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Cubs Draft Preview: The Pitchers

Yesterday we took a look a the hitters the Cubs might consider taking in Monday's MLB Amateur Draft. Today we take a look at the pitchers.

Just as a reminder, the Cubs have the sixth pick in the draft which starts on Monday and goes for forty rounds this year through Wednesday. We'll have Open Threads to discuss the draft. I have again consulted with Tim Huwe (timh815) on this and he's going to be around in all the open threads to answer your questions this week.

This draft marks a big change for the Cubs in two ways. It's the first draft of the Theo Epstein era, so we will have to see how the Cubs approach changes under the new regime, although Tim Wilken is still around and still part of the brain trust making the decisions. It is also the first draft under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which limits the amount of bonus money and team can pay its draft picks. Those rules have been well-discussed around here, but if you still have questions, be sure to ask them in one of the draft threads.

So now, after the jump, a look at three pitchers the Cubs might take and one they won't, but who I included because there were a lot of questions about him anyway.

Max Fried. LHP. 6'4", 170. Harvard-Westlake HS (CA).

Why might the Cubs take him? With his teammate Lucas Giolito trying to come back from an injury, Fried is the best high school pitcher in the draft and the best overall left-hander. He has a tall, lanky frame and an easy delivery. His fastball sits in the low 90s with a good natural sink, but he can touch the mid-90s and many believe he could add velocity if he body ever filled out. But his best pitch may be a knee-buckling curve that hits 74-78 and he can throw it for strikes. Some scouts like his changeup even better. That sits in the low 80s and has a sharp bite to it. With three pitches that he can throw for strikes, he could be a guy you could build a rotation around.

What's the downside? All those pitches are descriptions of what Fried is like when he's "on." The consistency is just not there for Fried. Rarely is he able to control all three pitches in the same start, and sometimes he can't control any of them. Sometimes his curve ball gets "slurvy" and hittable. Sometimes he can't get his fastball or the change over the plate. He's young, so he still has time to correct such things. But he won't ever be a top of the rotation pitcher if he doesn't learn some consistency.

Additionally, Fried wore down as his high school season went on this year and his team had to rely on him more and more with Lucas Giolito injured. At best, he just lacks stamina on that rail-thin frame and it can be corrected. At worst, there's the beginning of something wrong with the arm.

In a perfect world he becomes? A number two left-handed starter with a wicked curve ball and a solid change. So what is that? Gio Gonzalez?

Chances the Cubs take him? A few weeks ago I would have said excellent, but he seems to be sliding down draft boards lately. The Cubs did have him in for a workout on Wednesday, so clearly he's still on their radar. It's still very unlikely that he falls out of the top ten. The Cubs have said they're looking for pitching, and Fried has a very good chance to be the best pitcher on the board by the time the Cubs pick. So the chances he ends up a Cub are still solid.

* * *

Kevin Gausman. RHP. 6'4", 185. Louisiana State University.

Why might the Cubs take him? Just because Jim Hendry is gone doesn't mean the Cubs are going to stop drafting players out of LSU. Gausman was a hard-throwing right-hander out of high school in Colorado two years ago and was looked at as a possible second-round pick before an inconsistent senior season caused him to fall to the sixth round, where the Dodgers took him. He didn't sign and went to LSU, where he became eligible for the draft after two years because of his age.

At LSU, he learned to command his 94-96 mph fastball better and he's even hit 99 mph on occasion. His 85-86 mph changeup gives him a second plus-pitch. He's had trouble coming up with a breaking ball, but he's mostly dumped his poor curve ball for a slider that could potentially be an effective third pitch.

He's also pitched for Team USA's collegiate team and was successful in the SEC, so he's proven himself against the toughest amateur talent around. This season at LSU, Gausman went 10-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He struck out 125 and walked only 24 in 107 innings.

What's the downside? That slider he has is promising, but it's still quite raw and he has trouble commanding it on a consistent basis. If he can't develop a breaking pitch, that severely limits his upside.

He's also a draft-eligible sophomore, which gives him a ton of leverage in the draft. If the Cubs are planning on drafting him, they better be awfully sure he's going to sign for an amount agreed upon.

In a perfect world he becomes? A hard-throwing right hander with two secondary plus pitches, a change up and a slider, at his disposal. A potential number one pitcher, but a lack of consistency might limit him to being a number two. I'm having trouble coming up with a good comp for him. Max Scherzer sounds like the closest, but with his recent struggles that doesn't sound like a "perfect world" for Gausman. Maybe he becomes Zack Greinke. I'm not happy with that comparison at all, but it's the best I can come up with. Maybe "what we all think Max Scherzer could be" is the correct comp.

