Draft Prep: Checking Out the Mock Drafts and Who Might Be Missing

Drafting at the back of the first round is pretty treacherous in terms of trying to predict who will fall to the Cubs at #27. It’s a crapshoot. There’s usually lots of movement on players boards up to and including draft night. With about ten days to go, there’s not really a consensus, and there probably shouldn’t be, on who the Cubs will take when it’s their turn.

Last weekend, I perused through some mock drafts and rankings just to see who some of the so-called “experts” have the Cubs taking.

Kody Hoese

MLB Pipeline – Rankings – Kody Hoese – 3B – Tulane; Mock draft – Braden Shewmake – SS – Texas A&M
Baseball America – Rankings – Braden Shewmake – SS – Texas A&M; Mock draft – Kameron Misner – OF – Missouri
Fangraphs – Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson
Draftsite.com – Kameron Misner
CBS – Seth Johnson – P – Campbell
MyMLBDraft.com – Rece Hinds – OF – IMG Academy
247 Sports – Tommy Henry – P – Michigan
Through the Fence – Tyler Callihan – 3B/1B – Province High School (FL)

Out of the players listed above, I don’t dislike any of them. Then again, I don’t think they are all on the Cubs’ radar either. Misner, who has slipped some this spring, might be the biggest name on the list. Hoese, for me, would be the best choice. Hopefully, he will still be there. Yet, I have a feeling he won’t be.

However, Shewmake could. Here’s what MLB Pipeline said about him:

His outstanding hand-eye coordination allows Shewmake to put the bat on the ball with ease. A left-handed hitter who’s a bit unorthodox at the plate, he tends to get caught out on his front foot but still has the dexterity to slap singles to the opposite field. He also has the bat speed and leverage in his still-projectable 6-foot-4 frame to turn on balls, hinting at average power in his future.

What I like about Shewmake’s profile is that there is plenty of room for him to add weight and he already has a solid approach.

However, not every top pick the Cubs could take are listed above. If the Cubs want to hit the lottery, OF Maurice Hampton, who might be a tough sign, could be the big power guy with the most talent 5 years down the road. Here is what Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo had to say about his skills.

Hampton needs refinement on the diamond, but his huge upside could make the patience that will be required in his development worth it. His right-handed swing could get smoother but still generates impressive bat speed and exit velocities, giving him the potential for 25 or more homers on an annual basis if he makes enough contact.

As for the who Cubs are going to take, more than likely, it is going to be a bat. Considering the depth of this draft, the Cubs could get two very good hitters. I would guesstimate that the Cubs are more likely to go college bat in the first and then a high school bat in the second.


2019 Draft Grades – Still Waiting for the Second Wave of Prospects

It is hard to believe that this is the sixth year that I have been handing out draft grades. Every year things change as players come and go, especially earlier in the Theo era. While some of those first classes produced bats, no class since 2014 has a player currently on the 25 man roster. However, a year from now, that all could change.

2011 – Previous Grades – B, B+
Baez and Maples are all that is left. Last year there were 4 guys, but attrition happens quicker than you think in the minors. Still, this class is far from done. With the Vogelbach trade bringing Mike Montgomery, that adds a little more to the class. Javy amd Monty are going to be around for a at least 2 more seasons.
2019 Grade – A.

2012 Previous Grades – B+, A-, B, B-, B-
I used to think this class was going to be really special but it just did not pan out. Albert Almora still is the headliner, but David Bote really seems to be stealing the show. Duane Underwood is still hanging around the minors, but I don’t know for how long.
2019 Grade – B.

2013 Draft Class – Previous Grades – A, A, A+, A+, A+
This draft class brought a MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and a World Series title. And that’s just Kris Bryant. Down in the minors, Trevor Clifton is knocking on the door while Jake Hannemann and Charcer Burks are still plugging away at AAA and AA respectively.
2019 Grade – A+

2014 Draft Class – Previous Grades – A-, A, A, B
There are still nine guys in the system left from this draft. That’s quite a bit for 5 years, but just two are currently on the 25 man roster. Both Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis play in the OF in Chicago, but most of the others are still hanging on at AA and AAA hoping for a chance.
2019 Grade – B-.

