In a distinct change from recent years, attention paid to the MLB draft by Cub fans and Cub blogs has waned dramatically as the Cubs are in contention for a playoff berth. With nine months to go before the draft, it appears as though the Cubs will pick in the late 20s. Currently, if the season ended today, the Cubs would have the 27th pick in the 2016 MLB first-year player draft. In the Theo Epstein era, The Cubs have taken a hitter in the first round every year. First, it was Albert Almora in 2012, Kris Bryant in 2013, Kyle Schwarber in 2014, and Ian Happ in 2015. I don’t think they’re going to change their pattern in 2016.
The 2016 drift stacks up at the top with a lot of high-end top of the rotation pitchers like AJ Puk, Alec Hansen, and Riley Pint. The Cubs are not going to have a chance at those guys. However, the Cubs do have a shot at several good players at the back end of round one as the talent pool is quite deep for next year.
When it comes to hitters there are several the Cubs could select in the late 20s. I would love to see Ryan Boldt from Nebraska make it all the way to the Cubs. For that to happen, a lot of things are going to have to go wrong and you don’t wish ill will on anyone. However, Boldt is the rare combination of speed, size, and elite power. The University of Nebraska OF projects somewhere in the 10-15 range.
Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod tend to look for college hitters as a rule in the first round. When it comes to typical hitter they like a player that hits for power and commands the zone, the University of Miami’s Willie Abreu stands out. Through the Fence Baseball describes Abreu’s talent:
At 6’-4” and 225 pounds, Abreu has a lot of raw power from the left side. It hasn’t shown up in games as much as scouts would like but he gives you glimpses of the player he can be. He profiles as a corner outfielder with his strong arm, but he’ll need to hit for more power next spring to remain a day one pick. Through 63 games [in 2015], he is hitting .300/.395/.433 with nine doubles, six home runs and has drawn 27 walks to 38 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate.
Arizona 3B Bobby Dalbec is another interesting name and his size at 6’4” and 195 pounds is intriguing as there is some physical projection left. Kel Johnson of Georgia Tech is a player that has a lot of power. On the other hand, the Cubs do not tend to select a 1B. They tend to select a player that is versatile in the field and athletic.
I tend to think Stephen Wrenn of Georgia might be the style of player the Cubs have been coveting lately as Wrenn combines speed and power in a premium position – center field. Every year at Georgia his power has increased. At 6’2” and 190 pounds, he has ideal size for the position, not to mention a burgeoning power stroke.
When it comes to pitching, the most intriguing arm is Kyle Funkhouser who went unsigned in the 2015 after being drafted by the Dodgers. Funkhouser did not get the money he wanted and returned to Louisville. Depending on his demands, he could be a top ten pick, or the power righty could slide all the way to the Cubs at 27.
In the second round, the Cubs might be tempted to take right-handed pitcher Conner Jones out of Virginia. Jones, a reliever, could be transitioning to a starter this spring. The Cubs tend to take guys without a lot of mileage on their arms and Jones fits that bill.
At 6’-4” and 215 pounds, the right-hander has the ideal size to take on a starter’s workload, and he features a 92-95 mph fastball to go along with an above-average curveball. He’ll need to refine his change-up, but he has good mechanics, repeating his delivery well.
Two names that intrigued me for either the first or second round are Bo Bichette, a high school shortstop, and Cavan Biggio, a second baseman at Notre Dame who’s a little bit bigger than his father. Both players have a great lineage but both are much different players than their fathers.
Well this is just a preview of some names, the draft season really doesn’t get going until the NCAA season does in January. Regardless of what the kids do this season, the draft will be an integral part of the Cubs season moving forward next year. For the first time in five years, the Cubs will have a smaller amount of funds to spread around the draft class. It should be interesting to see how the draft boards shake out the next few months.