Will Cubs go with a high-upside high school talent in the draft?

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Will the Cubs take a high school player in the first round of the MLB Draft?

For most of the Theo Epstein regime, the Chicago Cubs have leaned heavily upon college hitters in the first round of the draft. From guys like Kris Bryant to Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, the front office has often gone toward what’s known rather than a riskier, potentially higher ceiling high school player.

That could be changing – at least this year. In the first draft under vice president of scouting and former Oakland Athletics assistant general manager Dan Kantrovitz, Chicago is reportedly eyeing prep outfielder Austin Hendrick out of Allegheny High School in Pennsylvania.

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There’s a lot to like about Hendrick who, per MLB.com, “has as much bat speed and raw power as any prep hitter in the class.” Our very own Logan Whaley had this to say about the Mississippi State commit in a recent piece highlighting potential picks for the Cubs:

"The sheer power of this kid is unreal. He has a quick swing that moves effortlessly through the zone. Hendrick’s fast hands give him the ability to jump on pitches and his movement’s’ progression plays to the strength of his swing."

The last high school outfielder the Cubs took in the first round? A guy by the name of Albert Almora back in 2012. Although he’s recently fallen out of favor with a lot of folks, there’s no questioning his abilities between the lines when he’s locked in. This is a high contact bat who possesses one of the best gloves in the league out in center field.

Almora will have a chance to get back on track if the 2020 season comes to fruition. But as we’ve discussed quite a bit lately, Epstein and the organization must also begin looking past the team’s current core given the window of control is rapidly drawing to a close. Adding a high-upside guy like Hendrick could make a lot of sense – especially if the team is ready for a potentially lengthier development process than it’s employed with first-rounders of late.

Of course, no recent first-round pick made the jump to Chicago more quickly than the team’s 2018 selection, Nico Hoerner. After coming out of Stanford, the soft-handed infielder made his big league debut just over a year later, with just 375 minor league plate appearances to his credit. That’s not an ideal development plan, regardless of how Hoerner performed with the Cubs.

Next. Ranking the best Cubs first-round picks of the last 25 years. dark

As we near Draft Day, it’s also worth noting that this year’s take on the draft will look wildly different than what we’ve grown accustomed to, with just five rounds. Per an agreement between the league and MLBPA, teams will then be able to sign an unlimited number of undrafted players at just $20,000 apiece.