“Kept the Accelerator Down”: Talking Draft Strategy with Cubs VP Dan Kantrovitz

In this case, we’re not lowering our expectations at all because of that lower pool and so I think, you end up having to compete with teams that have more than you or twice as much as you do. You have to probably look at things a little bit differently, and try to be as creative and strategic as you can.

Dan Kantrovitz

A special thanks to Dan Kantrovitz, Vice President of Scouting, Chicago Cubs for joining

I have been fascinated with the major league draft since I began following prospects (Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira were the big fish in the 2001 draft). I dreamed of a draft where the Cubs would blow the budget out of the water and bring in a load of impact talent. But since 2012, a new collective bargaining agreement was put into place, and limits on draft spending were implemented. The era of “bonus pools” was here. While it’s debatable whether those changes brought about positive effects to the game of baseball, one thing is quite clear, teams have to enter each draft with a strategy on how they plan to best spend their pool of money.

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Chicago Cubs Vice President of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz came to the organization in October 2019 after successful stints with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics. His experience previously running drafts for major league organizations provided a luxury to the Cubs in their search for a new scouting director. Simply put, it’s hard to find a scouting director with years of experience successfully doing the job. Unfortunately for Kantrovitz and the organization as well, due to the COVID-19 pandemic MLB scaled back the 2020 draft to five rounds. Fans would have to wait until 2021 to see his strategy in action with a more complete 20 round draft.

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The implementation of bonus pools creates a vastly different drafting experience for organizations. Clubs in the lower tier of market size are gifted “competitive balance selections (extra picks after either the first or second round) and teams who performed worse the previous year pick higher in the draft, which nets them a higher recommended pick values assigned to each selection. Certain clubs are armed with significantly more bonus pool capital than others. In particular, the Cubs’ approximately $7M was dwarfed by teams like Cincinnati and Detroit, who could spend close to double the Cubs’ figure. Kantrovitz described the experience as the Cubs simply playing “a different game” from those organization during the draft, however he was clear that the Cubs would have to employ some creative maneuvers with regard to their bonus pool. According to Kantrovitz, “In this case, we’re not lowering our expectations at all because of that lower pool and so I think, you end up having to compete with teams that have more than you or twice as much as you do. You have to probably look at things a little bit differently, and try to be as creative and strategic, as you can.”

The $200K Bullet

After the Cubs took Jordan Wicks with their first selection, balanced high upside and senior signings in rounds 2-10, and went heavy into prep players on day 3, fans were left wondering just how much money would even be available to move around to the latter round players. Now that some of the dust has settled with player negotiations, Kantrovitz provided some context to his day 3 selections.

We aimed to finish day two, with roughly, $80[k]-$100k in surplus in our pool that would enable us to then fire off a bullet of roughly $200k for one player on day three. We estimated that we could get a player that was a top, two-three round caliber player with that bullet.

Dan Kantrovitz
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While some teams clearly favored the safety of taking college juniors and seniors who would be the most likely players to sign for the slot max of $125k afforded to players drafted in rounds 11-20, Cubs fans were surprised when seven of the 10 day three selections were high school players. It begged the question of just how much bonus pool flexibility had the Cubs built after taking numerous high-upside players earlier in the draft? According to Kantrovitz, the Cubs planned to be creative in bringing in a player who they viewed as a top two-three round talent (effectively the caliber of player they would take if they had a competitive balance pick) by being in a position to offer one player slightly more than the $125k routinely offered on day three. “We aimed to finish day two, with roughly, $80[k]-$100k in surplus in our pool that would enable us to then fire off a bullet of roughly $200k for one player on day three,” Kantrovitz said. “We estimated that we could get a player that was a top, two-three round caliber player with that bullet.” If fans are concerned that statement suggests the Cubs will only sign one of the seven prep players on day three, Kantrovitz stated that there the Scouting Department had some good “intel” that there may be quality high school players available who would consider signing for the $125k. It appears that is coming to fruition.

Erian Rodriguez appears to be a high school player who agreed to sign for the $125k slot

The Changing Landscape of Minor League Baseball

Disclaimer: As these are amateur players that have not signed with the Chicago Cubs, we did not discuss any high school players who have not agreed to terms by the time this episode airs.

Though it was jarring to see the Cubs’ 11th and 12th round selections abruptly signal that they would be going to college, the Cubs expected multiple high school picks selected in the 11-20th rounds to bypass professional ball at this time. In fact, due to the changes in the landscape of minor league baseball such as reducing the number of minor league affiliates and the 180 player-limit, which both went into effect this season, the team wasn’t in a position to be able to bring in a full complement of 20 drafted players in the first place. “Frankly, we weren’t gonna be able to sign 20 players in the draft anyway,” Kantrovitz said. He further went to to describe the balance the Cubs’ Scouting Department weighed during day 3 between bringing in quality players and the effect that player would have on others within the organization. “I remember talking with our guys [the Scouting Department] and PD (Player Development). It was pretty clear when you look at our rosters out there, unless there was a player who we just loved (say a college position player), there wasn’t going to be an obvious spot for him to just go into Myrtle [Beach] and get played time,” Kantrovitz said. “He had to be better than who we already have. And so, again, I think my mindset going in was, one, can we get this caliber of player after the draft (when we’re talking about college players on day three)? And then two, is he better than what we already have? And do we want this player taking at bats over a 19 year old prospect that’s still coming into his own at Myrtle [Beach]?”

