Potential Cubs Pitching Draft Targets

The Cubs Way

The Chicago Cubs aren’t known for their organizational success in drafting pitchers. Duane Underwood Jr, second round pick in 2012, has pitched the most innings for the team in anyone drafted by the organization since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took the reigns in 2011. That inning total that Underwood Jr. threw before being traded to Pittsburgh only amounted to 36 1/3 innings. The sheer lack of pitching developed from start to finish by the Cubs is almost unfathomable. It should be noted that the Cubs have developed pitchers both at the minor and major league level, even if they weren’t drafted by the team. Kyle Hendricks, Rowan Wick, Alec Mills were all acquired in trades and took developmental steps to have major league success. Adbert Alzolay was an international free agent in 2012. After years of battling injuries, Alzolay appears to be taking the necessary steps to succeed in a major league rotation. However, a team can’t sustain success without drafting and developing homegrown pitching. The Chicago Cubs have been keenly aware of this fact ever since 2016 when Theo Epstein commented that he had “Find Pitching” scribbled on a white board in the office. Years of first prioritizing college hitters in early rounds followed by drafting “safe” college arms has produced very little impact. Drastic steps needed to be taken, and they were taken, when the team shifted organizational philosophies starting in 2018 before being fully realized a year later.

Disclaimer: Every major league organization uses some form of draft model and metrics to compare and rank both hitters and pitchers. This isn’t meant to reverse-engineer the Cubs draft model, but rather to highlight a few components of that model that may pertain to players selected. Teams also have access to far more biodynamic and proprietary data.

Pitching Metrics to Consider

Extension

A pitcher’s extension refers to the distance a pitcher releases the ball relative to the pitching rubber and it is a metric that the Cubs absolutely love (link is to an Ivy Futures Interview episode featuring Mason McRae who discusses this topic). Nearly all their top pitching selections in recent memory threw with well above-average extension. The effects of a longer extension leading to a higher “perceived velocity” is still debated, but all accounts are that it at worst is neutral to a pitcher’s success. Additionally, extension along with vertical release height are both related to a pitcher’s vertical approach angle (VAA), which is an in vogue pitching topic. You can read more about VAA here.

Sinkers/2-Seam fastballs

If you have seen the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, then you likely have seen the reliance on 2-seam fastballs and sinkers. These pitches, which have very similar movement patterns are often lumped together. While that’s not quite accurate, even Fangraphs categorizes 2-seamers and sinkers as “SI” (sinkers). And frankly, sinkers are not popular pitches in drafting and development circles for most organizations. High velocity fastballs up in the zone with “ride” coupled with power curveballs and sliders are the pitches teams gravitate towards. The Chicago Cubs have embraced those philosophies, but they are zagging while other teams are zigging in continuing to incorporate 2-seam fastballs in pitch design. Riley Thompson, Michael McAvene, Brailyn Marquez, and Adbert Alzolay all have worked to develop a 2-seam. Ryan Jensen, the Cubs top selection in 2019, heavily features a 2-seam fastball that a Cubs exec described as “dirty”. Unlike other organizations junking the 2-seamer/sinker, the Cubs embrace it as a legitimate offering and while they don’t overwhelmingly target pitchers who throw the pitch as a primary weapon, the organization doesn’t view it as a negative (like several other teams).

Age Considerations

All organizations include age to some extent into how they evaluate players, especially in extremes. A player who is 19 years old in high school may offer less growth than a 17 year old. Certain organizations factor age very little into their draft models (Arizona) and others are notorious for heavily factoring it in (Cleveland). The Cubs are largely in the middle, especially when it comes to pitchers. In the past few years they’ve skewed to take pitchers on the younger end of their respective draft class from college and haven’t been tied to players like Bryce Jarvis and Landon Knack who were on the age outliers in last years draft. Ultimately, I wouldn’t heavily weigh age when it comes to identifying players the Cubs may target.

Prior Injury Issues and Reliever Risk

Until 2019, the Cubs actively avoided drafting pitchers with prior Tommy John Surgery (TJS). However, in back-to-back-to-back picks, the 2019 draft featured college arms (several as relievers as well) with prior TJS (McAvene, Clarke, Burgmann). There’s no denying it, 2019 was a risky draft. The Cubs bet on high upside even with high risk. Pitchers with prior TJS can’t be ruled out when evaluating potential Cubs picks. 2020’s shorten draft saw the Cubs double down on taking likely relievers in Burl Carraway and Luke Little, though Little is working to develop four pitches.

