Chicago Cubs Sign James Triantos as They Begin to Wrap Up Draft Class

The Chicago Cubs have signed second-round pick, James Triantos, according to multiple reports. James’ family confirmed the signing on social media. In addition to the high school infielder, the organization has also come to terms with two more high school players in Dominic Hamel and Christian Olivo according to multiple reports.

UPDATE: the deal is worth $2.1 million according to Jim Callis

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The Cubs, under VP of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz, “kept the accelerator down” selecting Triantos who required a significant bonus to sign away from a UNC commitment. There were some within the organization that viewed Triantos as a first-round caliber player. Many fans craved high-upside prep talent in the lead up to this draft. In Triantos and Drew Gray, the Cubs filled that need right away. Triantos may have some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the organization.

Player Reports

James Triantos

Ivy Futures Report: James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) sported impressive batted-ball data. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “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.”

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Dominic Hambley, RHP

Report: Hambley showcases premier stuff on the mound and was viewed as difficult to sign away from his commitment to Oregon State. Hambley’s fastball operates in the low 90s with strong life. The Cubs are also encouraged by his high-spin slider. He will throw a changeup as a third pitch. Look to the Cubs to begin to develop him in the offseason at instructs.

Christian Olivo, SS

Report: Christian Olivo is an impressive defensive shortstop from Puerto Rico. As a 17-year-old in the MLB Draft League, Olivo showed solid bat-to-ball skills and hope that as an extremely young prospect he can grow into a solid offensive player. Olivo will take some time and will require a commitment with the Cubs’ High Performance and Performance Science department, but should make for an exciting follow in the future.

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Wrap up

When the Triantos signing becomes official, it will complete the Cubs bonus pool round selections (the first 10-rounds). The signing of Dominic Hambley fulfills the “$200k bullet” that Chicago Cubs VP Dan Kantrovitz spoke about firing in his recent interview with .

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 James Triantos in Second Round of MLB Draft

With the 56th pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs selected James Triantos, 3B, Madison HS.

Ivy Futures Report: James Triantos (SS, Madison HS) sported impressive batted-ball data. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “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.”

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Triantos reclassified to the 2021 ranks from 2022, where he was one of the better two-way prospects in that class. As a pitcher, he has a solid four pitch mix, primarily led by a FB in the low-90’s and an advanced CB in the high-70’s with great shape. He has a SL and a CH to boot in the low-80’s. Low-effort delivery, as well. As a bat, where most expect him to end up, he has a good feel for the barrel and shows off some sneaky pop for a guy who is 6’0″, 185. Hit 2 bombs at WWBA, including the longest of the tournament at 424 feet.

Prospects Live
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Originally part of the Class of 2022, Triantos reclassified to join the 2021 Draft class, leading to scouts flocking to Virginia to check him out as he gained traction as a serious pop-up prospect. A two-way standout at James Madison High School, his future as a professional lies in his ability in the batter’s box, and he had so much helium that it looked possible he’d be the first player at Madison to get taken in the first few rounds since Jay Franklin was a first-round pick in 1971.

There are some polarizing opinions about Triantos and his upside, with scouts who like him really believing in the bat. Some see a future plus hitter with a feel for the barrel and good bat speed. There’s some surprising power given he’s not the biggest guy in the world, though he’s very physical. Detractors feel he can get stuck with a predetermined approach from the right side of the plate and can guess wrong.

Even fans of Triantos feel he won’t be a shortstop at the next level. He has the arm for the left side of the infield, with those who dream seeing a little Alex Bregman or fellow Virginia high school product David Wright, albeit a bit less athletic. The University of North Carolina recruit gets high marks for his baseball IQ and work ethic, another reason why he could hear his name called in the top five rounds.

MLB Pipeline

Chicago Cubs MLB Draft Day 2

Second Round

James Triantos, 3B, Madison (HS)

Report: A late addition to my board has been James Triantos, a SS (and RHP) out of Madison HS in Virginia. Triantos (SS, Madison HS) deserves some more publicity. His contact rate of 94% contact rate topped prep players in the showcase circuit last year with a similar max EV as Will Taylor, Harry Ford, and Colson Montgomery. Traintos has quite an arm and has good run times. He hails from Cubs area scout (and 2020 Stan Zielinski Scout of the Year) Billy Swoope’s territory. I also don’t think it would surprise me to hear the Cubs very interested in Triantos with an early selection. From my latest mock: “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.”

Read more about the selection here.

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Third Round

Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy (HS)

Report: Gray was announced by the Cubs as a pitcher, but on the MLB tracker as an OF. He is likely a LHP at the next level where he’s showcased elite spin metrics on his fastball. As a recent convert to pitching there isn’t a lot of wear and tear on the arm.

Fourth Round

Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas

Report: Franklin will show plus raw power. He has the ability to stick in CF at least early in his career. The bar for an above average 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. He’s a dynamic athlete and a fan-favorite for Arkansas.

Fifth Round

Liam Spence, SS, Tennessee

Report: A senior sign and a contact bat. Spence is already 23 years old so he should offer some savings since the Cubs have gone aggressive in this draft with impact talent in earlier rounds. Don’t let that discourage you on Spence. He’s a very talented player who had over 50 games in a row of getting on base for Tennessee this past season (fact courtesy of Nathanael Rutherford @Mr_Rutherford on Twitter).

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Sixth Round

Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy University

Report: The senior signs continue for the Cubs with Martin who carved up Division II hitters to the tune of a 3.55 ERA with 17.39 K/9 (!). On May 7th he threw a 7 inning, 3 hit, 1 run, 4 walk, 19 K outing.

