By Todd Johnson
So far in our draft coverage, I have focused mostly on college level prospects. This week, I take a little turn to the high school ranks. I am going to split this up over two weeks. This week I will be looking at some pitchers who could be available at the number 24 spot. Previously, I talked about the great potential HS phenom Cole Wilcox could have, but there are other arms who just as worthy and could be available at the number 24 spot.
The biggest thing to keep in mind about high school pitchers for the draft is that they tend to rise and fall pretty quickly. While most do have a long track record of playing in high school, USA Baseball, and showcases, other arms can rise quickly on the scene. Out of all the types of picks the Cubs could make, the high school arm is the most volatile. In the Theo era, the Cubs have yet to take a high school pitcher in the first round. And it was only last year that they took a college arm, actually two, in the first round.
Here are some names to keep a look out for this spring.
Carter Stewart – Stewart comes across as a very projectable arm who could be a top of the rotation starter if all goes well. At 6’6″, he definitely has the big body frame that the Cubs tend to be enamored with. At 200 pounds, there still is some physical development there to grow with, which might be the best thing for the Cubs.
Mason Denaburg – After Stewart and Wilcox, Denaburg might be available at number 24. It will be close. The biggest concern for him is whether he’s going to be a catcher or a pitcher. If he’s a catcher, teams will draft him a little bit higher than 24. If they see him as a pitcher, he might fall a little bit to the mid-20s where the Cubs could be waiting. In reading about his make up, he’s the type of athlete that Jason McLeod tends to covet. As a pitcher, he can throw in the mid 90s low to mid 90s and still has a nice big frame to develop more physically. As a catcher, he has a quick release and a developing bat. If he’s available at 24, it will be hard to pass him up. Then again, it depends on who else is available. Here is what Pipeline had to say about Mason’s potential:
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Denaburg has the prototypical pitcher’s body. Given that he’s split time behind the plate on the mound, not to mention as a placekicker and punter — something he would also have the opportunity to do at the college level — there is some serious upside here. As it is, he’s already up to 97 mph at times with decent command of his fastball. He will throw both a curve and a slider, but it’s a better breaking ball when it has that slider look and bite. He also shows a good feel for his changeup. He hasn’t always been able to consistently maintain his stuff, but many feel a focus on his craft would allow him to improve across the board.
Ryan Weathers – The apple does not fall too far from the tree as Weathers, a lefty, is the son of former right-handed closer David Weathers, who played for 10 clubs including the Cubs. Weathers projects to be picked in the mid to late teens. I doubt if he would fall to the Cubs unless there is a run on college bats that pushes him down. And that’s been known to happen on occasion. Right now, his ability to command three pitches for strikes is his biggest asset while throwing in the low 90s.
Mike Vasil – The big right-hander attends Boston College High School and will get a late start to the season. He came on strong last year on the summer circuit and might be a reach at number 24 unless he has a spectacular spring. At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, he has a starter’s body and can throw in the low to mid 90s now. With pro coaching and training combined with pro nutrition, his velocity could improve.
I would still rate Wilcox as the #1 prep arm in the twenties followed by Stewart, and then Denaburg. All three would be hard to watch slide by unless there is a special college bat available. The thing I liked most about these three is that they are nowhere near their potential physically or on the mound. After college bats, I think HS arms might be the second best bet for the Cubs at #24. They have much more long-term potential than any college arm who could be available then.