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Kantrovitz provided significantly more context in the full interview (available here) behind the selection of Wicks and how the Cubs pivoted plans because he was too good to pass up. He also went into great depth about their day two selections and the 2020 and 2021 non-drafted free agents. It was striking to hear how excited the organization is about their draft. Though a scouting director would be performing malpractice if they were publicly disappointed in their draft selections, it was clear that the organization is a big believer in the caliber of talent that should be brought in when the final signings are official. Cubs fans know how much one stellar draft class can impact the entire organization and while it will be difficult to judge this group for several years, the early results suggest this group will be one to watch.

Want to hear far more insights into the strategy of the Chicago Cubs during the 2021 draft? Curious about the impact of non-drafted free agents from 2020 and 2021? The full interview is available here.

Cubs Introduce the Next Wave of Draft Prospects

Chicago Cubs first-round pick, Jordan Wicks, was introduced to the media today, July 15th. He will be joined by fellow high-upside draft prospects in signing with the organization, lefthander Drew Gray (third-round) and centerfielder Christian Franklin (fourth-round). Today marks the first time the next wave of prospects will officially enter the system.

The Cubs, under VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz, were opportunistic in selecting Wicks who was one of “nine or ten guys” on their draft board that they were hopeful would slide to their selection at 21st overall in the draft. Once it became clear he may be available, the team jumped at the opportunity to draft a player who Kantrovitz described as “the complete package.

Drew Gray and Christian Franklin are two players who Cubs’ officials describe as premier athletes. In an interview between Dan Kantrovitz and , Kantrovitz described Gray as “dripping with projection” and featured multiple pitches that excite the Cubs’ scouts, including a “snapdragon breaker” (his curveball). Cubs officials feel that Franklin is a plus centerfielder, which is rare to find at that stage in the draft. Each of these players is considered a “high-variance” player (one that has a wide range of outcomes). It will be up to the Cubs’ performance science and high performance departments to help these players reach the higher end of that range. Gray was scouted by area scout, Tom Clark and Franklin was scouted by area scout, Ty Nichols.

Signing bonuses of all three players are unlikely to be announced at this time. However Wicks’ bonus is expected to near the 21st overall bonus slot figure of $3,132,300. Drew Gray confirmed his signing via his Instagram. According to Carlos Callazo, Franklin signed for $425,000 ($39,500 under slot of $464,500).

One note, unless confirmed publicly or by a team-source, I won’t be speculating or reporting a player’s specific signing bonus. Bloggers exist as sort of fan/journalistic hybrid. I greatly enjoy what I do and I’m passionate about it. I love to tell stories and inform if I can, but I also want to be mindful that even speculating that a player has signed and attaching a signing bonus could jeopardize a player’s eligibility in case the deal falls apart. I crave information like many do, but I hope you understand.

Notes from the Press Conference

UPDATE: more than the three original players officially signed their contracts.

Player Reports

Jordan Wicks

Ivy Futures Report: Lefthander who pounds the strike zone. Top college lefty in the class with a low 90s fastball (has a fourseam and 2-seam with 2400 rpm spin) and a plus-plus changeup. There’s solid separation in velocity between the two pitches (~8-10 mph difference) and he “kills spin” by throwing the changeup at less than 1600 rpm. His feel for spin with a breaking ball lags behind with a spin rate close to 2400 rpm. Looks the part of a quick mover in the minors. A team with a good pitch development team should be able to get at least an average breaking ball from Wicks.

Drew Gray

Ivy Futures Report: A two-way player in high school, Drew Gray was announced by the Cubs as a pitcher. He’s showcased elite spin metrics on his fastball and curveball. He boasts elite extension and his fastball has a flat angle at the top of the zone, which is an in vogue metric that helps get swings an misses. As a recent convert to pitching there isn’t a lot of wear and tear on the arm.

Christian Franklin

Ivy Futures Report: Franklin will show plus raw power. He could be a plus CF at the next level. The offensive bar for a plus CF in the majors is low. If Franklin is drafted by an organization with a strong hitting infrastructure, he could be a stud. However, his biggest risk is the significant swing and miss (28.4 K% for the season). Some scouts see a fourth-OF profile, but with the potential for so much more. He’s a dynamic athlete and a fan-favorite for Arkansas.

News and Notes

Several more Draft picks are in the process of signing or have signed officially.

