The countdown to this year’s MLB Draft continues as we find ourselves just two months shy of the annual spectacle. Countless coverage can be found across the game as this year shapes up to be unique as Vanderbilt teammates Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are lining up to be the first two selections off the board — something we’ve never seen before.
While the Chicago Cubs will not have a chance at either Rocker or Leiter, their slot at number 21 overall is no less critical. This year it could be pivotal as a possible turnover of talent and overhaul of the roster seems inevitable. As such, mock drafts have begun to make their rounds, and as we get closer, there is a higher sense of what teams will most likely do with their respective picks.
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Baseball America, the premier source for everything draft-related, released their most recent mock draft (subscription required) this past week, and a new name has emerged for the Cubs — IMG Academy outfielder James Wood.
Cubs: A multi-dimensional talent in the making?
If you’ve been following draft coverage over the past few months, a large majority of mock drafts have prep shortstops Jordan Lawlar (Dallas Jesuit) and Marcelo Mayer (Eastlake) as consensus top five picks. Leiter should be the top overall pick. However, if Pittsburgh goes in a different direction, either of these two could slide up.
Wood, in his own right, has been seen as a top prep pick come July. Some had seen him as a contender for the top overall pick. It has an incredibly low likelihood of happening, but stranger things have happened. Let’s not forget the Houston Astros passed on Kris Bryant eight years ago in favor of Mark Appel.
The Cubs selected homegrown shortstop Ed Howard last summer, so they are not scared to go the prep route if the talent is there in a guy. Wood has the makeup of a true first-round steal and best pick in terms of value if he falls to 21. At 6’6″, 230 pounds, the left-handed-hitting multi-dimensional talent has near elite-level bat-to-ball skills and a fast, powerful swing.
His average exit velocity off the bat sits in the mid-’90s, and Wood has a max exit velocity of 105 mph this year. He possesses elite speed, as trackman data clocked him last summer at a 6.8 60-yard dash. A frame as large as Wood’s, it is fantastic to see the level of speed.
In terms of his defense, Wood has been reported to show a wide range in the outfield with good versatility. If he plays first base, which seems like a great future fit with the Cubs, it would not be a significant issue regarding his lower-body mechanics.
If he is available when the Cubs’ selection comes up, Wood will be challenging to pass up if he is still available. Chicago can continue their prep path in drafting and developing young talent. However, the question remains if Jed Hoyer and the crew can do enough to lure him away from his commitment at Mississippi State.