Latest draft rumblings once again have Cubs connected with prep star

(Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs and prep right-hander/infielder Dylan Lesko once again find themselves connected as Baseball America recently dropped their latest mock for the upcoming 2022 MLB draft in July (subscription required).

It has been a few months but this is interesting considering the Cubs and Lesko were previously mentioned as a match back in December of last year, and again in January by two separate sources.

It is hard to make the case  Lesko isn’t the best prep prospect in this year’s draft. The talent pool is deep, however, and a lot can still happen between now and the MLB Draft.

Lesko was given a perfect grade courtesy of Perfect Game, which should surprise nobody, and the highest honor in high school baseball as he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. In the 2020-21 season as a Junior, Lesko pitched to a perfect 11-0 record, giving up only three earned runs the entire season and registering 112 strikeouts. To say the Vanderbilt commit is good is a massive understatement.

Chicago Cubs: Dylan Lesko is worth the risk as a top 10 selection

By and large, prep talent has such high variance that selecting a kid straight out of high school poses a considerable risk. Of course, that’s true with any draft pick – both prep and collegiate. However, those guys who played at the college level are usually much more established. So the Cubs, while in a lucrative spot at seventh overall in this year’s draft, also find themselves in a spot where they need  to nail this pick.

Not since 2015 have the Cubs had a top 10 draft pick. From 2012-15 they selected in the top 10 annually, and while it could be argued that each selection contributed in significant ways, Albert Almora was the only one of the four drafted out of high school.

In recent years the Cubs have softened to a more nuanced approach, and again with the talent level on the prep side what it is this year, they could go that route. That is where Lesko comes into play. The Cubs have a lot of pitching talent in their lower levels, however, outside of Brailyn Marquez, there is no true elite arm, and at this point, it is difficult to trust Marquez as a starter in the long-term.

At 18 years old, Lesko’s fastball already sits in the mid-90s with the ability to bring it up to 97. He also has an elite-level changeup, which makes you realize how he can get so many swings and misses. We are talking about a truly elite arm.

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Last year, the Texas Rangers selected right-hander Jack Leiter at number two overall, and he garnered a nearly $8 million slot bonus. So it will probably cost the Cubs anywhere from $5 million to $7 million to pull Lesko away from his commitment at Vanderbilt. Sometimes, you need to throw that caution to the wind for a truly elite arm, prep level or not. For the Cubs, now is the time to leap.