Cubs Draft Preview: The Pitchers

Randy Hundley will represent the Cubs at the draft this season. Billy Williams was there last year.

The Major League Baseball Rule Four Amateur Draft starts tonight at 6pm central time. The MLB Network will provide coverage starting with a pre-draft special at 5pm. Monday night will be just the first round and rounds 2 through 30 will take place on Tuesday starting at 11 am. Rounds 31 through 50 will be on Wednesday.

As I wrote in my preview on hitters (which you can review here.), I don't consider myself an expert on the amateur game, but I've done my best to research the possible choices. I came up with ten possible players: five hitters and five pitchers. It's always possible that the Cubs take someone else completely. Again, I welcome others to expand on what I wrote. There has been a lot of good draft chatter on the blog this season and I encourage you to pick the brains of those who have been following this closely.

There will be a Draft Open Thread that will post at 4:30. I'll include a poll then as well. The draft will be going on at the same time as the Cubs game, so there will be a lot going on at the same time.

This draft is considered especially strong in pitching, although some of the early enthusiasm has dimmed a bit as the season went along. But there should be a few amateur pitchers with top of the rotation potential available when the Cubs pick at number nine.

It would be out of character for the Cubs to take a high school pitcher in the first round. The Cubs have not selected a high school pitcher in the first round since Mark Pawelek in 2005. They haven't taken a right-handed high school pitcher in the first round since Jon Garland in 1997. However, I do think there is a chance the Cubs take a high school right-hander this year.

After the jump, my look at five pitchers the Cubs might take. They're all right-handed.

I left two pitchers off my list that some of you might think I should have included: Georgia Tech left-hander Jed Bradley and Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann. I think Jungmann's poor start in the NCAA tournament will probably knock him down to later in the first round. I think Jed Bradley will go somewhere in the late teens as well.

Matt Barnes RHP Connecticut 6'4" 205 Born: 06/17/90

Who: The big Connecticut right-hander has the size and strength you look for in a starting pitcher.

Pros: Barnes can hit 96 with his four-seam fastball and regularly sits at 92-94. He can hold that velocity deep into games. He also has an effective two-seamer and has experimented with a cutter. His 76-78 mph curveball has a two-plane break might be his best pitch.

Cons: Barnes has problems repeating his delivery, and that has led to command and control problems. When he has problems, he leaves the fastball up in the zone and it can get hit hard. His slider is poor, but he doesn't really need it. His changeup could be a plus pitch one day, but he hasn't needed to throw it much in college.

Outlook: I haven't heard the Cubs connected to Barnes, but he is projected to go somewhere between #6 and #20, so it wouldn't be a shock if the Cubs selected him. He is the kind of power college pitcher that the Cubs have traditionally liked. If he can harness his delivery, he could be the kind of top-of-the-rotation pitcher every team wants. If he can't, he could flame out in the minors or on a surgeon's table.

Archie Bradley RHP Broken Arrow HS (OK) 6'4" 225 Born: 08/10/92

Who: While not as polished as fellow Oklahoma right-hander Dylan Bundy, Bradley has as much potential as any pitcher in the draft.

Pros: Bradley has come on strong this season as he's actually picked up velocity lately. His fastball was sitting at 93-96 late in the season as he pitched his school over Bundy's for the Oklahoma State Championship. He has a hard-breaking curve ball that ESPN.com's Keith Law called "a hammer that would make Thor jealous." His changeup is a work in progress, but it's not bad for a high school kid.

Cons: Like most star high school pitchers, Bradley has a lot of miles on his arm already. He's also been inconsistent over his career, although he was at his best when it counted. He has a scholarship to play quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners and it would take a lot of money to get him to sign.

Outlook: Bradley is going to be under tremendous pressure in Oklahoma to play quarterback for the Sooners, but baseball is his first love. It won't be easy, but he'll likely sign if drafted. He's not without risk, but the Cubs have shown a fondness for two-sport stars in the past and they could again. He could go to Arizona at #7 or Cleveland at #8, but he's likely to be available if the Cubs want him.

Sonny Gray RHP Vanderbilt 5'10" 200 Born: 11/07/89

Who: The Vanderbilt ace was drafted by the Cubs in the 27th round in 2008.

Pros: Gray has a 91-94 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph power curve ball. His makeup and competitiveness are both plus-plus. He has altered his changeup lately with positive results. It's still raw, but potentially a plus pitch.

Cons: You won' find a wider range of opinions on any other pitcher than Gray. If you like him, he's the next Tim Lincecum. If you don't, he's a future closer at best. His critics say doesn't get a lot of movement on his fastball because he's short. His supporters say he's got enough velocity he doesn't need it. His detractors say he won't be able to pitch deep into games because of his size. Those who like him say he's never had a problem maintaining velocity in college. He has an odd delivery and sometimes has trouble repeating it, leading to control problems.

Outlook: It's clear that Hendry and Wilken like Gray as they tried to sign him out of high school three years ago, but he was set on going to Vanderbilt. He won't be a tough sign this time. Recent rumors have Cleveland interested in Gray with the pick before the Cubs. But if Cleveland passes, would the Cubs take him for a second time, or are there players they like better?

Taylor Guerreri RHP Spring Valley HS (SC) 6'3" 195. Born: 12/01/92

Who: The South Carolina righty has moved up draft charts more than any other pitcher this season.

Pros: Guerreri's fastball can sit anywhere between 90 and 96 and he's been clocked as high as 98. On top of that, it's a "heavy" fastball with good sinking action. His curveball is just as good with tight rotation. He also has a cut fastball to keep hitters off-stride and while he hasn't had to throw a changeup much in high school, he does have one that could be good with experience. He has a classic power pitcher's frame and could get even better if he adds some muscle.

Cons: Guerreri has been a lot more inconsistent than other top high school arms. Sometimes he's hitting 97 and others he's around 91. His command of both his fastball and curve is spotty. His makeup and maturity have been major questions as he's been involved in off-field incidents in high school.

Outlook: A few mock drafts have the Cubs looking at Guerreri and it wouldn't be a shock if they took him. He should be on the board when the Cubs pick and he should be off the board within a few picks of the Cubs choice. He certainly has the upside you're looking for in a top ten pick.

Alex Meyer RHP Kentucky 6'9" 220. Born: 01/03/90

Who: If you're looking for a big, hard-throwing right-hander, Meyer is your guy.

Pros: Meyer throws as hard as anyone in the draft. His fastball sits at 95-97 mph and he's been clocked at triple digits several times. His changeup is an effective pitch. His slider sits at 86-88 mph with a hard break, but he has trouble throwing it for strikes. His size makes him an intimidating force on the mound and a late-release point gives hitters little time to adjust. He was at his best down the stretch with big SEC wins over Vanderbilt and Florida.

Cons: The slider isn't the only pitch he has trouble throwing for strikes. Control has always been an issue for Meyer and it probably always will be. He has trouble controlling his big frame and repeating his delivery. He's had some arm problems in college, although no surgeries.

Outlook: Meyer has as much upside as any pitcher in the draft, but perhaps too much risk for the Cubs, especially since other, less risky pitchers are likely to still be on the board. But if the Cubs think they can work with him and improve his control, he could be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors.

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