Chicago Cubs Select Jordan Wicks in First Round of MLB Draft

With the 21st pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs selected Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State University. Wildly regarded as the top college lefty, Chicago Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz said Wicks ranked “within the top 10 of their internal draft board”. Fans of fast-moving players would also be excited to know that the Cubs feel he is an advanced arm. “Next year it’ll be sort of up to him to determine where he’s placed out of spring training. But with a repertoire as advanced as his, he’ll probably have some options.” Kantrovitz said.

Ivy Futures Report: Lefthander who pounds the strike zone. Top college lefty in the class with a low 90s fastball (has a fourseam and 2-seam with 2400 rpm spin) and a plus-plus changeup. There’s solid separation in velocity between the two pitches (~8-10 mph difference) and he “kills spin” by throwing the changeup at less than 1600 rpm. His feel for spin with a breaking ball lags behind with a spin rate close to 2400 rpm. Looks the part of a quick mover in the minors. A team with a good pitch development team should be able to get at least an average breaking ball from Wicks.

Metrically, Wicks stands out for his low-spin changeup and 2400 rpm sinker (a pitch the Cubs prioritize). From a biomechanical standpoint, ProPlayAI gives an incredible breakdown.

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National Reports

Kansas State has never had a first-round pick or a pitcher selected in the top three rounds, but that’s on the verge of changing. Wicks is clearly the top left-hander available in the 2021 Draft and has a longer track record of success than most of this year’s college pitchers. He won the Big 12 Conference freshman of the year award in 2019, allowed one run in four starts during the truncated 2020 season before posting a 0.52 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings between two summer leagues, then set school records for single-season (118) and career (230) strikeouts this spring. 

Wicks has the best changeup in the Draft, a low-80s weapon with tumble and depth that he sells with deceptive arm speed, earning plus-plus grades from some evaluators. He sets it up with a fastball that has added about 5 mph since high school, now sitting at 90-93 mph and hitting 95 with high spin rates that give it riding action. He has improved his low-80s slider to the point where it’s now a solid offering, and he also can morph it into a harder cutter and mix in an upper-70s curveball. 

Wicks works with little effort, easily repeating his delivery and pounding the strike zone while working both sides of the plate. In addition to his stuff and command, he earns praise for his competitiveness and inventiveness on the mound. One scout likened him to Reid Detmers, the No. 10 overall choice in 2020 by the Angels, with a changeup rather than a curveball as his dominant pitch.

MLB Pipeline
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Jordan Wicks may just be the 2021 version of Bryce Jarvis. It might just be the best changeup in the class. Coming from the left side, Wicks has a 3/4 arm slot that pumps 89-92, touching 94. The changeup seems to hit a brick wall in front of the plate, tumbling heavy arm-side. He flashes a cutter-ish slider and curveball that have both shown good spin rates, though still developing consistent shape. There’s a good bit of deception in Wicks’ stuff and guys really struggle to square him up. Most believe he’s the best lefty in the class, and he’s just about as polished as they come. He may not have top of the rotation upside, but with Wicks you’re selecting the floor of a Low-3/High-4 rotation arm that should move quickly to the big leagues. He’s almost certainly going to be a first round pick in July

Prospects Live

Cubs Twitter Draft: Who Would You Take?

After some recent draft rumors suggested that popular Cubs draft targets, Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State and Colson Montgomery, SS, Southridge (HS) may not be available when the Cubs pick at 21st overall, it begged the question, “Who would you take?”

Poll 1

Notes: College Hitter Trey Sweeney led the pack here, but all four of the possible draft options had significant support.

Trey Sweeney, SS, Eastern Illinois University

Report: Sweeney is a rising prospect who sports top-of-the-line hitting data. Sweeney both hits the ball hard and also does not whiff often (87% contact rate). He is a likely 3B at the next level. Sweeney has a chance for an above-average hit and power tool.

Part 2

Notes: Gavin Williams and James Triantos paced the way in this vote. Ultimately the upside of a frontline arm like Gavin Williams was too much to pass up.

Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina University

Report: Williams shows off a top-of-rotation profile on the mound led by a plus fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. Williams also showcases a dynamic curveball thrown in the upper 70s to low 80s. His slider and changeup add in average third and fourth pitches that scouts feel should each be better with professional instruction. There has been chatter of concern over prior injuries, but a broken finger is hardly a long-term concern after 81+ dominant innings in 2021. His age of 22 may hold some teams back.

Part 3

Notes: In a poll packed with a mix of high floors and high ceilings, the voters decided to side with the metrically amazing college bat of Aaron Zavala.

Aaron Zavala, RF, University of Oregon

Report: Standing just 6’0″, the Oregon rightfielder put on a bit of a show in the NCAA Regionals when he drove a double deep into the damp Oregon night. Zavala has a solid, accurate arm that plays well in right field. Zavala has solid weight transfer and stays balanced through the hitting zone. There could be some improvements in hip rotation to minimize wasted energy (which should be cleaned up with professional), but it’s a short, compact swing. His batting metrics are exceptional.

The Final Selection!

