The questions asked before Thursday: Will it be Appel? Will it be Gray? Answers: Nope and nope.
With the 2nd pick in the first round, the Cubs opted for 3B Kris Bryant, who hit 31 homers for the University of San Diego in 2013. In 62 games, Bryant hit .329, walking 66 times, and fanning 44. The 31 homers are the most since the college bats were made more pitcher-friendly three years ago. Power will not be a problem for Bryant. He will strike out. The questions to be answered are regarding his defense, and his hitting for average.
While his defense is sometimes questioned, I watched a few of his games recently. On one play, he reacted to the third base line about three steps to make an above average play, and recovered to throw out the hitter. Innings later, a batter tried to bunt on him. Bryant deftly moved in to gather and, again, get the batter at first. It is doubtful he will be a star defensively, but if he can reach above average on defense at third, he would provide tremendous value. Not only would that limit the need to acquire a third baseman in any other way, his power will help the lineup in the order's heart. If Bryant can't play third, he should be able to play a corner outfield spot.
Will he hit .270? That's the other question. The West Coast Conference isn't considered a pitcher's league, at least when it comes to facing talent like Bryant. As with any professional, adjustments will need to be made. However, Bryant's power is for real. The new college bats have a much smaller 'sweet-spot', and Bryant outhomered most college teams.
I am confident Bryant will sign. It will probably be for around the slotted value, probably a bit more. The Cubs brass will negotiate with Bryant's representative (Scott Boras), and come to an agreement before the deadline. As Bryant is a hitter, there won't be much to worry about in slowing his development this season. After a quick stop in Mesa (after signing), he will likely move quickly to High-A Daytona, as there is little reason for him to waste time in short-season Boise or Low-A Kane County. By next season, he ought to be the third baseman in the Southern League for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. One of the main questions Josh will get deluged with on his nightly Minor League Wrap will be....
How was Bryant's defense?
As much of a surprise as Bryant was, University of Missouri starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny wasn't expected in the second round, either. A lefty, Zastryzny was the Friday night ace for Missouri in their first year in the Southeastern Conference. His record was not what you might want, but a winning record factors in many parts of a game beyond the pitcher's control. Quite a few 'name' pitchers were on the board for the 41st pick, including LSU's Ryan Eades and Kevin Ziomek from (roving pitching instructor Derek Johnson's former stomping ground as pitching coach) Vanderbilt. There was a reason the Tigers lefty was the call. The front office wanted him over more well-known options.
His velocity has floated between high-80's and mid-90's. He has a curve that is better than his change, though all three could play at the major league level. as Zastryzny has pitched nearly 100 innings already, he probably won't pitch much more before the November instrutional sessions. As with Bryant, he will go to Mesa after signing, probably get in a few short starts in Mesa and Boise (where large rosters make shorter starts perfectly acceptable). After probably no more than fifteen innings, Zastryzny will look to start the 2014 season in either Kane County or Daytona.
To Bryant, Zastryzny, and friends and family of both, I welcome you both to the Cubs family. We are a rather vocal fanbase. However, as long as you give the traditional effort that the Cubs regime selected you for, we will get along just fine.
The third round of the draft starts at noon CT, and Friday's selections extend to the end of the tenth round. As with all the Cubs picks, their choices on Friday will be the second of each round. As I am writing this late Thursday, and more rational people are starting to go to bed, the Cubs brass is likely prioritizing their third selection. Talent remains on the board, and I would imagine pitching tops the Cubs priority list.
Bobby Wahl from Mississippi is a pitcher I am familiar with that is near the top of the board. Wahl was the Rebels Friday night starter the last few years, and could move quickly through the system. Trey Masek (Texas Tech) and Andrew Mitchell (Texas Christian) also are near the top of the Baseball America best available list. Oklahoma prep catcher Jonathan Denney tops the list, should the Cubs want a young backstop.
I will be back ready at noon as the Cubs welcome eight more players into the fold today. Join me for the fun. Use this thread all day for draft discussion.