2015 Draft ClassPrevious Grades – B, B, C
12 guys remaining from this class are still in the game for the Cubs. However, the impact at the MLB level is nil this year. While Ian Happ struggled in April, May has seen some improvement by him. Meanwhile, PJ Higgins and Craig Brooks are off to great starts this year. While there is still hope for this class, they are stuck in the logjam that is the Cubs’ system now.
2019 Grade – C-

2016 Draft ClassPrevious Grades – B-, B+
16 guys still remain with many of them having a legitimate shot at Chicago in the next two years. Tyson Miller looks to be at the head of the line as a pitcher and could be the first Cubs’ draft pick in the Theo era to stick in the rotation in the next two years. Zack Short leads the hitting side, but he is probably slated more for a utility role in the future. Dakota Mekkes, Duncan Robinson, and Matt Swarmer are at AAA and the top pick, a third rounder at that, Thomas Hatch is at AA with Bailey Clark and a few others. Eventually, there could be 3-4 guys make it from this class which outpaces any class on this list.
2019 Grade – B+

2017 Draft Class  – Previous Grades – B-
In just two years, this class is all over the place. There were several cuts already, some surprises, some injuries, some trades, and some players who look close to being Chicago-ready just two years after signing. Cory Abbott, right now at least, has the makings of a rotation guy in the next two years. Some of the other big arms the Cubs took in this draft are not having their best year or a year at all in some cases. Jeremiah Estrada hopefully will be ready to go for Eugene in a few weeks and Nelson Velazquez is off to a great start at South Bend to begin this season. I am still waiting for Keegan Thompson and Erich Uelmen to start it back up this year.
2019 Grade – B-.

2018 Draft ClassThey will get their own post and grade next Tuesday. And it’s a good and very hopeful one that involves some hitting, for a change, and some surprising pitching.

Draft Prep Profile – Mitchell Parker Could Be a Gamble That Pays off on Day 3

In the 2018 MLB draft, the Cubs took a long shot in selecting high school pitcher Mitchell Parker from Manzano, New Mexico. At the time, Parker had a strong commitment to Tennessee. There were rumored negotiations taking place that Mitchell might sign with the Cubs if they met his dollar figure but that did not happen.

Now that 2019 is here, Parker did not end up in Tennessee. Instead, he is pitching for San Jacinto North Junior College in San Jacinto, Texas. He is eligible to be drafted again this year and he is having quite the season.

Basic Info
Height – 6‘4“
Weight – 200 pounds
Throws – Left
Age 19

There’s a lot to like about Parker. He’s tall, lanky, and he could add a few more pounds and still remain pretty flexible. He’s been clocked anywhere from 86 to 92, depending on the day. His secondary pitches still need some work. So, another year of junior college might not be a bad thing as he gains experience. But what I like most about him are his mechanics. Even in high school, the Cubs liked what he flashed in this video from Fangraphs.

While he still needs to fine-tune his release point, Mitchell does not seem to throw the ball with much effort. He’s playing catch in the upper 80s and low 90s and getting some pretty good run. His curve has some good shape to it, but I don’t think it’s a pitch that he can consistently locate just yet.

This year at San Jacinto, Parker is averaging over 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings. To go along with that stat, he’s averaging over 6 walks per nine innings. He’s not giving up a lot of hits, it’s just a matter of command. And that command should come through timing and repetition. He seems like a decent enough athlete that Parker will respond to pro coaching to fine-tune his delivery. And it’s also going to come with experience. He probably comes across more of a project than a prodigy. There’s definitely a lot to work with and that’s the key.

For the Cubs to take him, they’re going to have to have his permission. While his teammate 6’8” righty Jackson Rutledge is likely a first round pick, Mitchell would be a day three pick. The Cubs would have to decide whether Parker would benefit from another year of seasoning in college or developing through professional instruction.

Draft Prep Profile: Dante Biasi Is Coming On Strong

In 2016, the Cubs selected left-handed pitcher Dante Biasi from Hazelton, Pennsylvania in the 22nd round. The Cubs took a chance in selecting the high school senior. The first risk was that Biasi was a high school pitcher. The second risk factor was that Biasi would soon undergo TJS. The issue, at least for Biasi, was whether to do his rehab as a Cub or at Penn State. He chose Penn State.

After missing a whole year, the 6’0 southpaw debuted in 2018 for Penn State as a redshirt freshman, Biasi held his own in the Big Ten Conference. He had a 5.20 ERA in 14 games (13 as a starter). He struck out 51 in 62 IP and walked 36. Not the greatest ratio in the world, but those are not terrible numbers for a RS freshman.