With the 21st selection in the 2021 MLB Draft, you selected (for the Chicago Cubs), Gavin Williams, RHP, out of East Carolina University. As you can see, it was a very close decision with all three possible options garnering significant vote totals.

Final Selection: Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina University

It’s been a blast to have the opportunity to analyze this Draft class as I’ve started Ivy Futures, and while it’s been successful, I’ve also learned a lot along the way to improve when I start next year’s rankings. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

MLB Mock Draft 2021 Version 4.0

Here it is, the Final Mock! Yes, there will be decisions that organizations made over the next few hours, but this is the mock I’m riding with as we head into draft day.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Henry Davis, C, Louisville

The ultimate choice could be down to which player offers the best deal from among the Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawler, and Jack Leiter quartet. While everyone is going for Marcelo Mayer (and I think that’s a solid choice), I’ll project that Davis offers the best value with the safety and security of being the best college bat.

2. Texas Rangers

Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

The Rangers appear to be picking amongst Watson, Leiter, Davis, and Mayer. Timeline be damned, Leiter is the most talented player for many (though Mayer is as well). Here the Rangers get the most advanced college arm and one that could make his big league appearance in 2022.

3. Detroit Tigers

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)

The Tigers have had tremendous success targeting college talent and their board could skew so that Rocker, Davis, or a college outfielder could interest the organization. I believe the Tigers love Mayer. The young shortstop also offers a future plus hit tool along with a solid average or better defensive grade at a premium position.

4. Boston Red Sox

Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)

With Leiter and Davis off the board, the Red Sox opt for Kahlil Watson who showcases impressive bat paths. His power is emerging and scouts feel he’s a great bet to hit at the next level. Brady House would make sense here too for many of the same reasons.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State

Baltimore rocked many 2020 mocks when they took Heston Kjerstad with the 2nd overall pick in a money-saving gambit. Orioles GM, Mike Elias, spent his time in the Astros front office where Houston consistently employed that strategy (most notably in 2012 when they paired up Carlos Correa and used the savings for Lance McCullers). I expect the Orioles to do the same this season and have heard them connected with Cowser and Harry Ford. Cowser offers average or better tools across the board.

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6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall HS

I have it down to Jobe or Lawler and I personally think it could go either way based on this mock. According to Kiley McDaniel, the Diamondbacks lean Jobe in that scenario and I haven’t heard otherwise. The Diamondbacks land the top prep pitcher in the class.

7. Kansas City Royals

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (HS)

The Royals have had the most success with high school hitters and college arms. The Royals also have shown success taking talented players that “fall” to them in the draft. Rocker, Lawler, House, Watson, all make sense and so could Jackson Jobe. They drafted and developed Bobby Witt Jr. into a budding star. Lawler has a similar profile and upside.

8. Colorado Rockies

Brady House, 3B, Winder-Barrow (HS)

Colorado has been willing to take a high school talent if the option presented itself, but is generally focused on going the college route in the first round. They have been most often associated with college players so far, but Brady House being available could change things for Colorado. This mock has Brady House who sports some hitting metrics related to bat path and max exit velocity that are very impressive.

9. Los Angeles Angels

Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork (HS)

The Angels are a wild card and could go in any number of ways. And the Angels have been in see Jackson Jobe (RHP; Heritage Hall, HS), Bubba Chandler (RHP/SS; North Oconee HS), and Frank Mozzicato (LHP; East Catholic HS). The point is that the Angels are very willing to take a prep talent here. I forecast the multisport South Carolina prep outfielder, Will Taylor, to be the pick. Taylor combines an athletic profile with excellent hitting data from the showcase circuits. The thought is that Taylor will require a higher price to buy him out his Clemson commitment to play baseball and line up as the slot receiver on the football team, however at this pick, the Angels would be in a good position to sign him.

10. New York Mets

Colson Montgomery, SS, Southridge (HS)

New York has leaned prep talent in recent years building out a solid group in the lower levels of the minors. They also don’t factor age heavily into their draft model so Colson Montgomery who is already 19. Still, his above-average hit and power projections offer the upside of an above-average third baseman at the next level.

11. Washington Nationals

Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

Kumar Rocker entered the year as a consensus top five prospect, but inconsistent results and waxing and waning velocity scared off some teams. The Nationals are very willing to take a risk in the hopes of landing an upside talent.

12. Seattle Mariners

Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)

Seattle has been linked with college bats so far this draft cycle, but Harry Ford appears to be on the Mariners radar as well. Ford offers supreme athleticism, which mitigates the risk of taking a high school catcher early. By all accounts, Ford is a high character individual and would be a boon to any club house.

Ty Madden may be an option here as well. The Mariners had success with Emerson Hancock who entered 2020 in the 1-1 discussion before slipping to 6 with similar complaints about his fastball. Hancock has since soared up prospect rankings with a few pitching development modifications.

