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2019 MLB Draft Prep: Should the Cubs take a chance on Gianluca Dalatri?

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The North Carolina righthander could be a mid-round sleeper.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

My draft prep articles are leaning heavily toward specific players these days. Surveying the college landscape is fascinating to me, knowing the importance of getting the draft right. Tracking the hot or cold streaks of particular college teams doesn’t seem to draw many responses. Responses aren’t the entire goal in on-line writing, but a piece on a specific player can be written without having to reference multiple constantly-changing browser screens. Today’s is a look at North Carolina starting pitcher Gianluca Dalatri.

The backstory with Dalatri begins with him being selected by the Rockies out of high school in the 40th round in 2016. The last few rounds of the MLB draft are a bit rife with players the teams doesn’t expect to sign. Teams often walk into the draft knowing how many players they want to sign; often in the 23-27 range. The cool part of the “prep throwaway pick” is that, while you don’t figure to sign him, nobody else can if you do.

Dalatri went to North Carolina, and as a freshman, showed why he was of interest in the first place. A 15-start, 97-inning season for a freshman with an ERA below 3.50 is outstanding in the ACC. Off of those numbers, Dalatri was poised to move up the 2019 Draft board the next two seasons. Since then, he’s pitched well, when he’s pitched. That hasn’t been very often, though.

In his sophomore and junior campaigns, he’s made seven and six appearances, totaling 59 innings. His 2019 season is over due to a hip injury.

This is unfortunate for the Heels and the pitcher, obviously. This, though is a draft piece. It plays very usefully into a draft look at when a team should select Dalatri, and whether the pitcher should consider a mildly early signing.

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College players don’t “declare” for the draft. They are eligible or they aren’t, and as a junior, Dalatri is eligible. The college baseball world has some strange rules sometimes, but I doubt Dalatri gets a redshirt season this year, which means next season figures to be his last in Chapel Hill if he returns. A player with no leverage is looking at a particularly scant signing bonus.

Dalatri has pitched well, when healthy. Perhaps he’d be a useful addition as a professional reliever. The question boils to, when should a team consider drafting Dalatri? Or, should “they” let teams that are obscenely good at developing pitchers (Tampa, Houston, and Cleveland, for example) draft him, and say “How could we have known a guy who was really good as a freshman in the ACC was going to be a good pitcher?”.

My prospect video on Dalatri is dated, and looks at him in high school. He’s better than this now, when healthy.

This is a two-way decision. The player himself has to decide how much he values returning to college as a senior. That’s entirely on him, obviously. If “returning as a senior” is a priority, any selection of Dalatri is as wasted as the Rockies’ was three years ago. If he decides he wants to get healthy and play in the minor leagues on his way to the majors, the decision becomes more open-ended.

Through his representative, Dalatri will likely send out feelers regarding his availability. Likely, a large part of those feelers will be “an acceptable signing bonus.” For instance, if he lets out that he wants a $200,000 signing bonus, or he returns to school, that will scare away anyone unwilling to draft him in the top eight rounds or so. (A player can send different signing numbers to different teams. For instance, he could tell the Astros $150,000, while telling another team $400,000. Which is why obtaining another team’s draft board could be very useful.)

Players unsigned in the top 10 rounds reduce the amount that can be spent on the entire draft. Losing a player to remaining in the 11th or 12th round doesn’t cost spending space, but it opportunity costs away another player that probably should have been prioritized. Having a keen awareness of what a player like Dalatri needs to sign is a big part of signing most of your top 20 picks.

My guess? The Rays, Astros, Indians, or Orioles jump on Dalatri in the top five rounds, liking what they see enough to take a gamble on him. I’d be good with him in the seventh round, or somewhere around Round 18. I’m not sold on his ability to stay healthy, but his style may be more “pro reliever” anyway. A relief role and professional regimen could upgrade his health.

Baseball fans tend to like “safe” and “comfortable.” If they can look at a string of pro seasons, or splatter patterns of a thousand professionally-made pitches, and assess what “is likely to happen over a year or three”, that’s an acceptable level of risk management. That isn’t remotely what the draft is about. Teams have whispers of information, and hours of game tape to pore through. Certainty isn’t on the menu, but hitting on a handful of names in one season sways a franchise in a positive direction.

Dalatri has had arm injuries, and now a bad hip. It doesn’t sound an ideal climate for a pitching selection, but pitching selections are fraught with danger in the best-case scenario. Dalatri’s selection would be a higher risk than most pitchers, but if he finds a niche, he could be an asset to the team that takes the gamble. When do you think the Cubs ought to consider drafting Dalatri?

Poll

Based on what you know about Gianluca Dalatri, when should the Cubs consider drafting him?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    He’s been good when healthy. Fifth round, give or take.
    (17 votes)
  • 32%
    A checkered health past gets me to pass on him.
    (26 votes)
  • 32%
    Great name. 14th-18th Round.
    (26 votes)
  • 12%
    I need to see a spreadsheet for a player, based on years of data, before I can decide.
    (10 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now