Yesterday the Cubs chose Kansas State left-handed starter Jordan Wicks with the 21st overall pick. I already covered the selection a bit in this morning’s recap, but I also put together a Twitter thread with some additional thoughts after I posted this morning:
He's got a bit of a long arm action on his delivery but seems to hide the ball well to create some deception. At 6'3" ~220 lbs he looks filled out, but there is almost always strength improvements to be gained as a pro. He is a fluid athlete who repeats delivery well.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
Fastball is avg in video I saw, although at times it flashes cutting action. Assume this is something Cubs try to consistently unlock in pitch lab. Reportedly generates good rpms. Cubs have worked with many guys to create distinct 2 and 4 seam profiles which could benefit Wicks.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
His breaking balls are my main concern.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
The slider is… fine.
The curve is… not.
Think one needs to take a step to unlock mid-rotation potential.
Maybe they add a cutter or rework the SL into a cutter.
Cubs have all guys experiment w/CV grips. Some success teaching spike CV
I expect Wicks to move quickly through lower levels.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
How quickly succeeds at upper levels and then jumps to Majors will depend on how quickly he can lock in a breaking ball.
We've seen the difference a new slider has made for Alzolay and Steele. Wicks will need a similar leap.
He finished his Kansas State career as their all-time strikeout leader, punching out 230 batters in 203 innings, while compiling a 15-6 record and 3.24 ERA in 34 career starts spread across three seasons.
Wicks was ranked as the 13th overall player according to Baseball America and the 16th according to MLB Pipeline. I’m just now starting to go over some of the reactions from those publications and others from around the net. Everyone seems about as positive as I am about the Cubs choice and agree that it is strong matchup of an advanced college arm with still untapped upside to a system in dire need of future middle of the rotation starters.
Don't call Jordan Wicks a "pitchability" lefthander. That undersells his stuff by a lot IMO.— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) July 12, 2021
Cubs Vice President of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz was effusive in his praise of Wicks, noting not only his impressive repertoire, but his maturity, work ethic and approach:
“We were blown away,” Kantrovitz said. “How thoughtful he was about his repertoire, about his intent, about his work ethic, about his routine and just sort of his game plan when he goes out there. … To talk to an amateur pitcher that could articulate sort of his intent the way that he could was really impressive.”Cubs Vice President of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz regarding his meeting with 1st Round choice Jordan Wicks at last month’s MLB Scouting Combine
For more reactions and analysis on Wicks, I see Bryan Smith has done a deep dive on him over at Bleacher Nation. I haven’t read through all of it yet, but Bryan always does thorough work and the two of us agree on prospects more often than not. Greg Huss has more over at Out Of The Vines, and Greg Zumach of Cubs Insider looks like he’s got some of the raw data I hadn’t seen on the pitches and mechanics for Wicks.
The second day of the draft (rounds 2-10) kicks off at noon CST on MLB.com.
I would expect the signing bonus for Wicks to come in right around slot ($3,132,300). He’s a bit older for his draft class, but he was also rated and expected to go a bit higher than the 21st pick. The Cubs do not have a ton of wiggle room because their bonus pool ($6,779,400) is the 7th smallest among all the clubs and the slot for the 21st pick accounts for nearly half of their total.
If the Cubs plan to go over slot on prep player on Day 2, as they in all recent drafts, the savings will likely need to come from smaller chunks out from their 6th-10th round selections. Given their success grabbing hard throwing relievers as free agents after last year’s 5 round draft concluded, I wonder if they can snag a couple of relievers who could still develop into Major Leaguers in those rounds for under slot.
The Cubs remaining selections, and the slot value for each pick is below:
56) Cubs: $1,276,400
93) Cubs: $627,900
123) Cubs: $464,500
154) Cubs: $343,400
184) Cubs: $263,700
214) Cubs: $206,500
244) Cubs: $168,500
274) Cubs: $152,300
304) Cubs: $143,900
I will attempt to update this post throughout the day as the Cubs make their selections.
2nd Round (56) James Triantos, James Madison (VA)
He's a little over 6 feet, probably ends up around 200 pounds. Runs pretty well now, but that could back up, and even if it doesn't don't expect a SB threat. His defensive actions should be good, not great at 3B. Might handle 2B, but I'd stick him at 3B every day.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
This is not considered a very deep draft for hitters. And while I haven't researched every guy, the sampling I've done leads me to believe it is an accurate assessment. If Cubs had not gone bat here, the pickings would likely get slim by their next choice.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
Despite some unconventionality to his swing, most notably the way he steps in the bucket, Triantos as not shown any issues making contact this year, which bodes well. I think it shows he has the bat control to succeed.https://t.co/CuLq6FHCUE— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
3rd Round (93) LHP Drew Gray IMG Academy (FL)
A 6’3″ prep lefty who is still filling out his frame, Gray throws a high spin rate fastball (90-94) up in the zone with effect. Pairs it with a good curve. Also has a slider that apparently flashes average. Still needs to clean up his mechanics and learn to repeat his delivery more consistently. If he can the command necessary to stick as a starter should come around.
