Tonight is the 2018 MLB Draft, the annual rite of summer in which amateur baseball players are divvied up among 30 major league teams. The festivities start NOW, 5 p.m. Central time, on the MLB Network and MLB.com with their pre-draft preview. The actual picks start at 6 p.m. Central.
You can watch the draft for free at the website if you don’t have MLB Network. In fact, the second round and beyond will be available only on mlb.com. Additionally, you can follow along on Twitter at @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker and using the hashtag #MLBDraft. If you want to just follow the Cubs stuff, there’s always the Cubs official Twitter account at @Cubs and I will be doing all I can on my Twitter account at @Cubsminorswrap.
Tonight is the first two rounds of the draft and the associated compensatory rounds. The Cubs have four picks with their first- and second-rounders as well as two compensatory picks after the second round for losing Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta. The Cubs have the 24th, 62nd, 77th and 78th picks tonight. They have a total “Bonus pool” of $7,517,100 with which they have to sign all of their picks. They can go 5% over that number, but going beyond that means losing a future first-round draft pick and no team will do that.
Those aren’t great picks, but there are four of them and the good news is that this draft has been characterized as a deep one. There aren’t any surefire stars in this draft, but there is a lot of talent that could end up helping a major league club in the future.
The draft has become a huge event for the NFL and the NBA, two leagues that Major League Baseball likes to compare itself to, and MLB would like their draft to receive similar attention. That’s not going to happen and to be fair, MLB knows it’s not going to happen. College football and basketball players are big stars in a way that college baseball players will never be. On top of that, the MLB draft takes place in the middle of the season whereas the NFL and NBA Drafts are big off-season events that provide excitement for fans who don’t have much else to cheer for that time of year. But if the MLB Draft just becomes half as big as the NFL Draft, the commissioner will be happy.
In light of that, there is a light MLB schedule tonight. There’s a Yankees/Tigers game that was rescheduled after a rainout, but all other MLB games tonight are on the West Coast and will start after the party in New York starts to wind down. There are no Triple-A ballgames and most other minor leagues have the night off as well. (The Tennessee Smokies play tonight, so there will be a Minor League Wrap sometime tonight.)
So who are the Cubs going to take? The bottom line is no one knows, not even the front office. But we have a lot of “mock drafts” which, while lacking in much predictive ability, are fun and can give you a sense of the type of player the Cubs will be choosing from with the 24th overall pick.
Here are some of the “final” mock drafts (at least as of around noon Chicago time today) and whom they have the Cubs taking.
MLB Pipeline: Both Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis have the Cubs selecting Georgia HS catcher Anthony Seigler, By the way, if you want a free place to look up scouting reports on all these players, MLB Pipeline is the place to do it.
ESPN.com: Keith Law is also predicting Seigler. Law says he’s hearing a “bat” for the Cubs. ($)
Fangraphs: Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel have Virginia LHP Daniel Lynch coming to Chicago.
Baseball America: The originators of this stuff have the Cubs taking Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert. ($)
The Athletic: Patrick Mooney got to make the Cubs’ pick and he predicted Oklahoma OF Steele Walker. ($)
CBS Sports: Mike Axisa predicts Georgia HS RHP Ethan Hankins. Hankins is a high-upside pitcher whose stock has dropped in 2018 after a shoulder injury.
Here are some other storylines to watch for in tonight’s draft:
Pitchers or hitters?
The Cubs built their World Series championship team by drafting hitter after hitter and going after pitching later. More teams are starting to adopt that strategy because of the unpredictability and health concerns that surround pitching. Will top pitching talent drop?
Whither Casey Mize?
For months, the Auburn right-handed pitcher (pictured at the top of this post) has been the top player on almost everyone’s draft board and he’s been expected to remain a Tiger as Detroit has the first pick tonight. However, late word is that the Tigers have been getting cold feet, worrying about taking a pitcher with the first pick and wondering if they can’t make an under-slot deal with a hitter and then use the savings to take a player who dropped in the later rounds. Is this just an act to try to keep other team’s off-balance and to get Mize to drop his bonus demands? We’ll find out shortly.
Wither Kyler Murray?
Kyler Murray is not one of the top players in the draft, but he is expected to go either late in the first round or early in the second. What makes Murray a compelling story is that he’s also expected to be the starting quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners this fall. His professional career is far more likely to be in baseball than football, so could a team with multiple picks save up some pool money and tempt Murray to give up football early? Reports earlier this season said that Murray was firm on playing his redshirt junior season at OU, but recent ones say that commitment isn’t as firm as the Sooners would like. The Padres recently got an extra pick from the Twins (a “competitive balance” pick that are the only ones that can be traded) and the rumor is that they are going to use the extra bonus pool money to talk Murray out of football. Murray will still be drafted and could start his baseball career next year, but every team interested in him has no interest in seeing Murray get sacked by Big 12 linebackers all fall. His stock will drop if he insists on playing football.
Who will be the first drafted ballplayer born in the year 2000?
Yeah, I feel old.
As I wrote earlier, MLB would like you to watch and we’d like you to stick around an comment. Consider this a draft open thread.