On Monday night, I expected the Cubs to capitalize on a deep draft class of hitters. Eventually, they did, though not without a detour. Here is my early look at the Cubs top two draft selections in 2019, Ryan Jensen and Chase Strumpf.
With Kody Hoese going to Los Angeles at 25, I still expected the Cubs to go with a hitter. North Carolina's Michael Busch was still on the board, and I expected his name to be called. It wasn't. Jensen is both a bit of a helium guy, and a hard thrower. He's been holding mid-to-high 90s into the late innings, and has peaked late in the season. At only six feet tall, he was well down most teams' preference lists, but anyone seriously following the pro recruiting game knew of Jensen's helium, if only by reputation. He was expected to be a major addition for someone, simply not this early.
"Is this like Hayden Simpson?" I was asked about the ill-timed 2010 draft selection. Back in 2010, teams didn't have league-imposed budgets. The spending limits then were largely self-imposed. Jensen as a cost-savings pick now is a possibility. His final four college starts were off the figurative charts, and they're on video. With a degree of an ESPN backlog, you can see one of his recent starts. You can see a third on YouTube. As long as Jensen stays relatively healthy the next month or so, he should have a few healthy starts in the Cubs system. I'd expect about ten game innings from Jensen before a seasonal shutdown.
When the second selection came due, Strumpf was on deck in a regional in Jackie Robinson ballpark in Los Angeles. Within a few minutes of the announcement, Strumpf had driven himself in. What isn't as evident from the timely video...
The Cubs drafted Chase Strumpf while he was on deck. He followed up with this pic.twitter.com/odCGLnTAG0— Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill) June 4, 2019
... is how similar to the old Astrodome UCLA's venue plays. The measurement are normal. The locale has no carry. A few nights earlier, a Loyola Marymount starting pitcher stifled the Bruins as their offense was strangled on the vine. Well-driven liners by an especially deep offense went frustrated by the balls settling routinely into outs. Hitters like Strumpf had their numbers muted by their home facility. Within a month, Strumpf should be laying waste to pitchers with Eugene and South Bend's home parks as his main venue. Neither figure to deny quite as much as the field he's most used to.
Jensen and Strumpf make sense, each in their own way. I started to make a list of Twitter of names that "makes sense" early on day three, but it boils to which position you think the team should value. As I was watching the college season, climaxed by the long weekend, the list is about as long as could be imagined, still. Corner infielders, catchers, and outfielders are still available five and six deep. When those names evaporate, more replace them, with only slightly less luster.
Baseball at the college level is a fertile breeding ground for pro talent. With the (presumed) cost-savings from Jensen, the Cubs can likely add a reasonable prep gamble, at some point. However, the limits against spending are real. Adding a top-shelf prep with high-grade college leverage wasn't a realistic option. It sounds as if the Cubs tried to agree to terms with prep arm Matthew Allan, but the numbers didn't match. Hence, Jensen was the call. More arms and bats, presumably with a collegiate backdrop, will follow.
Among my favorites for early Tuesday include Butler pitcher Ryan Pepiot, Ole Miss first baseman/catcher/outfielder Thomas Dillard, Georgia Tech catcher/first baseman Kyle McCann, Creighton outfielder Will Robertson, Tennessee pitcher Garrett Stallings, Stanford catcher/third baseman Maverick Handley, Auburn outfielder Edouard Julien, and leverage relievers like Matt Cronin (Arkansas), Michael McAvene (Louisville), Andrew Schultz (Tennessee), and Jacob Wallace (Connecticut). The talent and depth remain, which is why I enjoy saying Draft 40.