4th Round (123) OF Christian Franklin, Arkansas
An athletic centerfielder with good range featuring an above average arm and speed (although some reports had the speed degrading this year). Franklin also produces impressive bat speed and exit velos. But he got off to a rough start at the plate this spring but improved as a the season moved along. Even when he had contact issues early, he was still hitting for power and drawing walks. Coming into the year Franklin was considered a sleeper for the 1st round with a potential 20-20 big league future. Encountered issues chasing breaking balls out of the zone when down in the count according to reports. Looks like he pulls away with his lower half too early at times, but has shown a willingness to use all fields. Ranked as the 57th overall player by Baseball America.
We don’t deserve Christian Franklin.— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) June 4, 2021
He did this to end the frame + save runs.
Then tied it with a solo homer leading off the bottom of the inning
Top 50 draft prospect: https://t.co/18ugc09Hdjpic.twitter.com/83T1Kx0HUI
Christian Franklin is excellent value in 4th Rd.— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) July 12, 2021
Plays all 3 OF spots w/range and arm.
Has power/patience at dish. Can murder the ball.
All comes down to hit tool. Like his hands through zone, but lower half looks out of sync at times, could have trouble with sliders from RHP.
5th Round (154) Liam Spence, Tennessee
An Australian whose older brother pitched in the Majors. Liam is a speedy shortstop with a contact oriented approach which he combines with a great eye. His .472 OBP was 5th in Division I ball. He is an overage draftee, already 23 years old. His defense at short is consider adequate. Spence is most certainly going to be an under slot signing.
Tennessee SS Liam Spence is a really interesting name for me heading into SEC play.— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) March 16, 2021
An Australian born, former JUCO bandit is a pure hitter with a career .362/.470/.530 line. He’s been a rock solid defender at SS and presents above avg speed. Potential late RD steal. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/Q7sVYTl0S4
6th Round (184) LHP Riley Martin, Quincy
Another expected under slot signing, Martin is a 5th year senior who racked up 152 K in 78.2 IP in 2021. Likely a reliever as a pro, his fastball is 88-92 which he pairs with a plus curve.
7th Round (214) OF Parker Chavers, Coastal Carolina
Cubs chose another athletic outfielder by tapping Parker Chavers out of Coastal Carolina. Long an intriguing player in the eyes of scouts, Chavers is one of the fastest players from the collegiate ranks, which he combines with an above average arm to make an impressive center fielder. He’s got plenty of raw power from the left side of the plate despite being listed at just 5’11” 185 pounds. He’s never had much luck tapping into that power in game action though, but did cut his K rate down to 13% this year.
He is another overager, 23, and given he never really had the expected breakout in college (in part due to an inability to hit LHP), he will likely be an under slot signing. He could be an under slot signing with upside though. Never rule out a great athlete.
OF Parker Chavers doubles in the bottom half of the 1st inning.— Jake Tillinghast (@JTillinghast27) March 9, 2021
Slightly old for the class, coming back from injury, slow start to the year offensively. Chavers has a lot to prove this year. He also has a ton of talent to tap into. #NCAABaseball #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/lg4A8enlTC
8th Round (24) C Casey Opitz, Arkansas
Considered one of the premier defensive catchers in all of college baseball, Casey Opitz features a plus-plus arm and pop times from behind the plate. He’s thrown out 43% of the attempted base stealers against him while at Arkansas.
Unfortunately, Opitz is not much of a hitter. He managed just 5 home runs in over 500 career plate appearances. He does draw some walks, but as a .253 career hitter with no power even with metal bats, it is doubtful advanced pitchers will ever fear to groove a fastball to him when the fall behind.
9th Round (274) LHP Chase Watkins, Oregon State
Bouncing between three different programs in three different collegiate seasons, lefty Chase Watkins who finished his career out of the Oregon State bullpen, but is considered a lefty from the college ranks with some potential to convert into a starting role as a pro (he started 14 games in college). He’s got the size and projectable frame at 6’4″ to hopefully withstand the rigors. According to reports he features good command of a low-90s fastball, a hammer curve, along with a cutter and change.
10th Round (304) OF Peter Matt, Duke
A three year player at Penn before transferring to Duke as a graduate (his 4th season was wiped out by the pandemic), Peter Matt is a powerful 6’2″ 220 pounder who began hitting for average in his final two Ivy League campaigns and then discovered some in game pop at Duke.
Yet another 23 year old. This would be a very odd draft collection in a normal season, but due to so many players missing time or having no season in 2020, the Cubs were clearly willing to gamble on a few as long as they offered good athleticism.
Filed under: MLB Draft