College Pitchers

Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (OH)

Ivy Futures Report: Bachman is a sturdy righthander with an unusual delivery. He’s held up to a starters workload previously, but has dealt with injury issues this season. His profile may fit better in relief with a mid-to-upper 90s (top 102) fastball and plus slider. The changeup will fluctuate between below average and average. The deception from his arm action makes the stuff play up, but I question if it’s a long-term starter’s profile. Bachman has some fans within the Cubs organization, though he may not be on the board by the time they select at #21.

Michael McGreevy, RHP, UCSB

Michael McGreevy pitching for UCSB

Ivy Futures Report: Michael McGreevy is getting a ton of buzz recently in large part due to his improving stuff. McGreevy’s velocity keeps ticking up with a now 92-95 mph sinker and above-average slider and curveball. His fourth pitch is a changeup that may only slot in as an average but the whole package is enticing. McGreevy is a projectable guy at 6’4”, 215; he carries a high floor and a projected ceiling that appears to continue to rise as we get further into the draft season.

Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State

Ivy Futures Report: Bednar brings a low-to-mid 90s fastball (tops at 95) along with an above-average slider and a solid curve and changeup. The fastball has late arm-side life, which is a benefit in overall pitch movement, but also causes him to miss to his arm side (inside to righties). His slider is his best secondary with good sharp break. The curveball and changeup are a tad behind, but this is a four-pitch pitcher with a starters build from the SEC. Even more, Bednar boasts good extension, which is a metric that some teams (like the Cubs) focus on in their draft models

Dominic Hamel, RHP, Dallas Baptist University

Ivy Futures Report: DBU is well-regarded for their pitch design infrastructure. Cubs scouting director Dan Kantrovitz made multiple comments that Cubs 2020 2nd round pick out of DBU, Burl Carraway, had some of the most impressive metrics the organization has seen. Hamel offers a similar package, albeit with three pitches and the ability to start at the next level. There’s still reliever risk here, but Hamel’s 91-96 riding fastball and either his slider or curve could provide an impact arm in a multi-inning role if necessary. Hamel (like Carraway) has high spin rates and plus extension.

Prep Pitchers

Josh Hartle, LHP, Reagan (HS)

Ivy Futures Report: Hartle is a projection dream standing 6 foot 5 with three pitch mix (fastball/changeup/slider). The changeup is ahead of the slider, but both are solid offerings. He has smooth, repeatable mechanics for a high school pitcher. His frame looks like it can add good muscle in the future. Midrotation upside. The velocity is more 88-91 right now, but he boasts metrics that some teams put strong emphasis on like extension.

Josh Hartle via Prospects Live

Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa (HS)

Thatcher Hurd pitching for Mira Costa

Ivy Futures Report: Hurd is a recent convert to pitching from catcher and sports some eye popping spin metrics. He’s peaked at 2700+ rpm on the fastball and 3000+ rpm on his curve in rapsodo sessions. Hurd’s curve is already plus and according to one scout, his changeup should sit plus with further development. In-game his fastball sits low 90s and runs pretty straight, however the velocity should increase as he continues to build innings after converting to pitcher.

Team draft boards are very much still in flux, however a few of these metrics and demographics are ones the Cubs have gravitated towards since a large draft philosophy changed. It’s very possible the Cubs employ a new strategy to bringing in pitching, but at this juncture, all options should be on the table.

Chicago Cubs MLB Draft Primer

Chicago Cubs Draft Primer

Find all the latest Ivy Futures MLB Draft content here

Draft Details

The 2021 MLB Draft is now officially 20 rounds and will be held July 11-13 in Denver, Colorado. Previously the draft was 40 rounds until 2020 when even having the five round event was a mild surprise. The new 20 round format is one that fans should get accustomed to since a shorter draft has been a goal for Rob Manfred and ownership due to the reductions in MiLB teams.

Cubs Draft Slots

Each team is allotted a certain amount of bonus pool money. The teams largely have complete autonomy in how they spend their funds, with only a few minor restrictions involved (mostly due to draft pick compensation in the event a player doesn’t sign in the first three rounds). The total pool is comprised of the values assigned to each pick within the first 10 rounds.

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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. For example, the Cubs could select a stud high school hitter with a commitment to Vanderbilt (known for keeping a high percentage of their committed high school players) at pick 21. That player has a number that he and his family/advisor have determined he with sign for. In this example, the number the player desires is $4 million. The Cubs offer $4 million and then take a player(s) in a subsequent round(s) who they can sign for less than the respective bonus allotments for each pick. Often, this involves drafting players in the latter half of the first 10 rounds who are seniors in college and lack leverage in negotiations. Though he wasn’t drafted in the abbreviated 5 round draft, Matt Mervis spoke about this process in a recent Ivy Futures Interviews episode.

