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2020 MLB Draft Prep: UCLA Bruins

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The perennial college power has an outfielder the Cubs might consider at pick 16.

Garrett Mitchell of UCLA
Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Fans love to talk about the five-tool player. He hits for average, power, runs, throws, and is a solid defender. What is your choice if a player is only a four-tool guy? Which of the five would you be most willing to cast aside? As you contemplate my daily thought, here is a look at the UCLA Bruins baseball team.

If you're willing to tolerate a West Coast point of view, UCLA is a great college follow. They're almost always deep in pitching. The hitters they bring in were often early draft considerations. Some, for a number of reasons, struggle out of the gate.

West Coast pitching is often very good. Since pitchers can pitch outdoors nine months per year, the likelihood of stumbling into a sophomore or junior tossing 92 or 93 with a degree of command is higher than many locales. The home park in Westwood isn't particularly hitter friendly. With those combined, you won't have sluggers mashing 23 bombs hitting at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium. Scouts have to project how much a player will grow, and how well hitters will adjust to pro ball.

California is the college epicenter of small ball. Coaches recruit by winning. Coaches get extended by winning. Many times, in college, winning involves getting four or five runs. For many coaches, rightly or wrongly, getting four or five involves the occasional sacrifice. With the third or fourth place hitter. Whether it's "percentage ball," or not.

Having a four- or five-star hitter or three doesn't mean they'll go yard against a No. 3 seed in the regional round. For reasons that make sense to coaches, bunts are prevalent in West coast baseball. As are grounders to the 5.5 hole, between short and third. At the college level, those are usually hits.

UCLA has a tradition of three to five really good college arms. Trevor Bauer? UCLA. Gerrit Cole? UCLA. Pitchers choose UCLA as much as the other way around. Which makes it a safe haven for hitters wanting to go to the College World Series. Last season, the Cubs selected Chase Strumpf from a Bruins squad that also produced first round first baseman Michael Toglia and six players in the first ten rounds. They reload, they don't rebuild.

They key draft piece this cycle is outfielder Garrett Mitchell. And what did you decide? Which tool is least essential? Mitchell hits, runs, and fields well. His arm is a bit ordinary. Nonetheless, the listed center fielder played in right, primarily, as a sophomore. His .984 PAC-12 OPS as a second-year lagged Strumpf's 1.108 as a sophomore. Mitchell runs better, and has comparable power to the Cubs 2018 second-rounder.

If Mitchell can throw well enough to play center field up the ladder, he becomes a valid consideration at 16. I'm not "red pen"ing him as a center fielder, but if the Cubs can, under new administration, have a better "exceeds expectations" rate from middle-to-late in the first, they wouldn't need to unleash dollars and prospects to fill MLB roster gaps as often.

Is Mitchell MLB good? Guessing on draft talent will always be a risk, but since a "draft strike" provides such a strong payout, sending a scout to a few dozen UCLA games against good opposition seems useful. Mitchell won't be the team, either.

Seven of the top nine pitchers for UCLA last year had an ERA below 2.70. Six return. At least a few figure to be good, by accident. If you select the Bruins to follow, you can chuckle when (draft ineligible sophomore) Matt McClain emerges. (His power is his key, and is yet unrefined.) UCLA would be a splendid follow if you're out west. Many of their games provide free video streams. They always provide a home audio stream, as well. Following the Bruins in baseball is a bit like the college football team that finishes around 9-3 against good competition. Your guys will go pro. Their guys will go pro. You might have a great three year run, or struggle, and know which west coast schools are Godzilla.

This entire premise works best if you want to know more about college baseball. By following the Bruins, you get an informed opinion on Mitchell. Lining up a string of hitters, pitchers, or both is the safest way to outdo the Reds, Pirates, Brewers, and Cardinals long-term. Deciding if Mitchell makes sense at sixteen or not is part of that. I don't want to outsource ideas on whether good college hitters are worth drafting. Even if their arm remains in question. He’s currently sixth on the draft board at MLB’s site. He’s worth a follow, even if he goes elsewhere, as added knowledge is a good thing.

Poll

For an outfielder, at pick 16, which tool is least important?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Getting on base
    (14 votes)
  • 14%
    Power
    (10 votes)
  • 17%
    Speed
    (12 votes)
  • 39%
    Arm
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Glove
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    I have a longer answer below
    (3 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now