One thing many sports fans like to do is gamble. I bet you didn't know that. The MLB draft starts tonight with the first two rounds. The Cubs have the fourth pick. If you are interested in the schools, heights and weights of the players, they're all at this Baseball America link. If you are interested in anyone specific, whether in line for the Cubs at 1.4 or not, have at it. And ask away. I'm giving my takes on why, or why not, these guys make sense at 1.4. I will progress alphabetically, and include a percentage chance they are selected. Of course, The 538 might have different odds, and likely better.
Brady Aiken. While the "dream scenario" most people are talking about for the Cubs is them drafting Carlos Rodon, I want Aiken. Often comped to Cole Hamels, he's a well-schooled prep lefty from California. He might take a while to develop, but the Cubs would take their time. This is where I drop back to Tuesday's post. I had mentioned there were sizable benefits to having a good Low-A rotation. One is, with an Aiken (or a Tyler Kolek), you can make him "prove" he's one of the best six starters on the Cougars squad. Or else, he stays in extended spring training. Or Boise. If your rotation has guys that don't inspire confidence, you can rush a kid up, not because he's ready, but because mediocrity rises in a vacuum.
The keys to a Aiken-to-the-Cubs pathway include Rodon going early (1.1 or 1.2) and either team that doesn't want him opting for a cheaper option. Houston is eyeing Nick Gordon, and Miami is kicking the tires on Alex Jackson. The White Sox sound like they want Kolek (as opposed to the White Sox wanting Kolek if Aiken is gone, which is entirely different). Aiken to Cubs? Five percent chance.
Tyler Beede. The Cubs system pitching co-ordinator Derek Johnson's student, Beede has been very wild this season. I almost didn't include him, but one mock draft had the Cubs picking him. He had his best outing of the year this weekend. I'm not buying it, but loyalty can sometimes run very deep.
Familiarity is not a problem. Command has been. Beede-to-Cubs? Less than five percent chance.
Michael Conforto. A college bat, he is a left fielder. Which means the only other place he could move to is first base. He'd really have to be a prime option to make the Cubs go away from the "power up the middle" meme. I'm not seeing it. Conforto to Cubs? Less than five percent.
Nick Gordon. Ex-Cub Flash Gordon's kid is the second-best defender in the prep sub-section of the draft. He has good speed, though not like his brother Dee. Will he hit better than Dee? Gordon's bat is the question. He might develop some accidental power, but he should be able to hack shortstop. He might come in underslot, as his dad is his agent.
Gordon-to-Cubs? 15 percent.
Alex Jackson. A catcher/outfield type who nobody even bothers calling a catcher anymore, he has more power than anyone at the top of the draft. Can he hit? Nobody's sure yet. Jed Hoyer has long been a fan. There isn't much smoke here now. He's a Boras client, which means he would extract full dollar. Which was fine with Kris Bryant, but Jackson isn't that elite. Yet.
Jackson to Cubs? Five percent.
Tyler Kolek. I was totally good with drafting Kolek a wek ago. Then it came out that he may have ballooned to 270 pounds. I'm okay with him being a "big kid" at 250. However, when 250 hits 270 right before the draft, I have to wonder about Kolek's motivation. I think he can be taught a change. He can learn a curve. But if he can't control his condition as a teen, is he the guy I want my team giving a few million to as a signing bonus? Not really.
If the White Sox want him, they can have him. Kolek to Cubs? 15 percent chance.
Aaron Nola. I'm probably going to surprise people with how willing I am to accept Nola at 1.4. If Aiken isn't there, Nola should be a nice compromise selection. He should move quickly, being a possible middle-rotation type. He doesn't have any glaring red flags, and by getting Nola, a bit should be saved against the dreaded cap. That would allow for some prep arms, where this draft seems to be flush with options.
I think he'd fit in well in the system, and he's been at his best recently. Nola to Cubs? 15 percent chance.
Max Pentecost. I'm now buying this rumor. I watched him a bit over the weekend. His swing needs some work, but he can draw walks, hit for average and with power, and move like a fielder, not a catcher. He wouldn't move as fast as some college options, but the Cubs coaches could relish being Pentecostal Ministers. Yeah, I was waiting on that one.
He should hit well enough. He has a strong arm, and should sign for low enough to save money for later picks. Pentecost-to-Cubs? 20 percent.
Carlos Rodon. His slider is the best pitch on display this draft. He has a record of general success, spoiled only by a bad North Carolina State team this year. Rodon has nothing left to prove as an amateur. However, I don't want to burn most of the Cubs cap space on one guy. With Bryant, that was fine. However, with Rodon, the Cubs have to shy away from prep arms, and that is where the sweet spot is. A college freshman threw 131 pitches over the weekend. These stories scare me.
I'm supposed to be happy if the Cubs get Rodon. Though he's likely the best WAR pick in the draft, I'm not. Rodon-to-Cubs? 20 percent. And I buck up when it happens and try to represent happy.