First 10 Rounds (AKA The Bonus Pool)

RoundPickBonus Allotment
121$3,132,300
256$1,276,400
393$627,900
4123$464,500
5153$343,400
6184$263,700
7214$206,500
8244$168,500
9274$152,300
10304$143,900
After an agreement with the MLB Payers Association, 2020 and 2021 bonus allotments will use the 2019 slot values

Total Cubs bonus pool is $6,779,400. The total the Cubs can spend without losing a first round pick is under $7,118,370.

If a player is drafted in the top ten rounds and does not sign, the team loses the value of that bonus allotment. This rarely happens, but it did occur with the Cubs in 2019 when they failed to sign their 10th round selection, Wyatt Hendrie. Teams may spend up to an additional 5% of their bonus pool. so the Cubs have a total of $7,118,370 with the 5% amount of $338,970 without a significant penalty. The Cubs have overspent their designated bonus pool every single year of the current format.

Rounds 11-20

Prior to 2020, this second part of the draft (rounds 11-40) would involve players that teams planned to sign (often from college) or those that the team would love to sign but a signing was viewed as unlikely (highly valued high school players with significant bonus demands). Since this latter part of the draft was so long, teams could safely take a player on the slim chance that player would sign because they had so many rounds. Teams often only signed approximately 20 players in a 40 round draft.

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No one knows how this years’ draft will play out, but teams will likely be more judicious in not “wasting” a pick since the draft has been cut in half. Teams can sign players for up to $125,000 without any funds being taken form their bonus pool. Every dollar over $125,000 a player signs for in rounds 11-20 gets added on to the bonuses spent in the first 10 rounds.

For example, if the Cubs were to select college seniors in rounds 8-10 and they saved $100,000 total after signing their first 10 picks, the Cubs could take a player in round 14 and sign them for $250,000 (since only $100k would count against the pool spending).

Post-Draft Free Agency

Similar to last year, any player eligible for the draft who is not drafted may sign with any team for a maximum of $20,000. This will often involve college seniors, like in 2020 when the Cubs signed Matt Mervis, Bradlee Beeseley, Ben Leeper, and many others. However, the Cubs signed Jacob Wetzel, who was a junior college player. The bulk of the players brought into the organization will come from the 20 round draft, but don’t lose sight of the post draft free agency period. In the last two years, the Cubs have signed Max Bain and Joe Nahas, not to mention more than a dozen interesting prospects from 2020

One Eye on the Future

The 2021 MLB Draft will be vitally important to the Cubs organization. Regardless of how this season finishes, Cubs President Jed Hoyer has already floated that they “one eye on the present and one eye on the future”. In addition to difficult decisions at the major league level, the draft is the single largest way teams can bring in the most future talent. In future articles, we’ll explore potential Cubs draft targets and information on the draft class.

On the Clock: Which 2021 MLB Draft Prospect Would You Select?

It may be early in draft season (the College World Series runs through the end of June), but the top of the draft class appears to be taking shape. Mock drafts offer a way to look at an entire round and how it affects specific organizations, but fans want to know “which player should I dream about my team landing?”. So took the time to ask if you were to take one player in this draft class to build around, who would you take? The choice comes down to a few key demographics: advanced college performer, elite high school hitter, or a prep pitcher.

So, which player did you pick?

Advanced College Performers

The 2021 college season has been fantastic and it’s a great spot to begin this exercise looking at incredible talent playing in the NCAA right now! This poll featured two elite college righthanders, an upper-level outfield bat, and a top college catcher, which are three demographics that provide great building blocks to build an organization around. Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker lead a dynamic Vanderbilt rotation and the college pitching crop in this draft class. Jud Fabian began the year as one of the top talents as an elite college hitter who has succeeded with wood bats and against older competition. But Fabian’s K% of 30% has so far left much to be desired and knocked him down draft boards. He’s still a premier talent, but if that K% doesn’t start dropping, Fabian becomes a real option for teams in the middle of the first round. Sal Frelick (not included in this poll) is playing incredibly well and could substitute for Fabian if you felt inclined. Henry Davis is a standout catcher who receives top grades for his all-fields approach, solid power, and hit tool.
According to the fans, it was a two-horse race between Leiter and Rocker. Jack Leiter reigned supreme and moved on to the final round. This poll took place before March 20, 2021, which will be essential to note later.

