The Cubs have finished up their 2017 draft and it was a draft heavy on college pitchers. That’s continues a trend from last season, when the Cubs also loaded up on pitching, although last year they didn’t have a pick in either of the first two rounds.
First of all, here is a complete list of the Cubs’ 41 picks.
The Cubs took 25 pitchers and 16 hitters. There were 29 college players and 12 high school players. Of the 29 college players, 25 were from four-year schools and four were junior college players, including first-round pick Brendon Little.
For the most part, the Cubs decided to replenish their pitching supply. As successful as the current front office has been at turning position players out of the farm system, only two pitchers the Cubs drafted since Theo Epstein took over have played for the major league team: Rob Zastryzny and Pierce Johnson. One other pitcher drafted by Theo’s team, Zack Godley, pitches for the Diamondbacks. Looking over the draft list, pitching is clearly an area of concern.
The Cubs also drafted a lot of “high makeup” guys. I won’t say that everyone on this list is considered a high-character player (because they aren’t), but I will say most of them, especially those in the first ten rounds, are. It is hard to see the Cubs taking a chance on a player like LHP Seth Romero like the Nationals did. (No one took Luke Heimlich, who was projected to go in the second or third round before it was discovered that the Oregon State pitcher was a registered sex offender.)
I already wrote up a little bit about Little and Alex Lange on Tuesday as well as some on Corey Abbott. To reiterate, both Little and Lange have strong curve balls with good velocity, although Little throws a little harder than Lange. Abbott is a guy who taught himself to throw a slider by studying Noah Syndergaard (good guy to study) and that looks like it could be a nasty pitch one day.
All three of them could be starters, although many observers think that Lange could be moved to the pen where he could move quickly through the system. If the Cubs are looking for help in the pen right away (and by right away I mean next season, probably), then they could be thinking about making Lange a bullpen pitcher.
Third-rounder Keegan Thompson missed his junior season at Auburn with Tommy John surgery. His stuff never quite returned all the way, but he still pitched effectively in the best conference in college baseball this past spring. Often it takes more than one year to return from TJ surgery and if Thompson comes all the way back, he could be a steal in the third round.
Fourth-round pick Erich Uelmen is from Las Vegas and hopes to play with local hero Kris Bryant one day soon. He’s been compared to Derek Lowe, although obviously that’s a super-ceiling comp.
Eighth-round pick, third baseman Austin Filiere is a management science/management analytics major from MIT who showed good power in the Cape Cod League. Peter Gammons thinks he’s more likely to take Jed Hoyer’s job than Kris Bryant’s, and that’s probably true. His plan is certainly to play baseball as long as he can and then move into a front office.
Ninth-round pick Chris Carrier had a health scare in 2015, but made a full recovery after having a rib removed. He showed some good power this season and he’s got the arm to play right field.
I’d expect all of the top ten prospects to sign, but if one doesn’t it will be sixth-round pick Jeremy Estrada. Coming into this year he was expected to be a first-day pick, but he fell after a poor spring. He’s got a strong commitment to UCLA, but I doubt the Cubs would have drafted him if they didn’t think he’d sign. They will probably have to go over slot ($220,000) to sign him, but I’m sure the Cubs front office knows what they need to do to get his signature.
Much of the attention in the rest of the draft goes to 19th-round pick Chris Singleton, whose mother was murdered in the Charleston Church massacre two years ago. If you read that article, it is obvious that Singleton is a high-character guy. But Cubs Senior VP of Player Development Jason McLeod wants everyone to know that the Cubs drafted Singleton for his baseball-playing ability, not his story. He’s not going to be a top prospect, at least not right away, but there is some strong athleticism that could turn him into a good center fielder one day.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports couldn’t resist writing a story about “Mr. Irrelevant” Jeff Passantino. He won the most outstanding pitcher award at the Cape Cod League that pitchers like Chris Sale, Andrew Miller and Sean Manaea had won previously.
The Cubs drafted two local players, Ben Hecht in the 12th round and Joe Donovan in the 33rd round. Donovan is going to Michigan and the Cubs drafted him more out of a courtesy than anything else. Hecht will probably sign as a 22-year-old, although he’s still just a junior.
Just a few non-Cubs related stories. You probably heard that the Nationals selected Darren Baker, son of their manager Dusty Baker and most famous for being carried out of harm’s way in the 2002 World Series by J.T. Snow. (Baker says he doesn’t remember any of that.) Baker is most likely headed to Cal to play college baseball.
Another interesting story is that the Phillies drafted a player in the eighth round, LHP Jhordany Mezquita, that they already had in camp. Essentially what happened is that the Phillies signed Mezquita as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, but MLB ruled that because he had earlier attended high school in the United States, that he was not eligible to be signed internationally and had to be drafted. So the Phillies took him again. I’m guessing he won’t be a tough sign.
Over the next few days, you’ll hear about most of these players signing. The players taken after the 25th round or so, especially the high school players, are much less likely to sign. (It does sound like 40th-round pick Passantino is signing, but he’s a college pitcher.) Most of them will start their careers in Arizona in rookie ball there. Some of the higher-round selections will start in Eugene.
How would I assess this draft? Ask me in five years. I think the Cubs took a lot of players who fit in their system. They probably didn’t get an impact player because they didn’t have a draft pick in the top 15. But it only takes one of these pitchers to reach their ceiling for this to be a successful draft for the team.