  • In reply to nukee:

    While there is volatility, you can pretty much bank on many players holding their ground. Last year we pretty much knew that Aiken, Rodon, Alex Jackson, Aaron Nola, Tyler Kolek, and Jeff Hoffman would be top 10 picks. Some would have said Nick Gordon too. That's why we like to stay ahead of the game. I think the idea that there is almost zero certainty is exaggerated. There is a lot of certainty though you can't predict who will break through, who will get hurt, etc. But you pretty much know who the good players are early in the process and you also have a good idea of the guys with the best chance to move up in that upper echelon.

  • The draft is so far off and so many things can happen with these young players, but I would like to stick with the strategy of draft a college bat 1st (any Dee Gordon/ Billy Hamilton types out there?) , followed by a college arm, then attack pitching in volume.

  • In reply to Tnighter88:

    Which is why I will be writing about the talent as a whole.

  • Just wanted to point out because this is the 2nd time I've seen "McDaniels from" since he made the transition, that McDaniels moved to Fangraphs permanently a couple of months ago, and is head of their Minor League & Prospect department now...He has been putting up some great stuff since the move. I respect his opinion, and use to listen to his podcasts, he sees a ton of prospects, and goes to most events so it's first hand.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I think he does a great job with the Minor league prospects but I don't always agree with his amateur evaluations.

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