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13. Philadelphia Phillies

Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State

Frelick may not have elite upside, but he looks like a fairly sure bet to make it to the majors where could succeed as a high contact centerfielder (or second baseman). His run tool is about a 65. I do wonder if he is moved around at the next level. He has logged time at 2B and SS in the FCBL summer league in 2020. The fact that he is more of a “sure-thing” and the lack of college bats makes it likely he ends up somewhere in the top 10, but sometimes the board falls a certain way.

14. San Francisco Giants

Matt McLain, SS/OF, UCLA

San Francisco has been connected to all of the college hitters (Frelick, Cowser, and McLain) along with Jordan Wicks this draft cycle. I still lean to them taking one of the college bats if they have that option. McLain gets overshadowed, but he really shouldn’t. While he doesn’t have standout tools, McLain is a very successful college hitter form a strong program. He combines on-base skills with some emerging power in a profile that should succeed at 2B (some scouts feel a team should run him out at SS).

15. Milwaukee Brewers

Trey Sweeney, SS, EIU

Sweeney is a big-time pop-up prospect who sports top-of-the-line hitting data. Sweeney both hits the ball hard and also does not whiff often (87% contact rate). Some organizations may shy away from Sweeney due to his program strength or just because they couldn’t get enough evaluators to see him to draft Sweeney high enough. Sweeney has a chance for above-average hit and power despite a swing that has a lot of moving parts. Milwaukee could also snag Jordan Wicks, who many regard as the top lefthander in the draft class.

Where is Benny Montgomery going? Keeping with the same plan from Mock 3.0: “With three picks in the first two rounds, Milwaukee has a lot of money to work with to handle tough signs. The team also had no problem taking a hitter with a challenging swing. Garrett Mitchell (Milwaukee’s first round pick in 2020) was one of the most talented players in last year’s draft, but he slid due to a choppy swing. It’s rumored that Benny Montgomery (OF; Red Land, HS) could be a tough sign and he has a significant hitch in his swing that comes and goes. In this mock, the Brewers are in a position to save a significant amount of pool money with this pick (and take a affordable player in the comp round) before splurging on Montgomery with a later pick. Benny Montgomery has the potential to compete with Mitchell to determine who should man centerfield in a few years with top the charts athleticism.”

16. Miami Marlins

Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State

Will Bednar showcases top of the rotation stuff and Miami has shown the willingness to take premier pitchers who would still benefit from pitch development. Bednar’s fastball and slider both are plus pitches, but he could use some more refinement on his changeup, which is a pitch Miami is known for successfully developing.

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17. Cincinnati Reds

Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Ole Miss

Cincinnati has three picks in the first 35 selections and a value play here early could allow the Reds to do big things in this draft. While Hoglund likely doesn’t sign for much less than slot, he offers a solid floor once he returns from TJS rehab without breaking the bank. Cincinnati is in a good position to float offers to some of the upside high school talent to see if any slide to 30 and 35. I strongly considered Matt Mikulski here and may be kicking myself on draft day for changing the selection.

18. St. Louis Cardinals

Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami OH

Bachman’s fastball, slider, and bourgeoning changeup combo can be electric. However there are whispers that teams are scared off by his medicals, namely a hip issue. It’s hard to tell how much of that is negotiating leverage or real medical concerns. The Cardinals have been more closely linked with upside prep talent, but it’s hard to argue with Bachmann if a team feels comfortable with his health forecast.

19. Toronto Blue Jays

Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina

Williams only threw three innings in 2020 due to a broken finger and COVID-19, however he was dominant this past season including a dominant 7 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 unearned runs, with a 13/2 K/BB line in the Super Regionals against Vanderbilt. Williams showcases an exceptional fastball with elite velocity (95-99 mph) and movement patterns. His breaking pitches (curveball and slider are both plus and above-average respectively). His fourth pitch is his changeup and that is more inconsistent, but has been coming on of late. It flashes plus as well. Simply, Gavin Williams is coming and should be flying up draft boards. Recent communication suggested teams are wary of his injury history, but that is hard to track when teams were clamoring to draft Garret Crochet in 2020 after he threw 4 1/3 innings. The Blue Jays are also associated with a host of higher-upside players like Anthony Solometo, Jay Allen, Jud Fabian, and Joe Mack.

20. New York Yankees

Ethan Wilson, OF, South Alabama

Wilson is a solid, if unspectacular college bat offering a very high floor. Don’t let that dissuade any Yankees fans, Wilson’s lefthanded swing would fit in exceptionally well at Yankee Stadium. Greg Huss gives a great breakdown on Wilson.

Andrew Painter has been associated with the Yankees for awhile now as well. Painter trained at Cressey Sports Performance with Eric Cressey (Yankees Director of Player Health and Performance) as well. It’s possible that the Yankees try to find some slot savings here to try to sign Jaden Hill in the second or third round.

21. Chicago Cubs

Mike McGreevy, RHP, UCSB

I featured Michael McGreevy as a potential Cubs target since April. High school hitters are the most common demographic linked to the Cubs and I do think the organization is open to high upside selections, but I don’t think it’s a guarantee that it happens in the first. McGreevy profiles as a “command+” pitcher and he pounds the zone with a sinker that sits 92-95 mph. McGreevy also features a slider, curveball, and changeup as average or better pitches. McGreevy is a projectable guy at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds who carries a high floor with optimism to hit a mid-rotation starter ceiling.

