Chicago Cubs: Analyzing projections for the first round of the MLB Draft

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Major League Baseball Draft begins Monday, June 4. The Chicago Cubs have had a lot of success in recent first-round draft picks. Who will they select in the first round this year?

The first round of the MLB Draft has brought many top prospects to the Cubs over recent years, including Kris Bryant in 2013, Kyle Schwarber in 2014 and Ian Happ in 2015. This year, the Cubs will have the 24th overall pick in the first round of the draft.

It will be very interesting to see what direction the Cubs front office takes in the first round this year. The team has struggled to develop pitching prospects within recent history, which presumably led to the focus on drafting college arms last year—Chicago selected pitchers Brendon Little and Alex Lange in the first round in 2017.

However, there is some reason to believe the Cubs will refocus on drafting position players to replenish the talent in the farm system. As Patrick Mooney of the Athletic reported recently, the team has been targeting hitting prospects for this year’s draft.

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Granted, with the 24th overall pick, a lot of what the Cubs do will depend on who is on the board. But it makes sense the front office would be interested in taking the ‘best’ talent overall.

With that, let’s take a look at what some of the more prominent mock drafts have projected for who the Cubs will select in the first round:

The Athletic—Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma

Unsurprisingly, after Mooney reported that the Cubs would target hitting prospects, in The Athletic’s mock draft, he also projected that the Cubs would select outfielder Steele Walker out of the University of Oklahoma with their first-round pick.

Selecting Walker would continue the trend of drafting college hitters. Walker has had by far the best season of his career as a junior this year. In 2018, he batted .352 with a .441 on-base percentage, a .606 slugging and tallied 13 home runs on the season. Walker, like Bryant, Schwarber and Happ, could have a chance to be fast-tracked, having spent three years in college.—Anthony Seigler, C, Cartersville (HS) Ga.’s Jonathan Mayo also projected the Cubs would select a hitter, this time in Anthony Seigler, a catcher out of Cartersville High School in Georgia. This would break from the recent trend of the Cubs selecting college hitters early, but it could prove a good pick for Chicago. It would not hurt to develop another top catching prospect, and the Cubs have also had success drafting high school hitters early in the past in Javier Baez and Albert Almora.

FanGraphs and Sporting News—Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida

According to the most recent FanGraphs and Sporting News mock drafts, the Cubs could still stick to a plan similar to last year, when they drafted college arms early in the draft in an attempt to develop some quality pitching. Especially if Jackson Kowar were still on the table at this point, it could be a good selection for the Cubs.

Florida stud Brady Singer overshadowed Kowar this season at Florida. But this is a guy with a lot of upside. In an extremely talented SEC, Kowar went 9-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 2018, with a postseason run forthcoming for the top-ranked Gators. If the Cubs do decide to go the college pitching route, he could be a good selection.

Bleacher Report—Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State

Bleacher Report’s most recent mock draft also projects the Cubs to take a college hitter in the first round in Trevor Larnach, an outfielder out of Oregon State University. Larnach is a member of one of the best teams in the country at the moment.

After a fairly average first two years with the Beavers, Larnach exploded in 2018. He’s slashing  .324/.447/.637 with 17 home runs, compared to just three total in his career prior to 2018. He could be another strong selection if the Cubs decide to focus on college hitters.

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It will be intriguing to see what direction the Cubs front office ultimately takes this draft.  Based on past results, it seems like college hitting may be the safest bet. The team continues to replenish the farm system and develop young talent. Pitchers can be very unpredictable. High schoolers take a while to develop. However, college hitters can often be ready to produce in the big leagues within a very short period of time.