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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Leadoff envy

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Can the Cubs find that elusive “leadoff type” in this year’s draft?

Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

One of the clarion calls I hear often, here and elsewhere, is for the Cubs to get a bona fide leadoff hitter. Most teams that have a quality one aren’t planning to let them go. By free agency? That’s a sour topic, now. How about the draft? Are there any intriguing “leadoff types” in the Cubs draft selection area?

The standard way is to let the player prove or disprove himself. By the time an unknown becomes a positively known quantity, the price to obtain gets prohibitive. If the Cubs can locate a lead-off man at 1.27, they can (eventually) solve for a problem for years at a time; as nobody fusses about the Cubs third base “curse” anymore with Kris Bryant around. How does one “define” a lead-off man?

My best jab at the situation is to look at the 20/80 ratings for the top draft prospects on the MLB.com site. As I ignore the top 20 as being unlikely at 27, I’m looking for possibilities with a 50 Speed and a 50 Hit, with a 55 at one or the other. That seems a fair compromise. It doesn’t mean that things will play out peachy, but it’s a way to find a lead off option.

Here are the Hit and Speed rankings for the hitters between 21 and 50.

Leadoff-type hitter draft possibilities

Player Position School Hit Run
Player Position School Hit Run
Braden Shewmake Shortstop Texas A&M 55 50
Will Holland Shortstop Auburn 45 60
Rece Hinds Third base HS (Florida) 45 40
JJ Bleday Outfield Vanderbilt 55 40
Michael Busch First base North Carolina 55 45
Matt Wallner Outfield S. Mississippi 50 40
Maurice Hampton Outfield HS (Tennessee) 50 65
Will Wilson Shortstop N.C. State 50 40
Brett Baty Third base HS (Texas) 55 30
Matthew Lugo Shortstop HS (Puerto Rico) 55 50
Tyler Callihan Third base HS (Florida) 55 40
Kyle Stowers Outfield Stanford 50 50
Chase Strumpf Second base UCLA 55 45
Brooks Lee Shortstop HS (California) 55 45
Michael Toglia First base UCLA 50 50
Logan Wyatt First base Louisville 55 30
Drew Mendoza Third base Florida State 45 40
Will Robertson Outfield Creighton 50 40
Nasim Nunez Shortstop HS (Georgia) 50 65
Sammy Siani Outfield HS (Pennyslvania) 55 60

High school talent gets ranked a bit more highly sometimes off of not facing college pitching yet, but a few of the preps look to be better leadoff options than the college names. Those that were at least 50/55 or 55/50 are Shewmake, Hampton, Lugo, Nunez, and Siani. Four are high school, and the other tops the board. Others that are rather close include Holland, Busch, Davidson, Stowers, Strumpf, Lee, and Toglia.

***

Clemson has lost three players for the entire season, before it even begins. While right-handed pitcher Spencer Strider isn’t draft-eligible yet, it hurts the Tigers outlook for 2019, and limits the previous Indians 35th-rounder’s future interest.

Right-handed pitcher Roel Garcia of Rice was Conference USA’s 11th ranked draft prospect. He will miss the season, as well.

Carter Stewart was the Braves’ top choice in 2018. His inability to come to terms with Atlanta sent him into the Junior College route this season. He pitched his first game midweek, and he was rather impressive.

Perhaps they should have signed him when they had the chance. Eastern Florida Titans home games are free to attend. If you’re in the Brevard County area, consider it.

After talking about a lack of velocity readings last time, a return to an NAIA streaming option for this week brought me a mild surprise. Velocity readings. At the lower levels, 90 and 91 are fairly good. I heard a few 91s for Antelope Valley’s Jacob Castillo. He might make sense in the 28th round, or so. At the same level in a different game, Southeastern University center fielder Mike Taylor, Jr. flashed power and speed. The Cubs like guys up the middle, and with pop. He’s probably my early leader from the NAIA ranks. I doubt teams spend too much time with lower levels of college baseball after mid-February, knowing the 20 guys to check back on is probably useful.

Missouri’s sports programs have been under scrutiny regarding a cheating scandal. Their baseball team this season, pending appeal, won’t be eligible for tournament play, including the college tourney. This weighs here because the list at the top would have included Kameron Mizner if he were below the 20th spot. As to whether that will get players for the Tigers to “duck games” as football players have (entirely justifiably) done is up for consideration. None of the players on the current team had been considered previously.

My top five for 1.27, as of today

Player Position School
Player Position School
JJ Bleday Outfield Vanderbilt
Josh Stowers Outfield Stanford
Tyler Dyson RHP Florida
Will Holland Shortstop Auburn
Alek Manoah RHP West Virginia

What do you expect will be “best available” come pick 27 in June? A slugging outfielder? A middle infielder? A specific pitcher? A lead-off man type? It’s looking into the future with whoever it will be. However, it was looking into the future with thoughts of the types of players who contributed to any or all of the four successive postseason appearances, as well.

Poll

What will be "best available" come June at the 27th choice?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    A slugging outfielder
    (10 votes)
  • 23%
    A middle infielder
    (13 votes)
  • 26%
    A specific pitcher
    (15 votes)
  • 32%
    A lead-off man type
    (18 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
56 votes total Vote Now