Other players linked to the Cubs include Trey Sweeney (mentioned above), Jud Fabian (OF, Florida), Will Taylor (above), Tyler Whitaker (OF, Bishop Gorman), Sam Bachman (above), Anthony Solometo (LHP, Bishop Eustace HS), and Jackson Linn (OF, Cambridge Ringe HS). James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) has also been linked to the team and is finally getting some national publicity. Triantos sported a 94% contact rate in the showcase circuit last year (tops in the class) with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and the aforementioned Colson Montgomery. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. From Mock Draft 3.0, “If there’s one player who could be this year’s Nick Yorke (who was a surprise mid-first round selection), I’ll say it is James Triantos“.

22. Chicago White Sox

Max Muncy, SS, Thousand Oaks (HS)

The White Sox have been all over high school players recently. Most notably the Sox have been heavy on Colson Montgomery and fellow prep SS, Max Muncy (no relation to the big-leaguer). With Montgomery off the board well before this pick, Max Muncy is the selection. Wes Kath (3B, Desert Mountain HS) is another name mentioned in association with the White Sox.

23. Cleveland Baseball Team

Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional (HS)

I do buy the Cleveland-Petty rumors that have been circulating for several weeks now. Once, Cleveland prioritized the “command+” profile pitchers like Plesac, Civale, and Bieber, but in recent years Cleveland focused on hard throwing prep righthanders. Petty may just be the riskiest player in the draft, but his stuff is lethal. Scouts question whether he is a starter long-term. Other options appear to be high school shortstops, Carson Williams and Edwin Arroyo (although possibly for a later pick).

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24. Atlanta Braves

Ty Madden, RHP, Texas

Madden is frequently linked to teams higher in the first round. On the surface that makes sense as he’s been very successful this season, including his recent College World Series performance. But there has been significant questions related to Madden’s fastball shape. His fastball has a movement pattern that some teams view as a ding on his resume. It’s a fairly similar profile to Cade Cavalli, who went 23rd overall, but was frequently linked to teams in the early teens. Cavalli ultimately went to a team who perceives things through more of a traditional scouting lens in Washington (which is one of the reasons they’ve been linked to Madden at 11). But that is all to put into context that Madden is a very good pitcher. He could provide great value to Atlanta here.

25. Oakland Athletics

Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State

Jordan Wicks has been firmly listed as the top college lefty in the class during the draft cycle largely on the success of an above-average fastball (plays up due to deception) and a supremely impressive changeup. While his pitching metrics won’t blow you away, they’re solid and he’s polished. A team in contention, like Oakland, should expect him up relatively soon. The A’s could look at McGreevy as a similar profile. Additionally, Oakland has been tied to a number of prep bats like Whitaker and Kath.

26. Minnesota Twins

Jud Fabian, OF, Florida

Jud Fabian has otherworldly talent, but the Ks just kept piling up this season. Even after he made a mid-season adjustment, the Ks crept back. He settled in around 29% K% for the year, which is way too high for most teams. But Fabian is still a premier athlete and defender in centerfield with above-average to plus power. Minnesota has shown a willingness to deal with strikeouts at the expense of power before.

27. San Diego Padres

Lonnie White Jr., OF, Malvern Prep (HS)

Look for the Padres to take a player with impressive metrics (pitching or hitting). Lonnie White gets the nod here after he demonstrated some of the best batted ball data in the showcases last year. He reigned supreme in max exit velocity with a solid contact rate. His chase rate was 23% (a tad high, but not outrageous), which was similar to Jordan Lawler. Peyton Stovall out of Haughton HS in Louisiana could be another name to watch here.

28. Tampa Bay Rays

Conner Norby, 2B, East Carolina

Middle infielders with plus hit tools are right up Tampa Bay’s alley and Norby fits that to a tee. The Rays’ first two picks are in close proximity to one another so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them flip profiles at 28/34. If Trey Sweeney made it down to 28, I believe he’d be the pick.

29. Los Angeles Dodgers

Wes Kath, 3B, Desert Mountain (HS)

For years the Dodgers snagged talents that fell to them in the draft and let their player development infrastructure build them up into elite prospects and MLB contributors. The Dodgers love to take “hit over power” infielders and work their PD magic. Kath is an amazing example of this (along with Peyton Stovall) and could be a dynamo in the LA system. Gage Jump, Conner Norby, Alex Mooney, Tommy Mace, Ryan Cusick, and Ky Bush could all be names to watch here.

30. Cincinnati Reds

Jay Allen, OF, John Carroll Catholic (HS)

Jay Allen could go way higher than this and is in play starting in the middle of the first round, but Cincinnati is in a great position to move money around to offer him significantly more than he could get with a higher pick. The Reds have been rumored to be all over the high school outfielder group for weeks now.

