A week from today, the Rule 4 Draft begins. By then, teams will want to have as many questions as possible answered. They want to account for an early selection that will use most of their first pick's cap space. They want to account for what would happen if they get a player on the cheap, which could allow more flexibility later. Many scouting trips will have been wasted, be it due to weather, injury, or other reasons. Most consider a wide range of looks at a player more informative, and accurate, than any one look. The strategies in play for this draft cycle will begin to succeed or fail in shortly over a week.
While I have an article for the third day of the draft almost ready, that will wait until sometime later. Probably, the weekend makes sense. Some of you might want to conduct a mock draft. While I enjoy seeing mocks, I'm not really interested in working one up, or participating in a shadow draft. I'm more interested in educating people on "why what gets done," rather than "who Colorado is likely to select." If enough of you are interested (and I don't know what qualifies as "enough"), maybe we can do a mock over the weekend.
Dillon Tate from Santa Barbara had been the presumed top pick for a few weeks about a month ago. Since then, he had a minor shut-down, and has had a few less-than-physics-altering appearances. Now, he could be in line for the Cubs to select him at 1.9. Otherwise, I doubt the Cubs brass makes the trip to Lake Elsinore for Friday's game. Tate ended up getting tagged with the loss in a 4-3 game, losing it on a straight steal of home with two strikes and two outs in the eighth. He fanned 11 and walked one over eight innings,
Tate has pitched over 100 innings this season. He has given up 66 hits, fanned 111, and walked 28. Last season, he pitched 43 innings, after only three the year before. It's completely reasonable for Tate to be a bit worn down. If Tate slips to nine, unless something is amiss, take him, and take him quickly. If his arm is shot based on his physical, then the 10th pick next season might be better than Tate this year. However, I'd prefer Tate over most options.
The question isn't, "why is Tate wearing down in his junior season?", but "Will Tate be a solid starting pitcher after three years of being a purely professional pitcher?" If he's the guy for the Cubs, he'll probably get in a few looks in Eugene, and probably some three or four inning looks in South Bend. Then, he will be shut down. He would probably begin in Myrtle Beach if all goes well in 2016, and maybe be ready for Wrigley the next September. What he would do in 2017 in about eleventy-kazillion times more relevant than what he did three weeks ago against Cal State Fullerton.
Tyler Jay remains a fascinating case. Will he be a short-term reliever, a long-term starter, or both? While some are taking front-office comments about "the first pick not being based on this year's needs" as being anti-Tyler Jay, I somewhat see it the other way. People like to read more into statements than what is actually said.
If a Cubs exec says the first selection isn't about the current season, I'll buy that. That means that, if the Cubs do draft Tyler Jay, it isn't because they plan on using him as a reliever this year. I'm not a huge fan of saying who will or won't be an ace in the future. That said, if you heard a pitcher threw mid-to-high 90s gas, had three pitches including a change that might get high-level pro hitters out, and his arm wasn't over-used, should you be interested?
You should be.
Illinois' pitching staff is long on starters that are good four times out of five starts, or more. They are a bit low on reliable starters that throw hard. Kevin Duchene is their best starter, and he changes speeds, and sits in the low 90s. He sounds like a left-handed version of Kyle Hendricks. In Drasen Johnson, John Kravetz, and a few others with the same or similar profiles. Jay was the only one who throws really hard. Hence, for the team, he made sense as a late inning guy.
Could Illinois have started Jay, and used Kravetz as a closer? They could have. However, Jay had international experience as a closer. And he throws in the mid-to-high 90s. Illinois was a better team using Jay as needed, rather than getting seven from him on one day of the week.
Will Jay be able to transition to being a starter in the minor leagues? I don't see why not. He has the repertoire and velocity now. Whichever coaching staff that works with him ought to get him better secondary stuff, but they are already swing-and-miss good off of his heater. Jay should be fine as a starter.
My list, in no specific order, for today.
Brandon Rodgers, shortstop, HS FL
Dillon Tate, righthanded pitcher, UCSB
Alex Bregman, shortstop, LSU
Dansby Swanson, shortstop, Vanderbilt
Carson Fullmer, righthanded pitcher, Vanderbilt
Tyler Jay, lefthanded pitcher, Illinois
Andrew Benintendi, center fielder, Arkansas
Ian Happ, second base/outfield, Cincinnati
As long as somebody burns a pick on a prep other than Rodgers, you have a fairly good guess who I want. My ninth option is probably Jon Harris, a righthander from Missouri State. He likely made himself a decent chunk of change by having a solid outing on Saturday against Canisius. He went eight innings, giving up three walks and hits, and only one run. He fanned eight over 116 pitches. I would say one start doesn't matter, but obviously it does. He throws all four pitches, and they all appear pro-ready. He has been inconsistent, though.
Ask Dillon Tate's draft status about that.
Speaking about draft status, one guy that suddenly makes complete sense for the Cubs in the 10th round is San Diego State first baseman Steven Pallares. Not only did he homer off of Tate in his second trip, he was the guy pulling off the straight steal of home. While the tradition is to draft a pitcher in the tenth round, Pallares (who I'd never heard of before this weekend) has reasonable pop, and obviously is an aggressive base runner. As a senior, his signing bonus will likely be a pittance. I'd prefer Illinois first baseman Donald Kerian, as I'm more familiar with him. However, first base, shortstop and outfield make the most sense from a mild need perspective on the first two days of the draft. Not necessarily in that order. And pitching, lots of pitching.
The Illini won their first two games, which puts them in a nice position for Monday. They play Wright State (Dayton, Ohio) at noon. To advance, Illinois has to win that, or the game that would follow against the same squad. Illinois has their pitching lined up, as both starters have gone the distance. If needed, Jay will be able to give them an extended outing in either game. The Raiders have shredded through most of their better pitchers to get that far. Their best player is their CF named Fowler. Yeah, that could be interesting.
if the Illini advance, they will likely host Vanderbilt next weekend. I would expect the Commodores to win that one. And I'd expect scouts to be camped out in Champaign to watch it. They might as well be somewhere, and those would be two really good teams to watch.