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2018 MLB Draft Prep: A consensus-free look

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What’s the biggest Cubs system need going forward?

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Every selection process will have a consensus, with a consensus generally meaning where “most experts” would have options selected. However, this draft is running a bit askew. Which leads to a consensus that is less helpful than most. Which could lead to some peculiar names slipping down the board. The Cubs brass have about six weeks to get ready for the three most important days of the year.

I completely mean that.

The June draft is the time for the Cubs to pool together the best talent they can locate for the next decade. Whether that happens or not is as up-in-the-air as the next possible six-inning start from a member of the rotation. Those three days are the seeds of the Cubs future, good, bad, or indifferent. As with every time around.

Much of the emphasis, such as it will be, shall be on the first choice at 1.24. That said, the system depth needs to be upgraded after trades and graduations. Getting “one name right” or not doesn’t build a deep pipeline.

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Back to the consensus, or lack thereof.

Fangraphs put together a list of draft names to know in a prioritized list. For me, it was a must-read. It tossed some of my hopes out the window, as they have picks I was hoping would last until 24 going in the first half of the top ten.

However, that means other talent is slipping down the line.

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Of the talent that slips to 24, some will be eventually looked at as “Why did this guy slip so far?” and others will be “Why was he of interest in the first place?” Baseball fans tend to be reactionary.

The prep/college season has been a bad experiment so far, as compared to many seasons. Weather has been terrible. Announcers in Alabama are chirping about how cold the weather has been. Very few players have been consistent every time out.

Scouts have to assess which games to actively ignore, to get it right this time around.

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After posting a draft board mid-week, Fangraphs went with a mock draft on Thursday. Selecting second, the Giants wanted a bat. The second player on the board is a college bat. Which is what the Giants want. However, not Nick Madrigal, the player in question in the consensus. The early lean was for any of three other players.

Nobody knows yet who the Giants want. However, the second-best player on their board is apparently down the list on some other boards. There is no consensus.

Or, if there is one, it has little to do with who will come off the board when, in six weeks.

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The Cubs system needs a bit of an upgrade. The last two seasons have been all about upgrading the pitching. Three pitchers from the 2016 Draft are already representing in Double-A Tennessee, well over a year in advance of their Rule 5 eligibility.

Duncan Robinson, Tom Hatch, and Dakota Mekkes were all second-day draft selections in a day where the Cubs could have been represented at the first day of the draft by a Clark The Cub cutout.

Robinson, Hatch, and Mekkes are getting outs in the Double-A Southern League, which is often referred to as “the men’s league.” Without any compulsion to hurry them. Hatch went in round 3, Robinson in round 9, and Mekkes in the 10th. Mekkes is a reliever, with the other two as starting pitchers.

A year behind them, both in the draft, and organizational classification, are Alex Lange and Keegan Thompson, who both skipped South Bend, as Hatch did. Keeping four of those “on target” helps to make selecting hitters more possible in six weeks. Lange went with the 30th choice in 2017, and Thompson the 105th (3rd round).

Getting some bats might be useful in June.

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As I began to write this, Perfect Game posted a mock into the 40s.

They see the Cubs drafting Greyson Jenista (JEN-i-sta), who might be the best bat in the draft. Listed as a first baseman/outfielder, Jenista has been getting a few looks in center by the Shockers. I doubt I’d do it, with the names available still on the board. However, I appreciate Jenista’s offense.

My lean would be Jeremy Eierman.

A shortstop in college, he’s likely a professional third baseman. However, he might be left at short “for awhile” in case he is good enough to play there.

I was interested in Eierman in February. However, left without his tag-team partner from last season (Missouri State had Eierman and Jake Burger last season. Eierman hit more homers.), Eierman was showing the same offensive patience and plate discipline as Shawon Dunston used to on 1-2 curves.

A month later, he was showing much more patience, and hitting quite a bit better, as well.

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This season, he only have five homers. People are running away from him.

He has 17 steals, and a .966 OPS, playing most of his games in the Midwest, where the weather has been hideous.

I’d buy that the power is still there. Unless the Cubs buy Jenista in center.

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Among the consensuses I’ve built up this year?

I won’t persuade many people into following college baseball more. Which is a shame. Those that I have persuaded seemed to genuinely enjoy it.

I enjoy baseball, and the Cubs are my side. However, baseball is more than Cubs baseball. Cubs baseball is much more than the parent club, and baseball is more than pro baseball. However, with jobs, families, and other life goals, following “what leads to MLB success” gets the short end of the stick.

A reality is, the $13 million or so the Cubs are investing in Tyler Chatwood figures to be about how much the team will invest in amateurs this time around.

With much more than “three wins above” as the payout.

I’ll continue to value future years as equal to the current year in importance, despite their distance away. That “greater than three” is still larger than “possibly three” is still math I can understand.

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With four choices in the top 80, and five in the top 100, the Cubs will add some talent in the signing period.

However, it won’t push them into the top half of the pipelines. That happens by players doing well in minor league games. As to when they will have respect built up again is a question is won’t hazard a guess at yet. I’ll need to see the players doing well.

However, as much as most people don’t care, having an extra short-season affiliate will give five more pitchers in the pipeline a chance to start games. Two more catchers opportunities to develop catching skills. Five infielders and outfielders the chance to get regular swings.

And, a few relievers to get regular work, as well.

Players can learn from watching, but playing is generally better.

Playing in July and August answers questions better than college games in temperatures below 45 degrees.

By playing in games with talent evaluators watching, you can build a consensus. Which might be easier after the draft, this time around.

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The Cubs affiliates have a number of spots that would benefit from upgrades. Many of the roster spots are currently vacant (as they have a new affiliate to fill).

A player is a threat, until a level has made him no longer a threat. In a season without much of a consensus, a scout that notices a player others might have missed gives his team three years and more to develop that player.

Baseball is, as always, a game of development. More than consensus.

Draft 40.

Or, with the extra picks, 42.

Think for yourself. Ask questions. Be nice to others.