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2019 MLB Draft Prep: 2022 and beyond

How would development continue if there’s a baseball labor dispute? And, more thoughts on this year’s draft possibilities.

Alek Manoah of West Virginia University
Dale Sparks, WVU Athletics Communications

It’s getting widely expected that baseball will have a work stoppage. While I had thought it would be a lockout in 2022, a strike in later 2021 (a la 1994) might be a possibility. Neither is desirable. One of them seems likely. To that end, the draft in 2019 is about having a quality set of prospects for after the work stoppage concludes. For some, that may seem defeatist. As I don’t see much of anything I can do to divert the labor strife, I’ll plan for after.

As much as the general fan wants to hurry talent to the major leagues, depending on when the distraction happens, being a bit patient has a definite benefit. Whether the stoppage is a lockout or a strike, there’s a valid chance that players on the 40-man rosters will likely be inactive, professionally.

This is as close to politics as I really want to come on this topic. The MLBPA serves a role in the game. Some of you likely think the union is too strong. Some of you think the owners have too much power. And which one you think isn’t the focus of the article. At some point, players on the big league roster of any MLB team might not be playing. Owners and executives know this.

A hefty part of this draft is to set up an occasion where all 30 teams will have enough quality talent to play a full schedule of minor league games, whether players on the 40-man roster will play or not. That isn’t “taking a side in the labor dispute.” It’s realizing that Cubs will still want to be able to develop four full season and five short season squads, regardless what is transpiring with the parent club.

If a disagreement happens, many fans might well walk away from the game. It happened before. Through the draft, teams need to keep bringing in talent that will want their bite or bites at the apple, and will be willing to work through the labor strife as “seasonal workers” at lousy wages. Minor league games will continue. College games will continue. Talent assessment will continue. Draft prep and player development will continue, regardless the public discourse.

My hunch is that most players drafted in 2019 will be slow-played. By having plenty of players well-prepared, and at a cost-savings for a number of years to come, teams will be able to adjust to whatever the landscape is, when MLB returns. Teams that rush players to MLB just before a work-stoppage? Those players likely won’t play. This draft is about who will be playing if and when the Chicago Cubs don’t.

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Fangraphs has a nice Top 200 Draft list. I bounce between that, the MLB.com list, and the D-1 Baseball list that’s hidden behind a paywall. As noted before, the Cubs’ opinions may vary from the consensus, or any specific list. Nonetheless, a free Top 200 look is a way to have a hunch on what’s due in June.

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A favorite of mine in this draft class is Campbell’s Seth Johnson. He gimmicked his coach at Louisburg College into letting him pitch when his team led by ten runs. In his first outing, he fanned six over two innings. Now, he’s climbing draft boards. He pitched the first five against NC State on Wednesday. Here is a fifth inning strikeout.

He was launched for two homers against the Pack Nine. I’m a pitching non-believer, but I could be bartered into wanting Johnson at 1.27, regardless.

Among the early college bad-beats?

For the upcoming weekend, the Illinois at Coastal Carolina pits two ranked teams. The other Friday matches between ranked sides are LSU at Texas and Stanford at Cal State Fullerton. The west coast game is scheduled at 9 p.m. CT. Oregon State visits West Virginia (Alek Manoah) in a game that might draw some top-end drafting heat. Manoah could be “that guy” either way, but the Beavers are 8-0 out of the gate.

It’s the Frisco Classic weekend. Played in Frisco, Texas, it invites four valid teams to an upper-minors venue for a scouts’ smorgasbord. This time around, it’s Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, and Sam Houston State. It unofficially was a step along the way in my wanting the Cubs to do something similar in Mesa. Assessing talent, by any method, is getting more “mission essential.” Even at the college level.

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Are you more of a “ceiling” type this year? My guess is that a pitcher or right fielder might be the best wins-above producer at 1.27. I don’t, and won’t, know who it will be. We want the Cubs to make “the right choice.” However, for the umpteenth year in a row, it will be a bit of a butterfly effect. A pitcher who gets a line drive off his ankle in a Midwest League game, ruining his form for the future, might have progressed seamlessly in another organization.

If a pitcher is what you want, cool. Pick four that look like they might be available at 1.27, and watch some YouTube of them. Peg the guy that looks the (cleanest in his delivery/highest in velocity/whatever moves your needle) and make a case for him.

Which positions would you like to see the Cubs more committed toward? As long as you don’t say “aces” (who figure to largely be gone by the Cubs’ second pick), I won’t push you on which one. The Cubs seem rather deep in all minor league levels at pitching, and could use more hitting in a bat-heavy draft. Adding four or five useful bats would look good in 2022.

On the way out the door, here’s a well-researched mock draft. Read to the bottom for an assessment of Quinn Priester, a prep arm from Cary Grove Community High School. If you like supporting the locals, read the blurb (that makes him look Cubs-valid) and watch him live if you’re a bit west of Chicago. I might even do the same, as his squad plays a team from the Rockford area in early April. It’ll be baseball weather by then, right?

Poll

What do you think will be "best available" at pick 27?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    College arm
    (7 votes)
  • 15%
    Prep arm
    (3 votes)
  • 42%
    College oufielder
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    College infielder
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Other
    (0 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now