However, as a sophomore and 2 years removed from TJS, Biasi is now one of the top pitchers in the Big Ten. Two weeks ago, he was named Big 10 pitcher of the week for his 9 strikeout and 6.1 inning domination of Indiana. For the season, Biasi has made 11 starts and thrown 62.2 innings. Over that span, he’s struck out 90 while only walking 28. For the year, his ERA  is 2.01. Those numbers are excellent!

Matthew Knaub of the Daily Collegian detailed several keys to Biasi’s success this year. According to Knaub, via catcher Ryan Sloniger, the first key is Biasi’s fastball command. He can touch 95 throughout the course of his game. After striking out 13 UMass (Lowell) hitters, Biasi told Knaub, “We were just mixing pitches, whatever [assistant] coach Josh Newman and Sloniger thought was best,. We were working in and out and just [were] effective with the fastball.” The second area of Biasi’s improvement, according to Knaub, has to do with strength. He said he’s much stronger this year than last. That is true for most TJS comebacks, the second year is better than the first year.

Here he is in action last month.

What I like about his delivery is there is little wasted motion. It is compact and quick. He seems to hide the ball well. His breaking pitch has a nice sharp break that lefties struggle to pick up. His release point needs some work, but not much.

As for his projection, Biasi is almost maxed out physically at 6’ and 205 lbs. Maybe a reliever might be his best option, but if he can start and sustain success through AA; then by all means, let him start.

As for his chances in the draft. Biasi was originally seen as a day 3 pick as a draft eligible sophomore. Based on his track record this year in a power conference as a sophomore, Biasi could work his way into the second round. Biasi could easily go back to school and be a late first round pick next year. He holds all the cards as a draft eligible sophomore.

As for this year, day two is definitely not out of the question and probably suits his talents just fine. Currently, Baseball America has him ranked just outside the top 200.

Draft Prep – Examining #27 – High School Bats Could Be in Play This Year

When I first started checking out high school hitters, I found them as too much of a risk that late in the first round. After doing some video watching, I have changed my mind 180 degrees, in fact. In addition, there a few of guys who I prefer over college bats because their ceiling is quite a bit higher than their college brethren.

The Big Guys
Rece Hinds and Maurice Hampton are two young bats who scream high end talent. Hinds is a 6’4” 210 lb. beast at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida who will never see LSU. Depending on how his spring goes, he might end up in the teens. Currently a 3B, Hinds is a a power bat who puts displays on in BP and in games. However, he relies on crushing fastballs. He has some issues picking up secondaries.

As for Hampton, he might be a guy who is more likely to be available at 27..The OF from Memphis University HS, who is also committed to LSU, is much more raw and needs a lot of polish. But here’s the thing I like about Hampton. He’s a multi-sport star who has not been a full time baseball player. If Hampton makes that commitment, he could be a special 5 tool guy in due time. He’s not going to flip a switch and become a stud, it could take some time and coaching.

The fastest prep hitting riser this spring is San Diego State commit Keoni Cavaco from Chula Vista, California. The right handed hitting 6’1” and 185 lb. 3B is showing great power with an average hit tool. What might separate Cavaco from his peers is his defense; most notably, a cannon attached to his right shoulder.  

Plan B Players
Another guy I like who could be flying up draft boards is Sammy Siani from Philadelphia. His brother was a 4th round pick last year by the Reds. Here is what MLB Pipeline said about Sammy’s skills.

Siani’s standout tools are his left-handed bat and his speed. The outfielder has an outstanding and smooth swing and showed the ability to make consistent contact against some of the better prep arms in the country. He’s hit over power with a good approach at the plate and he uses his speed very well to get down the line in a hurry and make him a base stealing threat. He might not be the plus defender his brother is, but he could be better than average with a solid average arm.

Siani is just now beginning his season and could be one of those bats that rises just before the draft.

Brett Baty is unique kid. He’s a left-handed power bat built for the pro game. All his skills reek of being built to play MLB. College? Well, not really. At 6’3”, the young 3B will graduate just before he is selected in the draft. The issue for him is whether he sticks at 3B. That answer is going to be a no. Committed to the University of Texas, he’s not going to be a Longhorn as he displays power to all fields.

I just love his quiet swing and his hands through the zone are special.

Jerrion Early might be the best athlete in the entire draft. The odds of hm signing a pro contract are slim though. He’s committed to play both baseball and football at the University of Mississippi. An OF in baseball, his bat is a little behind his defensive skills. However, he rarely strikes out at the plate and is known for making solid contact. At 5’10” and 192 lbs., he’s could add 10 pounds of baseball weight and still be one of the fastest guys on the field and pick up some power with it.

