I want to make it clear right off the bat that despite my name being on this story, I didn't write it. Once again I haven't paid much attention to the amateur game this season, beyond my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes, who aren't exactly teeming with draft prospects. So once again I'm turning over the reins to someone who has, Matt Marsden. He did a great job last season and will again this year. I'll have some things to say, but they'll mostly be in the comments.
The first part today is a general draft overview. Coming up will be a more in-depth look at some people who might be available for the Cubs at #16.
So Matt, take it away.
It is that time of year again, as the draft is now less than four days away. You will be able to watch it Monday, June 7th on the MLB Network at 5 p.m. Central. We are going to get the previews started with a general overview of this year's talent and some name you can expect to hear called in the first round.
This year's draft is surprisingly similar in strengths and weaknesses to last year's. Both are pitcher heavy and do not have a lot of strong college bats. One position player most of you are familiar with by now is Bryce Harper. Very few people can say they were on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16. Harper can. He was on the cover last summer after getting attention for hitting 500 ft. home runs in a showcase at Tropicana Field. In order to enter the draft a year early, Harper received his GED and enrolled in a Junior College and hit .442/.524/.986 with 29 bombs using a wood bat at age 17. Needless to say, the catcher has lived up to the hype thus far. Expect the Nationals to take him with the first pick. It could be just a few short years before Strasburg is pitching to Harper at Nationals Park.
Outside of Harper there are not many impressive bats. Arkansas third-baseman, Zack Cox will likely be the first college bat to leave the board, but despite his ability to hit for contact, Cox has just hit 8 home runs this season. The top toolsy outfielders this year are Gary Brown from Cal St Fullerton and California prep product, Austin Wilson. Brown has incredible speed and has really proved he can make consistent contact at the plate. Wilson is likely going to be a right-fielder down the road, where he has shown above-average power, speed, and a quality arm. He may very well end up playing ball for Stanford next year, however.
There are a number of talented pitchers in this year's class. The top arm is probably Jameson Taillon, a Texas high school right-hander. Taillon throws in the mid-90's and has an excellent 12-6 curve that I got the chance to see live at Wrigley last summer. He is getting many comparisons to Josh Beckett. Not far behind Taillon is University of Mississippi left-hander, Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz is the top college pitcher in the country. His fastball sits in the low to mid-90's to go along with a strong curveball and a solid changeup. Pomeranz has struggled some with his fastball command, but it hasn't been awful and since he repeats his mechanics well, many believe the command will come around. There are a handful of other talented high school pitchers including Karsten Whitson (who the Cubs have been tied to), Dylan Covey, A.J. Cole, Stetson Allie and plenty of others. I saw most of these guys at Wrigley and A.J. Cole was the most impressive. He has a very projectable frame, strong mechanics and did a great job keeping the ball in the bottom half of the zone.
The Cubs first pick 16th overall, so they will likely miss out on the top guys that I have mentioned, but there will still be plenty of talent left. Scouting Director, Tim Wilken has a long history of drafting athletic college players. In his four previous drafts with the Cubs, Wilken has only drafted one high school pitcher in the first five rounds (Austin Kirk in the 3rd round last year). Despite the track record, the Cubs have been tied to Karsten Whitson. Wilken has also shown a tendency to draft and sign position players up the middle with drafting guys like Jackson and Colvin, while signing Castro, Lee and others. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of talent in that department this year. Manny Machado is the top shortstop and will be long gone, and catcher Yasmani Grandal will likely be selected before #16. Indiana prep catcher Justin O'Conner may be an option, but would be a bit of an over-draft at #16. They could take two-way player such as Brett Eibner. who spent time on the mound and in the outfield. He shows a lot of power at the plate and just as much on the mound, hitting 97 with a strong slider.
There seems to be a very good chance Wilken ends up with a high school arm this year. I'm certainly curious to see how it will play out.