Who To Draft?


We are about a week away from baseball’s amateur draft, and mock drafts are popping up all over the internet. The Cubs, picking ninth, stand to get a very good player in the first round. Yesterday we took a look at what the Cubs did in previous drafts under Tim Wilken’s direction and identified a few trends that I think are likely to hold up in the 2011 draft. Today, I’ll take those trends and what some of the experts have been saying and try to sort through some of the names that the Cubs could select. If you are interested in looking over a complete first round mock draft, I’d start with the Baseball America one here. MiLB.com’s Prospect Watch has some nice profiles of the Top 50 draft prospects that are well worth reading as well.

Archie Bradley, RHP
That’s who BA is projecting right now, so I’ll handle him first. In short, I don’t see it happening. As you can see in the video linked to his name, he is a big, strong right hander who throws hard. He’s fairly athletic too, and whoever signs him may have to pay extra to pry him away from football. I don’t think the Cubs take him, though, because he is a high school pitcher. The Cubs have not taken a high school pitcher higher than the third round since Wilken joined the team. I am really surprised that Baseball America projects him as the Cubs pick. If anyone else made that projection, I would ignore it altogether. Baseball America knows their stuff, though, so we have to consider him a possibility.
Probability the Cubs take him: Less than 5%. He just doesn’t fit the Cubs’ profile.

Anthony Rendon, 3B/2B
Meet the best college bat in the draft. In fact, for most of the year Rendon or UCLA pitcher Garret Cole have been considered locks to go first and second. And then Rendon hurt his shoulder. No one is really sure how bad the injury is, but it is not believed to be career threatening at all. That said, it is hard spend a first or second pick on a guy who spent much of the past season injured. And that, in turn, means Rendon could fall. If the Pirates opt for pitching with the first pick, and Seattle is scared off at two, then a scenario sets up in which Rendon could fall all the way to nine. If that happens, and his medical reports are as they are believed to be, I can’t see the Cubs passing on him. It isn’t a very likely scenario, but it could happen.
Probability the Cubs take him: Less than 10%. I don’t think he’ll be on the board.

Bubba Starling, OF
And here we have the best high school bat in the draft. When we look back on this draft ten years from now, this guy might be seen as the best player in the draft. He is a high schooler, so he is a lot higher on potential than polish, but the potential is extremely high. It will cost a small fortune to sign him away from football, but the consensus is he will sign. Up until about two weeks ago, most of us thought the Royals would pounce on this guy if he fell to them at #5, but now we are reading that the Royals want college pitching. BA’s latest mock draft (linked above) has him going second to Seattle, which I think might be a little high. I don’t see him falling past Washington at #6, but the Cubs would love to have a shot at him.
Probability the Cubs take him: Less than 10%. I don’t think he will fall that far.

Francisco Lindor, SS
I would love to see this guy on the Cubs. He’s a switch hitting high school shortstop who is said to play very good defense, already has a good judgement of the strike zone, is willing to take a walk, has the discipline to hit near the top of the order, and oh by the way, projects as high as 15-20 HR a year. In short, he’s roughly a switch hitting Starlin Castro. Even though Lindor is probably the second best high school bat in the draft (and probably number three overall), I think he has a very good chance to be there when the Cubs pick. With all the college pitching on the board, I expect the early picks to go heavily in that direction. That opens the door for the Cubs.
Probability the Cubs take him: less than 50%. He could be on the board, but he won’t be alone.

George Springer, OF
Five tool players don’t often make it to the college ranks, but George Springer is one that did. He could play anywhere in the outfield in the majors, but his speed and arm project nicely in center. He’s a big, he’s strong, he can hit to all fields, but he’s prone to the swing-and-miss. He is also easily the second best college hitter in the draft. Actually, he’s very similar to Bubba Starling, only with a lower ceiling and less risk. If he can pick up a little plate discipline, he could shoot to the majors in two or three years. He will almost certainly be on the board for the Cubs.
Probability the Cubs take him: greater than 50%. He fits the Cubs draft profile to perfection.

Sonny Gray, RHP
If the Cubs take a college pitcher, I think it will be Gray, if he is still on the board. They took him once out of high school, and that is a good indicator they will take a hard look at him again. He is not a big guy, and that means a lot of analysts have written him off as nothing more than a reliever just like they did with Hayden Simpson last season. The Cubs, however, don’t care how big a pitcher is so long as he can pitch. I think the Cubs would groom him as a starter until he proved he would be better off at the back of the bullpen. As a starter, he could be right up there with Cashner and McNutt. He would probably not start his professional career until the fall league or 2012, but I think he would move rapidly through the system once he got started. I’d love to have him in the farm system, and I think there is a chance he’ll be on the board.
Probability the Cubs take him: greater than 50%. If he is on the board, I think he might be the guy.

Mystery Man, Unknown
No one saw the Cubs picking Hayden Simpson in the first round last season, or picking Tyler Colvin in the first round a few years back, but it happened and so far those picks have worked out well for the Cubs. I would not be surprised to see the Cubs befuddle the experts again and take a guy no one expects. And if they do, given Wilken’s track record, I think it will work out.
Probability the Cubs take him: greater than 50%. The Cubs are the hardest team in baseball to project. Expecting the unexpected is probably the safest thing to do.

So, if all these players are on the board, who do I pick? In order: Rendon, Lindor, Gray, Springer, Starling, Bradley. But I might change my mind before the draft gets here.