From what I have seen of SS Matthew Lugo from Puerto Rico, he’s a very fluid SS with a lot of potential. He’s been slipping a bit in the rankings and more than likely could be had in the second round rather than the first. He is currently attending the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy at home. A bit of project, he needs more games and experience against better competition. He’s seen 90+ fastballs on the island, but he’s not seen as developed secondaries like he will in the minors.

As a whole, some of these kids have special skills but they are going to need a lot of work. I really like Baty’s power, Early’s speed, and Hampton’s rawness. In taking a prep player this high, the Cubs are going to have to balance their ceiling with how much time and effort the they are going to have to put in to him. Yes, a HS bat is much, much larger risk. There are no guarantees. But then again, the Cubs could hit the lottery with one of them. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a top 10 talent at 27 and all you had to pay was time?

And don’t forget, Glenallen Hill, Jr. is out there and probably could be lurking as a second or third round pick.

Draft Prep – Examining #27: Elite High School Arms Scarce

When this list began today’s list, I only had two pitchers – Jack Leiter and Hunter Barco. That’s it. Both have seen their stock rise, fall, and now rise again. Most of the top prep arms will go quick, no matter the risk. However, I found a few arms who could be around at #27 including two from the same high school team.

Photo by Alexandria Pais/DailyRecord.com

When MLB Pipeline first came out with their Top 50 Draft list, Jack Leiter was sitting pretty at #20. With a low 90s sinker and a plus curve with spin rates approaching 2500, he was seen as a very polished arm with some good lineage. For Leiter, he began sinking on most draft lists because he comes from a northern state. Now that he’s playing, he’s moving back up the draft boards. The Cubs could get a steal if he’s a guy they like at #27. He has USA Baseball experience. While he is not a 5 star athlete and doesn’t hit 99 on the gun, he is getting passed by. That might be a big mistake.

Here is what Pipeline said of Leiter:

Leiter has a solid four-pitch mix and knows what to do with all of his offerings. His fastball was in the 90-95 mph range all summer, touching those upper numbers in shorter stints and sitting around 92 mph more often than not. The fastball plays up because he throws it with some sink and commands it extremely well. Some feel his curveball is better than his slider, but both should be distinct and effective breaking balls for him, and he has a solid changeup as well.

Here is Pipeline’s latest video with Jonathan Mayo adding commentary.

Considering Leiter’s pedigree (Father=Al Leiter), Jack should be in the discussion for #27. The problem is he back rising up the boards.

As for Hunter Barco…If one was to project where Barco could be in three years, most crystal balls would have him in the top 10 in the draft. The 6’4” lefty has USA Baseball experience and is committed to the University of Florida. Some scouts love Barco’s low arm slot as they see it as deceptive. Others see that same slot as to why he might have command issues. With a low 90s fastball and a decent slider, Barco needs to continue to develop a third pitch, which right now is a changeup.

Two names to keep an eye for are teammates Matthew Thompson and J.J. Goss from Cypress Ranch, Texas. Thompson’s readings vary on his fastball. Some say he throws 91-93 while others say he is in the mid 90s. To be totally honest, though, Thompson’s out pitch is a wipeout slider. He also is developing a curve. He’s kind of a new arm who broke onto the scene in 2018. At 6’2” and 184 lbs., he carries that weight well and could probably add 15 pounds easily. In the video, you’ll see the giddy-up on his fastball and the inconsistent fastball command.

J.J. Goss seems to be catching up to his teammate. While both are committed to Texas A&M, Goss is more of the ascending arm right now. His floor is a little bit higher than Thompson’s just based on command and an uptick into the mid 90s on his fastball.  He’s got some nice movement on his heater but he’s also got a little bit effort to his delivery.

Fellow Texan Josh Wolf is taking advantage of playing earlier in the year than his northern counterparts. He’s more of a project. In the video below from 2018, he was seen throwing upper 80s and low 90s. Well, like a lot of young arms, his stuff has ticked up this spring. At 6’2” and 165 pounds, he’s got a nice sized frame to fill out and see his stuff tick up even more. He might be a bit of a project. Then again, what high school arm isn’t. More than likely, he could be sitting there in the second round as well as the first.

