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2020 MLB Draft Prep: Post-modern pitcher assessment

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And some further thoughts on who the Cubs might select next month.

Patrick Bailey of North Carolina State, a possible first-round pick of the Cubs this year
Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Being among the Cubs writers that assesses talent for the upcoming draft puts me in "elite company." By that, I mean not many people do it, not that I'm especially adept at it. When someone plies their craft and calls it Draft Prep, it does kind of rub me wrong. I've been doing this for about a decade, and calling it Draft Prep for about a decade. I'd think if you're doing what I'm doing regarding wordsmithing, you could forge a different moniker than I have for a decade, but so it goes. It's apparently hard to do a draft preview in the post-modern age.

It boils, essentially, to what you're looking for. For me, the four weeks of college games this season were the best. I'd look at a schedule, find a game that looked compelling, and prioritize it. Maybe I'd find a video stream. Perhaps I'd get an audio call. Either way, I'd add data. The good pitcher faces the good hitter. Something's got to give. If the name arm shuts down the good hitters, he gets the credit. I'd toss in video to supplement. Or, if the hitters have their day in the sun or clouds, their video leads on Friday night. The players that do well in games get their appreciation. Those that lose their luster fall to third, or third day, draft options.

However, that isn't the "in vogue" method of talent assessment (another good term to use if you want to say draft prep without invading my territory). Since much of the draft discussion (yet another) circulates around the 16th pick in the draft, the cool person way to do it seems to be to take five names on the pitching or hitting side, and use some scout-ish terms. Perhaps toss in a scant bit of video on a favorite name, and sample text from an expert in the field. Perhaps you like Carmen Mlodzinski or CJ Van Eyk. You haven't necessarily listened to or watched a game of theirs. Or, perhaps you have, and you pitch examine (kinda close to another one, there) your way into the verbal on his 11-to-5 breaking ball, or his curve with nice slope and fade, because this one outing is the one to prioritize over the other less-available streams.

In reality, though, pitcher assessment is now about trading the results from an Edgertronic computer readout. Instead of "pitched well against LSU and Vanderbilt" or "seems like a valid No. 2 starter in three years" or even "represents three above average MLB offerings in four years," it's the computers. "If you look at the readouts from when he visited our 'Scout Day' Camp, his numbers represented..." We all do what we default to, and try to add a little bit as we go. The reality seems, anything we examine leaves behind a partial picture. Baseball talent assessment will always be an inexact science. Which predictive method will most accurately paint an accurate future on a player? It probably depends a bit on the coaching. If you bring in Lou Brock talent, but teach him to play like Jose Canseco, it might not work. Would the Cubs have gotten Jake Arrieta results from Justin Verlander? Why would it have been more that track than Tyler Chatwood? Wishing doesn't make a result accurate.

The draft in June, and that sounds like the broad base for a date, will be five or ten rounds. Probably. The important people are still trying to figure out the best way possible to limit dollars going to players, as best as possible. And a mock by one of the best in the business sends the Cubs a catcher in Patrick Bailey. With two valid catchers on the MLB club, Miguel Amaya pushing to be ready in 2021, and a plethora of backstops of note upcoming, that seems odd. Not wrong or stupid, but odd. The Cubs have nobody knocking down the door to take Jason Heyward‘s spot, a few potential infield openings, and no clarity on starting pitching, but take a player that is at an organizational strength? Baseball used to be "take the best talent," and still somewhat is, but I'm not buying it. And I dig the player in question, Patrick Bailey.

If he plays with a Cubs affiliate in 2021, he'll be taking at-bats from Ethan Hearn or Ronnier Quintero, who both might be A-level options in 11 months or so. I get it, but I don't. Tennessee lefty flame-thrower Garrett Crochet, prep center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, Mt. Carmel's own Tim Howard, and Georgia right-hander Cole Wilcox make more sense (all are on the board at 16), and I'm an avowed cynic regarding Crow-Armstrong. The draft chatter is starting, but the part of it I enjoy the most.. the actual games between schools... is lacking. And I'm not reacting very well.