The Major League Baseball first-year player draft reverted back to 20 rounds this year after it was shortened to just five rounds during the pandemic-impacted 2020 campaign. An expanded draft meant more available talent, and it appears the Chicago Cubs have expounded on previous years’ scouting expertise to continue finding draft-day talent in unlikely places.
Unfortunately, Teo Banks, who the Cubs selected in the 12th round out of the famous Permian High School in Odessa, will forego his selection in place of his commitment to Tulane. Banks is an example of a late-round talent this year who seemed to fly under the radar. Luckily, there are a few other names who come to mind this year.
Chicago Cubs Prospects: Finding more diamonds in the rough
In the 13th round, Chicago selected right-hander Erian Rodriguez, a prep arm from Georgia Premier Academy. As a day three selection, the Cubs were able to land Rodriguez for the $125,000 bonus, which did not cost anything against the bonus pool, thus allowing more money to sign top picks.
Rodriguez is out of Panama and, by all accounts, was not seen as a front-end prospect. However, it could end up being a draft day steal for Hoyer and company. Rodriguez was the number two ranked right-hander in the state of Georgia. He carries a three-pitch mix, including an impressive fastball that sits in the 92-94 MPH range but can be run up to 95 if he needs to.
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A low-80s curveball and mid-80s changeup are a part of the repertoire, which can both play well in a place like Wrigley. In addition, Rodriguez stands at a sturdy 6’3” and with good size could be a guy who fills in at the back of the rotation, or, more realistically, a bullpen arm which can always be a benefit.
The 14th round saw the selection of another right-hander, Frankie Scalzo, out of Grand Canyon University. You may think it is a silly place to scout talent; however, a few long-term veterans made it at the big league level, including former career Angel outfielder Tim Salmon.
Scalzo also signed for the $125,000 draft bonus, which kept the Cubs from pulling from their bonus pool money. Following a rough freshman year at San Jose State, Scalzo moved to the desert, where he found his footing. Unfortunately, it took another down year before Scalzo reached his pinnacle.
In his junior season, Scalzo threw six shutout innings over six games and followed it up in his senior year, in which he saved 12 games and notched a 2.12 ERA over 25 games. All in all, between his final two seasons, the 21-year-old finished with a 1.55 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 40 2/3 strong innings of work. Only one home run was allowed in that span.
Scalzo has a massive fastball sitting between 94-97 MPH and a mid-80s slider which he sometimes incorporates. He should be projected to slide into the future closer’s role down the line, which is necessary to the team.
Dominic Hambley is the final value of these late-round projects, who forewent his commitment to Oregon State to sign a $200,000 bonus with the Cubs. Hambley already has the size at 6’2″, 230 pounds — especially for a kid coming out of high school. Like many big prep arms, Hambley has struggled with control but carries a mid-90s fastball and what has been described as a power curve.
None of these guys will appear on a top prospects list, and that is fine. They each have qualities that the Cubs can foster in hopes of churning them through the system and onto the big stage. It will be enjoyable to follow each of their individual paths.