Seventh Round

Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina

Report: Another senior sign, but a high upside selection. Chavers could have gone in the 2020 draft, but clearly indicated a number teams weren’t willing to reach. His 2021, was a small step back in terms of productions, but he represents strong value in his upside.

Eighth Round

Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas

Report: The senior signs continue with @PitchingNinja favorite, Casey Opitz. Optiz is believed to be one of the few college catchers to call his own games and he has a strong arm behind the plate. I wouldn’t count on the bat producing big numbers, but he’s a steady and reliable back-up catcher which is immensely valuable to develop.

Ninth Round

Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State

Report: If you throw left-handed, the Cubs appear to have you on a list. Watkins is a “deep cut” and likely a pure scouting move. He is a 6’4″ lefty who only pitched in relief (4.88 ERA, 38 Ks in 31 innings) sporting an upper 80s/low 90s fastball. His primary secondary appears to be a curveball. The big question is starter vs reliever. His high in innings this season was three.

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Tenth Round

Peter Matt, OF, Duke

Report: Peter Matt, owner of two first names, stealer of hearts (possibly but I can’t verify) is another senior sign (23 years old) out of Duke. His power exploded this past season easily setting his career high at 15 in 2021.

Here is a great article about Matt

Day 2 Wrap-up

The second day of the draft built upon the first perfectly. Today had everything, upside high school talent, toolsy players, small school selections, and shocking picks (Christian Franklin). I’ll have a wrap up of Day three of the Draft (likely won’t be live-blogging) and follow me on Twitter @IvyFutures.

If you get a chance, check out the more in depth breakdown of James Triantos, the Cubs second round pick.

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

Prospect Report: Cam Sanders

The 2018 draftee has top 10 prospect upside and is showcasing electric stuff this season

Cam Sanders via Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)

How acquired: MLB Draft, 12th Round, 2018

The Cubs’ 2018 draft is shaping up to be one of the most dynamic in the last two decades. Sanders had mid-90s velocity and a big curveball coming out of LSU in the 12th round. Most prospect publications thought he had high-leverage reliever upside if everything clicked, but that his control could hold him back. In fact, Sanders was most notable for being the son of former major leaguer, Scott Sanders. Cam Sanders debuted with 16 2/3 innings across the AZL and at Eugene in 2018 before a strong season in 2019 (2.94 ERA in 21 outings [20 starts] with 84 Ks in 101 innings) for then Low-A South Bend. Sanders used his time during the pandemic to his benefit. Cam Sanders garnered incredible feedback after his 2021 spring camp success. Cubs contacts were impressed with Sanders‘ improved command and ability to maintain velocity to the fifth inning (reminder this was spring camp so it was the equivalent to spring training for the major league squad).

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Mechanics and Control

Sanders starts his motion with a quick step-back before initiating his throwing motion. His windup is abbreviated and similar to his throws from the stretch albeit without the rock back initiation. He appears to gather himself well at the top of his motion. Sanders features a longer arm stroke, but one that appears to hide the ball through the arm path well. He does have a habit of falling off to the first base side (though that leads to some impressive K-struts). His mechanics showcase an athletic, fluid delivery.

Though the control has taken a significant step forward, it still can come and go. Some of this should be put within the context that this is the first professional ball Sanders has played in 18 months. His control averages out to be solid, but can flash above-average at times. His command is still a work in progress, but like his control, can also flash above-average. There are innings where Sanders can put multiple pitches where he wants them in or out of the strike zone. When he does that, hitters can do little with them.

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Pitching Arsenal

4-seam Fastball: Sanders had velocity in 2019, but it fluctuated in the 91-97 mph range. So far this season, Sanders was 96-98 mph in his first outing and 93-96 mph in his second. His third saw him hit 98 mph, but few other reports on his velocity are out there from that start. This pitch plays well up in the zone, but he’s still able to dot it on the outer half of the plate. I feel like this pitch is average right now, but needs to be better commanded. It has the potential for much more, especially when it can play of well-located curveballs.

Curveball: Sanders features a big breaking ball in his curveball. There is some impressive vertical movement where the pitch appears to start up around a hitters shoulders before dropping into the zone. This is a knee buckler at it’s best and still produces whiffs. It can be difficult to control due to it’s movement, but appears to be an above-average offering

Slider: The slider offers good movement with tight vertical break and a bit of horizontal movement off the plate to righties. This is also Sanders’ most inconsistent pitch right now. At times it will flash plus and other pitches it acts as a waste pitch. With more repetitions, the slider has the potential to be a true plus offering, playing off both his four-seam and 2-seam fastball.

2-seam fastball: The 2-seamer is where I get truly excited about Sanders’ potential. His 2-seam has excellent movement into righties and when he throws it in the top of the zone, it can absolutely eat up batters. Elevated 2-seam fastballs is a strategy employed by the Cubs at the major league level with great success. His 2-seam is a plus pitch when commanded up in the zone. Down and away it’s more above-average, but the fact that he is able to do both gives it a plus grade from me.

Changeup: I only saw a handful of changeups. But when Sanders threw them, they had good depth and solid fade away from lefties and into righties. It’d say this pitch is right now an above-average offering, but I do think it could play better down the line.

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Future Projection

Cam Sanders is on the rise. In my 2018 draft review, Sanders was majorly slept on. His report read “A guy who may surprise likely in the pen. He keeps making adjustments (that curve could be something special) as he climbs the ladder.”. Sanders is far outpacing those projections. He is showcasing 5 pitches and flashes enough command to dominate AA hitters at times. Sanders has frontline starter potential. That’s an overused term as there are very few starters in the major leagues with that level of consistent performance. His command (and as always health) will be crucial as he continues to navigate advanced AA lineups, but if it comes together consistently this summer, Cam Sanders is an arm that should be ranked comfortably within the Cubs top prospects.