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31. Miami Marlins

Spencer Schwellenbach, SS/RHP, Nebraska

Schwellenbach is one of the dynamic two-way players in this class. Unlike the majority of the big names (Montgomery, Jobe, Chandler), Schwellenbach is already in college where he served as SS and closer for Nebraska. Miami has been linked to higher upside players in this class and their pitching infrastructure puts the Marlins in a great position to build out Schwellenbach’s repertoire.

32. Detroit Tigers

Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)

Detroit should still have considerable funds to take another big swing after picking third overall. They’ve been tied to prep SS Alex Mooney, who could be available here as well. Here the Tigers pick up Painter to add to their future pitching options.

33. Milwaukee Brewers

Aaron Zavala, OF, Oregon

Brewer scouts were all over Aaron Zavala at the NCAA regionals in Eugene and he showed off a solid swing at the dish. His name has been creeping up boards in recent weeks. He dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the season, but looked impressive in his return. His swing is geared towards teams that place a heavy emphasis on hitting models.

34. Tampa Bay Rays

Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustace (HS)

I’ve had Tampa Bay linked to Solometo since the first mock draft so there’s no sense in deviating now. Solometo is a LHP with a funky arm action from the Northeast. The Rays haven’t shied away from any component of that profile before. Tampa Bay places added value on incorporating different looks from their pitching staff. Solometo is primarily a two-pitch guy and could stand to improve his changeup, but that’s hardly an unusual statement about cold-weather arms. The Rays brass has been spotted at several games for fellow northeast prep, Joshua Baez, and he could be in play for TB.

35. Cincinnati Reds

Malakhi Knight, OF, Marysville-Getchell (HS)

The Reds have been all over prep high school outfielders and there are rumors that James Wood may not be reasonably signable. Cincinnati had a surprisingly big scouting presence in to see Knight recently so this is a shot in the dark. He could certainly be a second or third round target.

36. Minnesota Twins

Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East (HS)

Mack could easily be an earlier selection in the first round, but if he makes it down to here, Minnesota should consider themselves lucky. The Twins are often associated with college bats, but having taken one earlier they can take the prep catcher with the best likelihood of staying at the position in the class.

Chicago Cubs Ten-Round Mock Draft

“What is the optimal strategy in this year’s draft for the Cubs?”

There are countless different “ideal options” in the current landscape of the MLB Draft. Since the first year of the 10-round bonus pool draft format in 2012, we’ve seen teams be creative in how they stretch their imposed financial constraints to get the most talent out of the draft. For a breakdown in how the 2021 draft operates, check out the Chicago Cubs Draft Primer, but here’s a quick summary.

Since these bonus allotments aren’t fixed (only a guideline), the draft is really separated into two drafts. The first 10 rounds becomes its own beast with teams strategically drafting certain players to “save money” for higher priced picks. Often, this involves drafting players in the latter half of the first 10 rounds who are seniors in college and lack leverage in negotiations.”

Ivy Futures Draft Primer

A special thanks to David Elliott (@Davidrelliott) for the suggestion for the article

Disclaimer: I reference the signability of players casually, but these conjectures are based entirely on speculation and reports by draft analysts. No financial figure should be interpreted as a specific figure or information gathered from a player or advisor.

Round 1, Pick 21: James Triantos, SS, Madison HS

Slot figure $3,132,300; approximate signing $2.7 million
Savings $432,300
Report: I previously wrote that if any player in this draft provided a profile similar to last year’s surprise first-round pick, Nick Yorke, that it was Triantos. Additionally, I believe James Triantos ranks high on the Cubs board. This is far from the consensus, but in this scenario, Triantos offers an a slot savings deal while bringing in a player that had some of the strongest batted-ball data on last year’s showcase circuit. Triantos is from Cubs area scout Billy Swoop’s territory and he’s rising on draft boards. Ultimately, more scouts view him as a SS/3B long-term. He may be the best high school hitter to come out of Virginia in the past five years, according to Prospects Live’s Draft Director, Joe Doyle.

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Round 2, Pick 56: Jackson Linn, OF, Cambridge Rindge and Latin 

Slot figure $1,276,400; approximate signing $1.8 million
Savings -$523,600
Report: With the money saved from the pick at 21, the Chicago Cubs take a chance at another rising high school bat, Jackson Linn. The outfielder produced big time exit velocities at the MLB Draft Combine. He is a power bat that also shows off a plus-plus arm (hit 98 mph off the mound). He has a smooth easy stroke with a consistent hitting pattern. The Cambridge Rindge and Latin player has teams interested in the second and third rounds, with Baltimore at 41 offering a high water mark for him. This mock sends Linn to the Cubs for the 41st pick’s value.

