After drafting a college pitcher in the first round of this year’s MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs pivoted to an offensive-minded infielder in the second round.
According to many around the game, the Chicago Cubs made one of the most surprising picks of the first round in Monday’s MLB Draft, selecting right-hander Ryan Jensen out of Fresno State. It’s not that Jensen wasn’t considered a likely pick – it’s just that most major pre-draft lists had him ranked as roughly the 100th-best prospect.
The Cubs used the 27th overall pick on him.
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But they flipped the narrative on its head with their second-round selection, UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf, an offensive-minded middle infielder most draft boards had pegged as an early second-round pick. Baseball America had Strumpf as the 42nd-best prospect in this year’s draft, while MLB.com listed him at 41 in their own rankings.
So, given Chicago nabbed him with the 64th overall pick certainly sits better with fans than their first-round pick. That, and the fact that his bat comes very highly regarded after his broke out in a big way last season as a sophomore.
In 58 games, Strumpf put up a monstrous 1.108 OPS in 58 games with the Bruins, hitting 23 doubles, 12 home runs and driving in 53. Sticking with the plate discipline trend that’s become so evident as the ‘Cubs Way’ has blossomed in recent years, he struck out 53 times, while drawing 45 walks.
This year, he didn’t perform quite to that level, but still hit .280 with a .419 on-base percentage. His approach didn’t radically change, as he’s roughly maintained the same strikeout-to-walk ratio to this point. UCLA advanced to NCAA Super Regionals with a win on Monday, where Strumpf did this literally moments after the Cubs drafted him.
Now, obviously, first impressions aren’t everything, but this seems like a pretty solid way to start your relationship with Cubs fans. That blast helped propel UCLA past Loyola-Marymount with a third-straight win and kept their season alive as the College World Series approaches.
Personally, I really like this pick. It fits perfectly with the team’s rising crop of middle infielders working its way through the various levels of the minors, including top prospect and 2018 first-round pick Nico Hoerner, who is currently recovering from a wrist injury that’s cost him most of this season.
Chicago boasts two middle infielders in their Top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. Hoerner heads the organizational rankings and young infielder Aramis Ademan clocks in at #6. That’s not to say these guys are all the Cubs have when it comes to middle infielders – not by any stretch. Zack Short, Trent Giambrone and Reivaj Garcia all fall in the team’s Top 25.
None of these guys seem like imminent arrivals in Chicago. That might be different had Hoerner not suffered his injury, but given he has, Strumpf slots in with this group well and gives Theo Epstein plenty of trade chips should he choose to utilize the depth up the middle to address the team’s shortage of young, controllable pitching in such a fashion.