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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Nico Hoerner and the draft

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And some updates on college baseball as the draft gets closer.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“That’s a really good omelet.” Or cheeseburger. Or pizza. Maybe it’s a musical number, instead. Or a high school sports squad. The person told of the quality agrees, or they don’t. However, it rarely gets responded to like this. “It’s good. But because this isn’t among the three percent best ever, it’s not worth valuing highly.” That doesn’t happen, except in baseball.

Nico Hoerner has been very entertaining this spring, and that should be enough to make us happy. The crowd at Sloan Park was lapping up his performance on Saturday. He’s good. He’s good, even if, in seven years, MLB pitchers have adjusted to what he does. He shouldn’t need 200 or 2,000 MLB hits to be considered “good” or “enjoyable.” That isn’t a popular opinion.

You have probably watched or listened to quite a bit of baseball. You can probably tell by sight or sound if a dude can play. That a guy is enjoyable at playing shouldn’t be refuted by an inability to master MLB play, any more than a pianist being talented, even if he doesn’t have a national recording contract. Among my favorite live MiLB baseball games in the last decade was watching Jen-Ho Tseng carve up the Beloit Snappers. I saw Kyle Schwarber hit two homers, and Jorge Soler bash a grand slam in the same venue. Watching Tseng was more memorable. That Tseng has struggled in MLB doesn’t change that; nor should it.

Baseball shouldn’t have to be about MLB success, only. People can love a college hoops or football squad without fear of violence or derision if the players don’t reach their respective Halls of Fame, or starter status. However, a popular mindset is that enjoying baseball is a waste if it doesn’t lead to a post-season trophy or award. How insidious is that? With that as a pervasive thought, enjoying Hoerner can be criticized as premature. I had a very fun six minutes listening to a ninth-inning no-hit bid on Saturday, and I’m not even remembering which Nebraska pitcher tossed the first eight innings.

College baseball has some very good talent. It did last year, and the tide is rising. If you enjoy Hoerner, there are similar college players you’d like. If you like Schwarber, there are similar college players you would like. The Cubs will likely get a good player at the 27th overall slot in the June draft, even if he never ends up as a MLB regular. At least 20 players selected before that player will also be really good, and possibly better. It’s a particular shame that a player has to be a top-level regular for people to enjoy him as much as a B-Plus pizza.

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The Huskers took the no-hit bid to the ninth at Baylor against the Bears. After a hit-by-pitch, Nebraska went to the pen, inducing a double-play grounder. Another reliever came in to try for the 27th out, but a single to right prevented the first no-no against Baylor since 1971. Credit the first eight innings to Nate Fisher, and the single to Davis Wendzel, who should be drafted on the second day.

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Nate Song is becoming a story. A 6-4 righthander from Navy, nobody has done much with him this season. Song has a two-year military commitment, which he is planning on honoring beginning in November. How good is he?

Where does a team draft a pitcher who looks reasonably valid, knowing he wouldn’t be any sort of a factor until the 2022 calendar begins? It boils to a question that is under-played in the June Draft. Some baseball fans seem diametrically opposed to even considering the draft as anything but an accidental source of wealth.

As I’m writing this, NFL fans are assessing an NFL trade where the Steelers sent wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders for two draft choices. Many football fans (rightly or wrongly) have an idea what a third- or fifth-round draft choice should provide in value. Baseball fans often seem almost oblivious to what value a specific selection ought to have.

Song appears a bit advanced. He doesn’t appear worth a first-round choice, even with the skills, with the two-year commitment. My guess is Song goes early on the second day, which begins with Round Three. I doubt Song is on the board for the Cubs at Round Five. Whichever team gets him will likely receive a valid pipeline arm as of 2022.

If you’re of the mindset to assess value to MLB draft selections, in what round would you want the Cubs to cast their preference to Song? Perhaps you pass on him, as he might run into Rule 5 danger almost immediately.

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Pitcher George Kirby from Elon is a first-round name. He pitched against Rhode Island’s Bryant, which is a well-respected offensive team. What happened when a first-round arm met a good offense?

Yikes. Here is video of him humming last summer on The Cape.

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I’m not familiar with Twitter’s Eric Cross, but he posts a rather useful list for the top thirty players on his draft board. You’re potentially looking at the name of the Cubs first choice, and 29 guys equal to or better than him. The guys on this board are good, regardless if they reach MLB or not. Send me the cheese shaker. My pizza needs a bit more Parmesan.

A bit of a throwaway out the door. The Cubs used a late 2018 draft choice on Janesville, Wisconsin catcher Jacob Campbell. He’s serving as a freshman apprentice this season at Illinois. The team is using him enough to develop, to be a starter as a sophomore. Today, here he is gunning down a runner at second.

As much as people wanted to trade valued assets to obtain a player not available in trade (Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield), and as much as I was told it’s impossible to draft and develop a lead-off hitter, Hoerner seems to have a few of the traits valued in a lead-off man. Perhaps the June selection process should be considered a source for locating MLB talent.