Chances the Cubs take him? It really all depends on whether Gausman falls to the #6 pick. The Cubs have said they are looking for pitching, and I think they'd do cartwheels if Gausman falls to them. But he's been linked to the Orioles at #4 for quite a while and it's hard to imagine the Royals passing on him if the Orioles do. But this draft is so jumbled that it might only take one team to go off the board to cause Gausman to fall. I'd give it around a 10% chance.

* * *

Lucas Giolito. RHP. 6'6", 230. Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)

Why the Cubs might take him? They won't. I had originally written up the pros and cons of Giolito, but there are too many questions about Fried's high school teammate for them to risk the sixth pick in the draft on him.

Two months ago, Giolito looked like he was going to be the first high school right-handed pitcher to ever be taken with the first pick in the draft. With fastball in the upper 90s, a power curve and a knee-buckling change, Giolito was drawing comparisons to Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay. He truly has #1 ace potential.

Then Giolito injured his ulnar collateral ligament in April. While it didn't require surgery, just rest and rehabilitation, Giolito still hasn't recovered fully. While he has thrown off of flat ground for scouts, they still haven't seen him go full bore on the mound. That's a lot to risk several million dollars on.

To top it off, Giolito was looking at a $7 million payday as the first pick in the draft and might not be willing to settle for the $3.2 million the Cubs could offer him at #6, especially since he could go to UCLA and look to get a giant pay day in three years. With the new draft rules, there is a very good chance Giolito doesn't get drafted at all.

In a perfect world he becomes? Justin Verlander. Or maybe Mark Prior.

Fun Facts: Giolito comes from a Hollywood family. His mom, Lindsey Frost, is an actress and his uncle, Mark Frost, was the co-creator of what may be the greatest TV show of all time: Twin Peaks. His grandfather played Dr. Hayward on the show. His dad Rick is a producer and was also an actor on Twin Peaks' soap-opera-within-a-soap-opera: Invitation to Love.

* * *

Kyle Zimmer. RHP. 6'3", 210. U. of San Francisco.

Why the Cubs might take him? Zimmer is someone who has come out of nowhere to become perhaps the best pitching prospect in the draft, although fans of Kevin Gausman and Stanford's Mark Appel would disagree. Zimmer throws 93-98 mph with a hammer curve that comes in around 80 mph. He has a changeup that is still under development but has great promise at 83-85 mph. He also throws a slider that scouts are divided about. Some think the slider could be at least average, giving him a fourth pitch, but others think he should just junk it altogether.

Zimmer has a bulldog mentality on the mound and is unafraid to challenge hitters. He also doesn't have many miles on his arm, for reasons to be explained shortly.

He also has great size for a pitcher.

What's the downside? Zimmer converted to the mound from third base near the end of his freshman season. It was clearly a brilliant move by his coach, but he just doesn't have the same kind of track record or experience that other top pitching prospects have. His performance at USF could be a flash-in-the-pan.

Zimmer lost velocity mid-season which had him sliding down boards, until it was revealed to be a minor hamstring injury. He missed a start and came back fine, but with a pitcher with Zimmer's limited track record, injuries are always a concern.

He hasn't really demonstrated that he has the strength and stamina to hold up as a starting pitcher, although his size hints that this won't be a problem. He did wear down as the season went on this year and dropped velocity, although that could be attributable to the hamstring injury.

His fastball, while really fast, lacks movement. This may be correctable with more experience. It may not.

Playing for San Francisco in the West Coast Conference is not exactly top competition and his recent emergence as a pitcher means he hasn't played a lot in showcase games either. It's not clear how he would do against better hitters.

In a perfect world he becomes? A right-handed pitcher with great velocity, three plus pitches and an average fourth pitch. He's a number two pitcher with a chance to be a number one if he improves his consistency and command. I'm having trouble coming up with a good comparison for him, but I'm open to suggestions. Maybe Matt Garza with a better curve and a worse slider.

Chances the Cubs take him? Like Gausman, the Cubs would be very happy if Zimmer were still on the board at #6, although I don't think it's a slam dunk that they take him if he is. They like Correa and Almora a lot too and while Gausman might be too good to pass up for one of those hitters, Zimmer might not be as tempting. Zimmer has been linked to Kansas City at #5 and it's possible he goes even earlier than that. I think it's probably 50-50 that he's available when the Cubs choose and then they'll have a decision to make.