Round 3, Pick 93: Grant Holman, RHP, California

Slot Figure $627,900; approximate signing $500k
Savings $127,900
Report: California’s Grant Holman is an upside prospect in this year’s draft. He is a recent convert to pitching and utilizing a long extension (over 7′), which boosts the perceived velocity (the ball looks faster to the hitter because the ball is released closer to the plate) on the pitch. His secondaries don’t play as well as his 92-95 fastball, but his split-change and slider show flashes of being better than average. The fastball incorporates heavy sink on the pitch, which is a fastball characteristic the Cubs have historically liked. This is another selection where the Cubs invest in a large, athletic player who boasts characteristics they like and features an impressive ceiling.

Round 4, Pick 123: Denzel Clarke, OF, Cal State Northridge

Slot Figure $464,500; approximate signing $500,000
Savings -$35,500

Report: Clarke is a name on the rise after his stellar performance at the MLB Draft Combine. He is a big power/speed threat at the next level. And he uses that speed to be a strong centerfielder (Big West’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2021). Clarke’s power is still raw, but it appears after his performance in the MLB Draft Combine, that he’s starting to realize that power. Clarke is a mammoth of a man, standing 6’5″ and 220 pounds. He’s gaining a lot of buzz and should go on day two of this year’s draft.

Round 5, Pick 153: Rohan Handa, LHP, Yale

Slot Figure $343,400; approximate signing $343,400
Savings $0
Report: The Hartford Courant put out an incredible article on Handa who is a big-time pop-up arm. The Yale pitcher remade himself this past season and is intriguing teams with upper 90s velocity and plus slider. No one knows where to place him in the draft, but with the interest in Handa, a team is likely going to need to take him relatively early even if it is just a bullpen profile. The Cubs invested in power lefty arms in last year’s draft (Carraway and Luke Little) and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them do it again this season.

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Round 6, Pick 184: Garrett Horn, LHP, Glenn HS

Slot Figure $263,700; approximate signing $563,700
Savings -$300,000
Report: In the past several year’s the Cubs have leaned heavily on prep pitching in North Carolina. Horn may not be a familiar name but he’s a 6’2″, projectable lefthander who throws five pitches with his four seam (90-95 mph), curveball (77-81 mph), circle changeup (low to mid 80s), and cutter (87-91 mph) his primary pitches. He will mix in a two-seam fastball. Horn recently had a successful showcase at the MLB Draft Combine and I believe he’ll be on teams’ radars, including the Cubs.

Round 7, Pick 214: Wyatt Hendrie, C, San Diego State

Slot Figure $206,500; approximate signing $56,500
Savings $150,000
Report: Hendrie was the lone pick in the first ten-rounds of the draft to not sign with the Cubs during Theo Epstein’s tenure. Some believe that Hendrie’s failed signing was the sole reason for Theo Epstein to leave the club over a year later. Those aren’t people you should associate with without witnesses. Hendrie looks like a future back-up catcher with more upside. He’s a rare hitter who has almost as many walks as strikeouts and his defense looks above-average behind the plate. He may never hit for much power, but Hendrie should have success at the next level.

Round 8, Pick 244: Michael Kirian, LHP, Louisville

Slot Figure $168,500; approximate signing $168,500
Savings $0
Report: It was almost a rite of passage for a Louisville pitcher to be selected by the Chicago Cubs in the draft. Here the Cubs select a giant lefty (6’6″, 230 pounds) who still needs considerable mechanical refinement and pitch development. The Cubs have invested heavily in their high performance and performance science infrastructure and have the foundation to develop Kirian either as a starter or in the pen.

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Round 9, Pick 274: Brett Harris, 3B, Gonzaga

Slot Figure $152,300; approximate signing $52,300
Savings $100,000
Report: Brett Harris is a classic “senior sign” player from a solid program. He performed well this past season and, per scouts, showed good makeup with his teammates. At the NCAA Regionals, multiple scouts from the Oakland A’s were impressed with Harris. The defense wasn’t spectacular in that outing, but he’s a steady bat.

Round 10, Pick 304: Griffin Doersching, 1B/3B, Northern Kentucky

Slot Figure $143,900; approximate signing $43,900
Savings $100,000
Report: The Cubs were heavily linked to East Carolina’s Alec Burleson (1B) in last year’s draft before the Cardinals nabbed him in the third round. They then landed Matt Mervis in the post-draft free agency period. After year’s of avoiding the profile, I believe the Cubs see value in college first basemen. Griffin Doersching’s 20 home runs and his improving performance warrant a serious look.

Bonus Pool

Spending: $6,728,300
Savings: $51,100
Savings plus 5% overage: $390,070

Savings can be used to offer above the $125,000 threshold for players in rounds 11-20. Effectively the Cubs could bring in several $250,000 players in the later rounds since only the funds above $125,000 are counted against the pool. The Cubs did this in 2018 to great success.

Parting thoughts

Ten-round mock drafts are not built to be accurate exercises, but they are fun. It will be fascinating to see who the Cubs target early in this draft. This mock incorporates a few player demographics and qualities that I hope the Cubs target: high school talent, upside college players, premier athletes, and an emphasis on high performance/performance science.