Our series of Draft previews concludes today with a look at seven players whom the Cubs might also land at pick #31. Once again Matt Marsden picks out five gems to look at. Additionally, this time, I dip my toes into the water and give you a preview of two players unlikely to still be on the board when the Cubs pick but whom the Cubs might jump on if they slide.
Just remember, the 2009 MLB Draft starts tomorrow at 5pm Central. You can watch on the MLB Network or on MLB.com, so that those of you whose television provider does not carry the MLB Network can still watch on-line.
Tomorrow we'll be back with a poll on whom the Cubs should pick and an Open Draft Thread for discussion.The first five write-ups in the blockquotes are by Matt, I wrote the final two.
Brett Jackson, OF, California
Jackson is one of the best athletes in this year's class. He is a left-handed hitter and projects to be a very good defender in center. Jackson is known as a gritty, aggressive player and is a leader in the Cal clubhouse. There is just one fairly significant problem with Jackson. He can't hit. Well, that is not exactly true, but Jackson struck out 61 times in 218 at-bats this year (28% of the time) and hit a pedestrian .321/.407/.564. He does have great bat speed and hits to all fields. Jackson has some power, but it does not project to be more than average in the bigs. Base running is another area Jackson needs work. Despite his strong speed, Jackson has just 11 steals and was caught 5 times. Brett Jackson is toolsy, but still very raw. I would be less than enthused with this pick, though he does have more upside than Pollock.
I have been surprised to hear the Cubs connected to a couple high school arms. The first is left-hander Chad James. After an unimpressive junior season, James made big strides with his fastball and curve. The fastball sits in the low-90's and James also has the top-rated changeup among high school arms this year. He also has a great pitchers frame at 6'4" and 205 lbs. and still has some room to fill out, which could add a little more to the fastball down the road. James would appear to be a solid pick. The Cubs could use some pitching depth, especially left-handers, in the system. It is hard not to like a high school pitcher with a changeup that advanced.
Another high school pitcher the Cubs have been connected to, Gould's frame is nearly identical to James, at 6'4" and 200 lbs. He too can add a tick or two to the fastball down the road, which already sits at 91-94. His best pitch is a power curve that is probably the best in the country. Gould does not throw much of a changeup and will need to add one in pro ball. After watching some video of him, I was a little concerned with his mechanics. Gould does not use his lower half well, putting added stress on the arm. Also, he tends to fall towards first-base (similar to Kerry Wood) in his follow through. His higher arm slot means there is not much likely to be much deception or movement on the fastball. Gould has some power stuff, but will need to make some big changes in order to be a successful big league pitcher.
The best overall athlete in the draft, Mitchell may be the most intriguing players out there. He is very raw since he had been playing both football and baseball for the Tigers. Mitchell has made great strides in his game this year, putting up a .325/.471/.557 line. As you can see by the OBP, Mitchell has impressive discipline at the plate. This has been one of his biggest areas of improvement and Mitchell has been almost been passive at the plate, which caused many of his 61 strikeouts on the season. He is ridiculously fast, stealing 35 bases this season, but still needs to get better jumps. Because of his speed, Mitchell can be a very good center-fielder, but needs work on route-running. As you can see, Mitchell is very much a work in progress and I prefer guys this raw to be high school players, but I am optimistic about Mitchell because of his plate discipline. His power potential is impressive as well, though he needs less of an upper-cut to reduce the strikeouts.
Bailey is a wild card. There is no way he is taken in the first round. Bailey is more likely to be a 4th or 5th round pick at this point. Earlier this year, Bailey was hands down the top high school (and overall) catching prospect, topping an incredibly talented class. He will not go in the mid-first round as originally thought because Bailey had Tommy John surgery in April. This was obviously the main factor in his drop in stock. That said, there are no concerns about his arm or overall defense long-term. Bailey is a very good athlete, making him very mobile behind the plate and a gun reaching the low 90's. Before going down with TJ, Bailey was struggling some at the plate. Once he can find a consistent swing, Bailey should be able to hit for decent average and power down the road. Bailey could be a good fit for the Cubs, as they have taken high upside guys (though mainly pitchers) with their middle round picks in the past.
I was surprised to see James and Gould connected to the Cubs, since Wilken has not been much of a fan of high school players, especially arms. James would be a nice pick if he fell that far, but I am not as high on Gould. Both would be a better option than Jackson, in my opinion. It looks like Pollock and Arnett are the top two targets, with this group being other options if those two are gone. My guess is that Wilken would take Jackson first of this group.
Josh here again. If you click on the Gould link, you can see him pitching at Wrigley Field. And here's my look at two players that aren't likely to be available, but it's certainly possible that they fall all the way to #31.
By all rights, there is no way that Kyle Gibson should be available when the Cubs pick at #31. Gibson has top-of-the-rotation stuff with a low 90’s fastball, a nasty low 80’s changeup and while he doesn’t have great command of it yet, a sharp breaking slider that is potentially a devastating out-pitch in the majors. At 6’6", he’s got the size that scouts look for, although at 208 lbs. he might need to put on some weight. Up until last week, every draft analyst had him going in the top ten. At Mizzou, he had an amazing 131/19 K/BB ratio in 106.2 innings. He’s been compared to the Angels’ John Lackey.
So why might Gibson be available when the Cubs pick at #31? During his last two starts, there was a noticeable drop in velocity from Gibson. His fastball was clocked in the low 80s. It was then revealed that he has a stress fracture in his right forearm. Gibson’s contract demands and injury status have him dropping like a rock on draft boards, making him an intriguing high-risk/high-reward pick.
The left-handed center fielder is another potential leadoff hitter in center field. He’s a five-tool outfielder, although none of his skills really jump out as being all that impressive. At the plate, he shows good plate discipline and an ability to make consistent contact. His power isn’t that impressive yet, but at 6’4", 195 lbs., scouts believe he could develop at least fair power as he progresses. He has a slight hitch in his swing, but he has very quick wrists that compensate. His speed is good and he stole 15 bases in 17 attempts this season. Wheeler was dominating at the plate this season, hitting .385 with a .494 OBP and 18 home runs, but unfortunately most of that cam against relatively weak WAC competition. Where Wheeler goes in the draft is a bit of a mystery, as rumors have him linked as high as the Rockies at #11 or lasting all the way to the Cubs at #31. My gut tells me that Wheeler is long gone by the time the Cubs pick, but if he’s still there, the Cubs will grab him.