Out of all the categories, this one has the highest level of risk. It is also the hardest category to project and the Cubs have have not had good luck with high school arms. Only Justin Steele has had some level of success. This year, I don’t see the Cubs going with a prep arm in the first round. However, the second or third rounds might be more plausible and much less of a risk than at #27. Then again, Barco and Leiter would be pretty tempting if they are still on the board.

Draft Prep – Examining #27 – College Power Bats Aplenty for Cubs

It seems as though I have been looking at the draft in a different way every year the past few years. However, last year I think I settled into a format that I like. Rather than try to write a big profile On every single draft pick who I think has a shot of going to the Cubs in the first round, I placed them in groups and wrote short blurbs about each one. This is much more to my liking and much more amenable to how much time it takes to research.

This will be the first of four articles or a breakdown of possible prospects who will be available in a certain category for the Cubs to take at number 27. With less than two months to go until the draft on June 4, it’s time I get moving. First up, college hitters.

The Cubs are going to get a really good bat this year at #27 and that that should come from the college ranks where there are plenty of power guys that will still be available at the end of the first round. The issue is that many of them are rising quickly this year while the high school bats are fading.

The fastest riser on the market is Hunter Bishop of Arizona State University. The 6’5” OF who bats from the left hit 16 HR in his first 25 games for a slugging percentage of 1.041. In his previous two seasons, Bishop only managed 10 HRs while hitting .301 and .250. He did spend two years in the Cape, where despite low averages both year, he showed high walk rates of 16+%, which is extremely impressive. This year’s jump has some evaluators flummoxed. He recently jumped over 100 spots on Baseball America’s Top 300 into the top 20. He will need further watching. With that kind of power and approach, he’s doubtful to last to #27.

In Baseball America’s most recent mock draft, they had Michael Busch of North Carolina going to the Cubs at number 27. Busch would become one of the top two or three power hitters in the Cubs’ system immediately. While he is not pro ready now, he could be fairly soon. What I like about his profile is that he’s been playing some outfield this year to increase his versatility. His potential to hit the baseball over the fence may attract your attention but he has a walk rate of unbelievable proportions. This year, it is almost at 25% as teams pitch around him after his 13 HR season of 2018. More than likely, he works his way into the top 20.

Logan Wyatt is my guy right now. Usually, “my guys” don’t make it to the Cubs. Last year, it was Alec Bohm, then Trevor Larnach. Wyatt is a huge 6’4” 230 lb.1B who plays at Louisville. At the time I wrote this, he was hitting .293 with an OBP of over .500. He’s gone from a guy who was rated in the 40s earlier in the year to a first round pick.

Logan Davidson is a 6’3” SS from Clemson who has yet to finish filling out. At only 185 lbs., there is a lot more room to add some muscle. He is rising on some draft boards but has had issues with the K in wood bat leagues, a must for the Cubs’ check off list.

Anyone from UCLA would be a great add. Whether it is 2B Chase Strumpf, 1B Michael Toglia, OF Jeremy Ydens, or 3B Ryan Kreidler, the Cubs couldn’t go wrong. But here’s the thing…only Strumpf would not be a reach right here.He’s got some good power for the position. With his hitting profile, he has to be in the Cubs’ crosshairs. Kreidler, whom the Cubs took in 2016 out of HS, is also rising fast. Heading into the season, Kreidler was a Day 3 pick. Now, he is heading to day one like a bullet.

Edouard Julien from Auburn is a draft eligible sophomore who is only 19. As a freshman, he hit 17 dingers and he has 5 through 26 games in 2019, he also showing an improved approach. Based on his age, he’s a guy I would consider taking very high. The 6’1” and 183 lb. Canadian profiles well at second base.

3B/OF/1B prospect Drew Mendoza has oozed talent since the Tigers took him in the 36th round in 2016. Instead, Mendoza went to Florida State where he’s had an underwhelming college career. Still, his elite skills are evident. At 6’4” and 190 lbs., Mendoza has yet to tap into the frame as expected. Yet, he hit 10 dingers as a Freshman, 7 as a sophomore, and currently had 8 when this post was written with half a season to go. He could rise fast in May and might be a guy to keep an eye on. His walk rate has exploded this year. If he continues with his near .500 OBP and slamming HRs, he works his way into the first round. Most boards currently have him in the 40s and 50s.

The great thing about the draft that drives many people mad is that the evaluation and player movement is constant. There might even be a guy at the JUCO level who could sneak into consideration like SS Ivan Johnson from Chipola or OF Manny Gonzalez from Wabash Valley. 

Next Tuesday’s portion of “Examining #27” will be on high school pitchers.