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Elite High School Hitters

The prep hitting class could be one for the record books. As many as five high school shortstops could be picked in the first round. Behind incredible shortstops (who should be upper tier draft picks) in Jordan Lawler and Marcelo Mayer (and maybe Kahlil Watson), there’s a group of bats worth keeping an eye on. Brady House has gotten a hefty portion of the publicity of the high school class. He looks more like a 3B than SS, but he still boasts hitting metrics that suggest a strong pro bat. James Wood is an exciting outfield prospect. He’ll take some time to develop, but could be an all-star outfielder in the end. Ultimately you chose the projectable shortstop with great hit tool who is growing into more power in Jordan Lawler, an excellent choice.

High School Pitchers

The riskiest demographic featured in this discussion: prep pitcher. An elite high school arm is one that could impact the major league staff as early as their age 20-21 season. There is a high ceiling that comes with an upper tier prep arm. But the risks that come with selecting an arm often push other prospects up higher on draft boards. The top two arms at present are Jackson Jobe (who was a shortstop turned pitcher with a projectable frame and metrics that are highly encouraging) and Andrew Painter (who stands a hulking 6’7″ and throws four average-to-plus pitches). Thatcher Hurd is a dynamic righty who also is a recent conversion to pitcher. The former catcher boasts an impressive curveball and a likely plus changeup down the road. His fastball sits low 90s now and may need some work on the shape of the pitch, but he has an impressive foundation to build upon. Gage Jump appears diminutive at 5’10” next to the other three pitchers, but his “stuff” can certainly stand up next to Jobe, Painter, and Hurd. Jump throws four pitches, and has a particularly effective low vertical approach angle which allows his low 90s heater to eat up batters at the top of the zone. You went with the SS turned pitcher in Jackson Jobe.

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The Big Decision

Decision time! You team is on the clock at the top of the draft and you can select one player amongst all the incredible talent. Jack Leiter, with a startling 71.8% of the vote, is your selection. One note, while this poll was taking place, Leiter was in process of throwing a 16K/1BB no-hitter for Vanderbilt. Could it have skewed the results? Perhaps, but your team ended up with an incredible talent to build your organization around. Jack Leiter appears to be cementing himself as the top overall talent in the draft and likely the best college pitcher in several years.

For more information about these and 38 other draft prospects, check out the Ivy Futures Top 50 list. The Top 100 list is scheduled in May and will feature 50 new players and a complete re-ranking.

MLB Mock Draft 2021 Version 1.0

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt

As of this writing, I still have Jud Fabian 1st overall on my board, but Jack Leiter is special. He’s the best pitching prospect in the last several years. There will be some teams who shy away from a 6’0″ righthander, but this isn’t 2012. Pitchers with Leiter’s four pitch (all above average to plus) profile can dominate in baseball, especially with his low vertical approach angle. Sure, his pro starts won’t all be 16K/1BB no-hitters, but Leiter is a dynamic talent. Pittsburgh takes a pitcher with true ace potential who should quickly rise the system.

2. Texas Rangers

Ty Madden, RHP, Texas

Well that’s a surprise. Madden is pitching his way into the top 10 selection territory already. Similar to Baltimore’s selection of Kjerstad #2 overall, Texas takes a player who signs for a bit less in slot money, but who is very worthy of a high pick. Madden is a high velocity college righthander who was waiting for his curveball and changeup to show improvements in command and shape. Both are vastly improved in 2021. Ty Madden pitching three hours away should give the Rangers ample opportunity to see him in action even accounting for scouting restrictions due to COVID-19. Chris Young, in his first season as general manager, will be an intriguing element to the upper picks in this year’s draft, though Amateur Scouting director Kip Fagg stayed in his current position within the organization. Lawler, Fabian, Rocker, and Adrian Del Castillo all make sense here too. Texas is in an enviable position.

3. Detroit Tigers

Jud Fabian, OF, Florida

Detroit is building a heck of a system that looks primed to win very soon. In this mock, the Tigers don’t overthink the selection. They take the best player (in my opinion) on the board. It doesn’t hurt that Fabian has (1) consistently hit despite being one the youngest players on the field, (2) played a solid CF, (3) succeeded with wood bats. There’s swing and miss to Fabian’s game (currently has a 30% K%), but that should be just be monitored as the draft approaches. Teams shouldn’t draft for need, however Jud Fabian should be quick to the majors and plays a premium position. Another player to consider here is Henry Davis if he keeps up his torrid pace into July.

