I walk willingly into the propeller of promoting the importance of the draft. Locating, through the draft or international waters, amateur talent that gets to the market of MLB competence is very difficult to match form a “return-on-investment” perspective. The more players that, for whatever reason, represent excess value, permits the team more chances to extend windows of contention. A team can, theoretically, develop excess at any general aspect of the game. Today, I look a bit more carefully at relief pitchers.
Two general mindsets are tough to overcome regarding disregarding college players. They are unfamiliar. They take awhile to arrive, even in best case scenarios. However, if a team can get “enough better than average” to the upper minors or the MLB level, the payout can be large. Eventually.
Four separate possibilities chisel at the return on initially selected talent. A player can be “not that good”, “not committed enough”, “not fit with a system”, or “injuries could curtail him”. It can be any of the four, but hitting the sweet spot is oh-so-pleasant. Regarding relievers, many schools have a quality relief specialist this cycle. Jack Little of Stanford, Arkansas’ Matt Cronin, Hawaii’s Dylan Thomas, and Jake Mulholland from Oregon State are among the intriguing names, but not alone.
The Cubs recent success in getting relievers from the draft has been..... mixed. Dakota Mekkes, who hasn’t been added to the MLB roster yet, might be considered the best rather soon. James Norwood, Dillon Maples, Duane Underwood Jr. and others have made at least mild contributions. However, Zack Godley and Tony Zych were Cubs relief draft choices who were more successful elsewhere. Elite specialist David Berg, selected by the Cubs on the second day in 2015 (sixth round) was very good until he hit Double-A, which happens to many players.
Adding a useful reliever or two in any draft should be considered a basic starting point for any organization. That isn’t to replace trades, waiver wire action, or free agency. Getting players on a ten-year leash shouldn’t be dismissed. Drafting a reliever is prioritizing that over a bat or a starting pitching option. A balanced pool of assets would seem preferable. When to lean reliever? The longer the wait, the thinner the pool? Andrew Schultz is a leverage reliever for the Vols, and has been clocked at 101.
Here's @Vol_Baseball RHP Andrew Schultz touching 101. One of the best pure fastballs in the country. He's got 15 strikeouts in 6.2 innings this year.#MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/7ShltSMVB8— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) March 20, 2019
His second pitch is a slider that is swing-and-miss when an amateur is sitting triple-digits. If he develops, he helps any big league pen. He may, or may not, be useful at the top level. If he is, you shouldn’t say, “I was never told about him.” You have been. He passed the test over the weekend for me, as he was as advertised when I tuned in. Which guarantees nothing, of course.
As a high-ceiling reliever, in which round does he (or another similarly successful reliever) make sense to you? All thirty war rooms figure to be discussing Schultz, and others. Are you good with using a second-round pick on him? He could last until the third round, though the fourth seems unlikely if he’s healthy in early June. As dismissive as some will want to get over selecting any sort of talent in the draft, quite a bit of talent hits the top level from the draft without being released first. That it’s a bit of an uncertainty knowing about players that are unfamiliar doesn’t change that owning the draft pays long-term dividends. A team gets things right, or they don’t. To the winners go the rewards.
Mocks for the draft range from absurd to compelling. This one seems rather reasonable, though I don’t expect the Cubs to jump pitching first in a bat-heavy draft. On the other hand, Nico Hoerner ought to give a rather good pulse on whether a Stanford player is worth selecting early. Erik Miller is one of three Stanford players I’d be good with in the first three rounds. The other two are right fielder Kyle Stowers (slipping a bit in perceived value) or first baseman Andrew Daschbach (second or third rounds).
Last time around, I noted Hunter Bishop. Here’s another bomb of his. He won’t reach 27. He will be, and should be, a better prospect than who the Cubs draft.
Just your average 450-foot shot. NBD. ♂️@HunterBishop9 is out of this world right now.— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 21, 2019
113 MPH off the bat
24° launch angle pic.twitter.com/8K6X8tG2oX
And one of two on Friday at the home of the Eugene Emeralds.
How big is the ball for this guy right now?@HunterBishop9 with a LA-ZER. pic.twitter.com/sLlSxyBVt7— Sun Devil Baseball (@ASU_Baseball) March 23, 2019
He’s putting himself in the top ten in the draft. He’s going to look good in someone’s uniform in three years.
I’m not much about preps early, because the Cubs usually aren’t. Two-way prep Spencer Jones is done for high prep career. I doubt the Cubs go that way, but someone might. Two-way possibilities are intriguing.
Calif HS LHP/1B Spencer Jones, top two-way prospect in 2019 @MLBDraft, had surgery today to fix a small fracture in his throwing elbow. Will miss rest of spring, back this summer. Plus raw power & speed, 88-92 mph in last outing. Still could factor in early rounds.— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) March 20, 2019
The Cubs haven’t led with a prep arm in the Theo Epstein era, but I’m not doing my job if I don’t educate you on most of the options. This is a rather detailed look at two of the top-end pitching names from the college ranks. I doubt Daniel Espino or Brennan Malone reach anywhere near 1.27. However, if you like top-shelf pitchers, these are who likely won’t be available.
I enjoyed another pitcher’s duel in the Southeastern Conference on Friday night. Georgia’s Emerson Hancock and LSU’s Zach Hess were both 92-94, and better than Top 10 ranked teams. Hancock figures to be an early choice in 2020. Hess will be a really tough call for 30 war rooms this time. He’s had a degree of control/command concern, however, his upside is middle-rotation if he figures it out. Will he? Shrugs. I’d guess the Cubs would need to call Hess’ name by the third round if they want him, though he might be gone by the Cubs choice then. Good decisions make a pipeline thrive, though it could also be the team’s specific “Pitch Lab”.
Another pitcher I haven’t decided on is Seton Hall’s Rocky DeVito. Here are pictures of his latest start. He’s probably a first five rounds sort of guy.
Today I saw RHP Ricky DeVito for @SHUBaseball. sat 90-92/topped out at 93-94 w/ 2 strks. primarily used FB which he commanded well w/ solid late run. didn’t need much else today but also threw some nice hard curves, a couple CH’s. Here’s most of his first 4 IP.— Owen (@CountryRoads277) March 23, 2019
2019 #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/QDdTtBUdFi
Every selection is a potential asset. The Cubs 2018 Draft was my favorite in a few years. The second-day talent has already pushed aside a few full-season level starters from last season. Adding another quality batch of talent on the offensive side out to start to limit the “butt end of a joke” aspect of the system. That’s particularly true if the current options in the pipeline advance in 2019. Enough college relievers seem worth investing in, though. When and where? When and which?