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Cubs 2019 Draft: Who is most likely to post 5.0 WAR in the major leagues?

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The photo gives you a hint.

Washington v UCLA Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

This is the beginning of a series on “who’s most likely to” about the Cubs 2019 draft picks. To start, here’s a look at UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf, most likely to be a five wins-above player for his Cubs career. The short explanation on why it's Strumpf is because he's the first hitter drafted in the draft. Hitters are easier and safer to develop than pitchers, so it's very plausible that Strumpf will be a potential regular at the big-league level. However, he’s more likely than the others for more than a simple event of convenience.

Any discussion on Strumpf ought to circle back to a fairly safe wager that Theo Epstein made in the offseason. Owners were uninterested in allowing executives to go over their spending limits. As such, Craig Kimbrel wasn't getting the offers he wanted. It became more apparent that the spending limits and draft pick penalties had frozen Kimbrel's value. Once the draft passed, Kimbrel signed in less than a week.

By waiting two months and change, Theo Epstein was able to retain his second-round choice: Strumpf. It became a bit of a modified "Bryant in mid-to-late April in 2015" argument. Was "six to ten years" worth more than three months? If Strumpf is a useful professional, either at Wrigley or in trade, it's a tough case to make that the first portion of this season is more important than, roughly, the next decade. Especially since Epstein was never in any real danger of losing the bet.

Five wins above from late in the second round is completely acceptable. Strumpf will be given every chance to exceed that. While his bat is his carrying tool, if he can be a break-even second baseman, he greatly aids his chances. His defense improving is on Strumpf. I have no particular awareness of his internal drive, but all the coaching and facilities will be at his fingers.

Colleges tend to encourage ground ball offense. Pro organizations are more willing to tolerate strikeouts and fly outs, due to pro defenses displaying better range. Any recent series of at-bats from Strumpf's college years are as predictive as a non-elite reliever's April through June stats predict his July through September numbers. Strumpf should make Double-A. Beyond that, it will be about adjustments.

If Strumpf is even remotely close to 5 WAR for his career, his production (against his controlled coat level) should be well worth the Cubs' gamble. Strumpf represented an early-second rounder in most of the draft run-up. That he was still available with the Cubs second selection led to an obvious case of "taking value that happened to slip."

If you know much about my writing style, I dig a good back-story. Over the last three weeks or so, I had five or six UCLA games on, and learned nothing about Strumpf or his mates. The announcer was calling the games, but his filler time involved no vignettes. When I finally pulled an article from in-season on Strumpf, a name from the past exploded onto the screen: Ken Ravizza. The protege of Joe Maddon's mindset, if Strumpf already understands the basics of the late Ravizza, he ought to be chill enough to grasp the Cubs mindset.

I'm still not entirely sold on Strumpf's hit tool, though his last college at-bat resulted in a fly-out to the opposite field in the outer reaches of Westwood's ball-deadening Jackie Robinson Stadium. His games in Eugene will serve as a starting point for my thoughts on his defense. He can go yard, gets the basics of the Ken Ravizza outlook, and figures to be cost-controlled well into the decade that hasn't started yet. I'll take that over four or five games that Kimbrel might or might not have saved in April.