4. Boston Red Sox

Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt

Even casual fans of the draft may have heard Kumar Rocker’s name. He was a hot commodity in the 2018 draft but a firm commitment to Vanderbilt led him to campus. So far that decision appears to have paid off for Rocker. The Red Sox take the dynamic righthander who has some of the most MLB-ready physical and pitching qualities in the draft class. It’s hard to say if the Red Sox under Chaim Bloom will choose to pay the high price needed for Rocker, but Scouting VP, Gus Quattlebaum, has been with the organization for 10 years and has never picked higher than 7th. It makes sense for a premier organization like the Red Sox to seize the opportunity to select a player who could be in the starting rotation sometime in 2022.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake (HS)

Mayer has a strong likelihood to be a starting caliber shortstop with good bat-to-ball skills and plus raw power. He’s an exciting talent and is in the running for top prep shortstop in a very deep class. He also has been showing off a steeper bat path through the zone. The Orioles benefit from just taking best player on the board and while I overall like Westburg and Henderson in their system, Mayer would (for me) immediately slide in as Baltimore’s top shortstop prospect.

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6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep (HS)

Arizona can be very prep heavy, but unlike several teams, age doesn’t have as much weight into their draft model with selections like Bryce Jarvis, Brennan Malone, and Drey Jameson all slightly older than their classmates. Enter Jordan Lawler who is also a strong bet to stay at shortstop for a long time though will be almost 19 when the draft arrives. The Diamondbacks have succeeded with hitting profiles similar to Lawler, which is more geared for hit over power and Arizona was heavily tied to shortstops in the 2020 draft. In this mock, AZ doesn’t have to reach for one of the elite talents in the draft.

7. Kansas City Royals

Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami

ADC (Del Castillo) has been working out this winter with Royals catcher, Salvador Pérez. The biggest question with Del Castillo is whether a team believes he has a chance to stick behind the plate. A team drafting him this high likely believes he can be a catcher at the next level. The Royals (through Pérez) have an inside track on his behind the scenes work in that area. I have Henry Davis as the top catcher on my board, but if a team believes ADC can be an average catcher he could get drafted early. KC also has a tendency to take individuals who “fall” in a draft.

8. Colorado Rockies

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

Colorado has been willing to take a high school talent if the option present itself, but is generally focused on going the college route in the first rough. The draft really starts to open up here with teams having very different valuations on players. This mock has Brady House who sports some hitting metrics related to bat path that are very impressive.

9. Los Angeles Angels

Henry Davis, C, Louisville

The Angels took Louisville LHP Reid Detmers, who is already impressing in spring training and in this mock, they nap Detmers’ battery-mate. Davis is a name on the rise with teams. He is off to a blistering start this season driving the ball to all fields. A starting catcher with a plus hit tool (especially with some pop) from an accomplished college program is not likely to be on the board for too long.

10. New York Mets

Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas

Franklin has all-star potential in centerfield with above-average tools almost across the board. The hit tool is a tad behind the others, but he’s a top talent that shouldn’t fall far in the draft. So far this season, Franklin is sporting a 27% K%, which is higher than you’d like in a top 10 draft pick. It’s something to monitor as players get more game action.

11. Washington Nationals

Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU

Washington will consistently take pitching risks (be it injury, signability, or character risks) in an effort to find high-impact talent. Jaden Hill represents the injury risk, but he has an electric arm. Some organizations are moving away from drafting pitchers who feature fastballs with sinking action, but Washington took Jackson Rutledge who had similar movement on his fastball. There some implicit risk in his development, however it’s hard to find a pitcher with more ceiling left on the board.

12. Seattle Mariners

Matt McLain, SS/OF, UCLA

Seattle tends to take good scouting guys and ones who fall (Hancock, Kyle Lewis). In this mock, the Mariners continue to benefit from teams above them betting on upside over security. McLain represents a very sure bet to be a big leaguer. He’s currently off to a solid, if unspectacular start to the 2021 season. Though he’s a shortstop right now, he is a likely 2B/OF at the next level. Mariners fans could see McLain in the big leagues as early as late 2023.

13. Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)

Would Philadelphia make nearly the same selection two years in a row (after taking Mick Abel in 2020)? They could and Andrew Painter makes a lot of sense here. Armed with four average to plus pitches, the 6’7″ Painter ranks as my top prep pitcher. Like Mick Abel the previous year, Painter is well versed in pitch design and could quickly advance through the minors. In addition to his training and time on showcases, he spent time working with Cressey Sports Performance and had the time to meet Justin Verlander. High School right handers are a risky demographic, but this selection may be worth the risk.

14. San Francisco Giants

Sal Frelick, OF, Boston College

If Matt McLain were to make it down to San Francisco, there would be a good chance he’d be the selection. Instead, the Giants wind up with another polished college bat in Frelick. Giants GM saw Ben Zobrist stand out as a leader on the Cubs both from an offensive perspective and as a steady defender in multiple positions. Frelick could be that type of player for the Giants though Sal offers the ability to play CF at the next level.

15. Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest

Cubs fans won’t like to admit it, but the Milwaukee Brewers have a strong data-driven pitching development team. Cusick has multiple metrics that teams gravitate towards (extension, vertical approach angle) and legitimate “stuff”. He could be long gone by the time Milwaukee picks, but if Cusick falls toward the middle of the draft, there are a bevy of teams with strong pitching infrastructures lined up to take advantage.

16. Miami Marlins

Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest (HS)

Watson could go way higher than this, and in my upcoming Top 100, Watson should fit comfortably in the top 10 overall. Here, Miami takes the top talent on the board. Watson came into the season with questions as to whether he’d stick at shortstop. He appears to have quieted those concerns and has the potential to be a future all-star at a premium position long term. The prep shortstop group in this draft class is special. There could be five prep shortstops taken in the top 40 picks and it wouldn’t be a surprise.

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17. Cincinnati Reds

Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami of Ohio

Cincinnati is deeply connected to pitch design with Kyle Boddy now working for the Reds. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll take a pitcher, but in this mock (and likely in July) there’s an abundance of intriguing pitching talent available at this stage of the draft. Bachman is definitely in this category; he boasts some of the better three-pitch mix in the class. Bachman’s fastball, changeup, slider combo can be electric.

18. St. Louis Cardinals

Joshua Baez, OF, Dexter Southfield (HS)

The Cardinals are willing to take a developmental prospect and can handle signability concerns. Joshua Baez has truly immense talent albeit from a corner outfield position. He will flash plus-plus raw power and can hit mid 90s on the mound. It will take awhile, but Baez could be patrolling RF for the Cardinals for a long time.

19. Toronto Blue Jays

Harry Ford, C, North Cobb (HS)

The Blue Jays are of my favorite teams to follow in the draft. They’ve taken some of my favorite picks in last three years: Groshans, Kloffenstein, Robertson, Austin Martin, and CJ Van Eyk. In this mock, they take another impressive pick with Ford who is a dynamic talent that has a solid chance to succeed at C. If he does need to move, Ford has the bat and athleticism to play all around the diamond.

20. New York Yankees

James Wood, OF, IMG Academy

I have my doubts James Wood lasts to pick 20 in July, but if so, Yankees fans should be head over heels. He is one of a handful of players who could be legitimate two-way talents. That two-way upside hasn’t scared off the Yankees before with their selection of Anthony Seigler in 2018. The Yankees also have a track record of developing giant human beings into impactful superstars. Wood has that level of upside.

21. Chicago Cubs

Joshua Hartle, LHP Reagan HS (NC)

The Cubs have significantly changed their draft strategy in recent years, opting to select riskier picks with the hope that they could have players reach a higher ceiling. Prep pitchers certainly fall into that demographic. While he doesn’t throw with the same velocity, Hartle will evoke Garrett Crochet (who the Cubs liked in 2020) comparisons in overall ceiling and Josh Hader comps in arm angle and release. Part of those comparisons comes from the fact that Joshua Hartle boasts excellent “extension”. A pitcher’s extension refers to the distance a pitcher releases the ball relative to the pitching rubber and it is a metric that the Cubs absolutely love. Nearly all their top pitching selections in recent memory threw with well above-average extension. Hartle also will be well-scouted this spring and summer by Area Scout, Billy Swoope (2020 Cubs Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) who is responsible for scouting numerous Cubs selections. In the high school pitching group alone, Swoope scouted DJ Herz and Koen Moreno in back-to-back years. Scouting will be heavily impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. It wouldn’t surprise to see the Cubs go back to a trusted well, especially one with metrics the organization loves.

More to come about Josh Hartle

22. Chicago White Sox

Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State

The Chicago White Sox have pivoted to a competitive window in the last year. The White Sox continue their overall strategy here with a safe college hitter early and riskier demographics later in the draft. Cowser started off slow in 2021, but he’s rebounded. Cowser has average or better tools across the board that will fit in well in the White Sox system.

23. Cleveland Baseball Team

Thatcher Hurd, RHP, Mira Costa (HS)

One of my favorite prep pitchers in the draft. A year ago, Thatcher was primarily a catcher (threw about 4 innings in high school by that point). During the shutdown he experimented on the mound and took to it like a duck to water. Hurd boasts multiple metrically inclined pitches including breaking pitches that spin over 3000 RPMs. Cleveland has an incredibly strong pitching development infrastructure which can take Thatcher Hurd from raw projectable pitcher to elite talent.

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24. Atlanta Braves

Gunnar Hoglund, RHP Mississippi

Atlanta picks up a Gunnar Hoglund who’s primary specialty is superb control. This spring, Hoglund’s velocity now sits in the low 90s (and topping out at 95) and he has a four pitch mix. Hoglund should be a quick-to-the-majors arm who can slide into Atlanta’s rotation.

25. Oakland Athletics

McCade Brown, RHP, Indiana

McCade Brown is rising up boards and may not last this long this July, but if he does, there are a cavalcade of teams with strong pitching infrastructures who can help Brown continue to develop his elite “stuff”. Though Brown has an injury history, it was a back injury (not arm related) and Oakland has been aggressive in previous drafts gambling on upside.

26. Minnesota Twins

Kevin Abel, RHP, Oregon State University

It feels like a lifetime ago that Kevin Abel pitched a complete game shutout to lead the Oregon State Beavers to a 2018 College World Series championship. Perhaps it was the 241 pitches in five days or perhaps it was just inherent risk with a young arm, but Abel soon missed parts of two seasons with Tommy John surgery. He’s back in a big way this year succeeding largely due to his curveball and changeup. Abel is 22 and offers a relatively safe profile. Minnesota picks up a a money-saving selection so they can splurge with their competitive balance pick. Abel is a strong bet to be a rotation candidate in a few years.

27. San Diego Padres

Jackson Jobe, RHP, Heritage Hall (HS)

I’ll admit this felt like cheating. I took the top high school talent on the board, (especially a pitcher) and I mocked him to the Padres. Admittedly, I do wonder if this year will be a different plan. Perhaps their board changes ever so slightly to favor more college ready talents. But in this mock, Jobe just makes so much sense. He is now, almost assuredly a pitcher over SS and features an impressive metric FB/SL combo. Jackson Jobe landing in San Diego would be very fun, except if you are a fan of a Padres’ rival.

28. Tampa Bay Rays

Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustice (HS)

It may be balmy in Tampa Bay, but the Rays aren’t shy from taking players from cold weather states. Solometo is an intriguing lefty from NJ. He’s more of a FB/SL pitcher now, but those two pitches are plus. Solometo landing with a pitching development powerhouse would be fun to watch.

29. Los Angeles Dodgers

Alex Mooney, SS, Orchard St. Lake Mary’s (HS)

LA is known as one of the strongest developmental organizations in baseball. One of the their biggest strengths is the ability to take prospects who have better hit tools and line drive swings and work with them to elevate the ball without sacrificing significant contact. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep’s Alex Mooney fits that profile. Pitching talents like Florida righthander Tommy Mace and LHP Gage Jump (HS) also make sense with LA.

The 2018 Cubs Draft Class Can Define the Next Wave

As a draft fanatic, I’ve told my wife that my favorite day of the year is the first day of the major league draft. That’s not a particularly popular sentiment around the holidays, but for me, it’s true. The MLB draft is hope springing anew. When the team you root for is a struggle to watch at the major league level, there is always the MLB draft providing hope that the next superstar is waiting to join your organization. Though it’s commonly thought that it takes approximately five years to properly evaluate a draft, I feel that there’s rare situations where you can examine early successes and give credit where it’s due. The Chicago Cubs draft class in 2018 fits that bill. The early returns are promising and it may go down as one of the more successful draft classes by the franchise in the last 20 years.

The peak Cubs years of 2015-2018 were driven, in part, by the successes of first round draft selections. Kris Bryant (2013, 2nd overall) was a rookie of the year, MVP, and multiple all-star. Kyle Schwarber (2014, 4th overall) powered his way through the minor leagues and mashed his way to be tied for the franchise lead in post season home runs. Schwarber’s “phoenix like” rise from the ashes in coming back for the World Series from a severe leg injury in April 2016 provided a an emotional lift and a powerful bat for the curse-breaking Chicago Cubs. Ian Happ (2015, 9th overall) experienced a similar quick rise through the minor leagues and produced an .842 OPS while popping 24 home runs in only 115 games. Even Albert Almora Jr. (2012, 6th overall) produced a wRC+ above 100 in 2016 and 2017. The player with the most career WAR drafted by the Cubs outside of the first round since 2012? David Bote with 2.9 career WAR (according to Fangraphs). For sustained success, an organization has to do a better job of hitting on draft picks.

The 2018 Chicago Cubs draft class appears to be different than prior years. It is still led by a successful first round pick, but unlike previous classes, there are significant prospects taken throughout the draft. Several of these prospects are on track to be key contributors at the major league level sooner than later.

Draft in Review

The Top Two Rounds

Nico Hoerner

Nico Hoerner in 2018 with Eugene

1st Round (24th overall)

Fans were shocked with Nico’s selection in the draft, but he quickly proved he was up to the task. Hoerner flew through the minors to become the first player from the 2018 class to make his MLB debut. Last season was a mixed bag at best, but there are encouraging signs that a bounce back could be in store in 2021.

Brennen Davis

Brennen Davis via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

2nd Round (62nd overall)

The progress Brennen Davis has made in transforming himself from raw multi-sport athlete to potential force to be reckoned with in a little over two years is astounding. Davis boasts some of the most impressive skills in the entire system and looks ready to start 2021 in AA. He’s a potential force to be reckoned with in he near future.

Cole Roederer

Cole Roederer via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

2nd Round compensation (77th overall)

Sweet-swinging Cole Roederer was getting comps to Andrew Benintendi on draft-day, but he’s been delayed in his development with an up-and-down 2019 in South Bend and the 2020 shutdown. But we’ve reached the point where people may be sleeping on Cole. He’ll still be 21 all of next season with a good opportunity to play at high A. A strong season with an improved plan at the plate could shout him back up rankings and into the 2022-2023 plans for the Cubs.

Paul Richan (Traded to Detroit)

2nd Round Compensation (78th overall)

Richan had a solid post-draft debut in Eugene and was holding his own in High A in 2019, Myrtle Beach, before he was dealt to Detroit along with Alex Lange for Nick Castellanos. Richan is a “sequencing” focused pitcher similar to 2017 draftee, Cory Abbott (though Abbott is a far better prospect). Best of luck to Paul in Detroit!

Other Top Prospects (Top 30 for Ivy Futures)

Andy Weber

Andy Weber by Rikk Carlson (@rikkcarl10)

5th Round (158th overall)

Andy Weber is criminally underrated though he is starting to get more publicity. Weber has such a smooth, balanced swing that is geared for hit over power from the left-hand side. His hitting mechanics are quiet and calm, which helps him provide a high contact bat that sprays doubles all over the field. He’s a more than capable shortstop, but will likely find a home moving around the diamond.

Kohl Franklin

Kohl Franklin by Rikk Carlson (@rikkcarl10)

6th Round (188th overall)

Kohl Franklin is someone “with as much upside as anyone in [the Cubs’] system” according to VP of Player Development, Matt Dorey. You can see why as this ultra-projectable pitcher has added good weight to his frame along with significant mph to his fastball. He was already armed with one of the best changeups in the Cubs minor leagues and an improving curveball that flashes plus, but his fastball with natural movement now sits mid 90s. Franklin looks like at least a mid-rotation arm in the future.

Riley Thompson

Riley Thompson via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

11th Round (338th overall)

Thompson may be 24 to start the year (likely in AA), but he has some seriously impressive pitches. Riley got a recent shoutout from Cubs VP, Matt Dorey, as a likely breakout candidate in 2021. Thompson is armed with a low to mid 90s fastball (can touch upper 90s) and an average changeup, but the high spin rate curveball is his bread and butter. Dorey offered praise for Thompson’s work to craft his pitches during the shutdown so don’t be surprised if there’s an extra tick on the fastball or even improved spin rate/efficiency.

Jack Patterson

Jack Patterson by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

32nd Round (968th overall)

Jack Patterson is more than just a great story. He has a very real chance of contributing big league innings as early as this season. Patterson missed extensive time during college after he was struck in the head by a ball. He took the Cubs minor leagues by storm in 2019 by starting at extended spring training, then dominating South Bend and Myrtle Beach, before ending the year in AA. The Cubs thought enough of Jack that they gave him a coveted 60-man spot in South Bend last season. Receiving any impact from a 32nd round pick is enormous for an organization. Whether starting or in relief, Patterson should soon have the opportunity to fulfill his dream.

A few more to talk about

NameDraft Position: Round (overall)Notes
Ethan Roberts4th round (128)A spin-rate darling, Roberts is an intriguing reliever who may begin 2021 in AA.
D.J. Artis7th round (218)High walks with a moderate K%. The Jon Jay comp feels lazy, but accurate for this LF/CF.
Cam Sanders 12th round (368)A guy who may surprise likely in the pen. He keeps making adjustments (that curve could be something special) as he climbs the ladder.
Ezequiel Pagan 13th round (398)It’s rare to see a HS player taken later in the draft that isn’t a high bonus signee, but the Cubs have had some success finding opportunities like this out of Puerto Rico. He’s a raw player, but shows some OBP chops.