This is a prep edition of "Who are they?". I'm historically rather tepid on preps in the first round. What are you really going to learn against 72 and straight, and at a few weekend showcases? Quite a bit more is learned from weekend series play in college. However, here are some names to know for early-June from the high school ranks.
Austin Hendrick, right field, HS (PA)
At a certain point, a question becomes applicable in draft research. Do you see this guy as a valid starter in the future? If so, he makes sense. Hitting on that answer accurately, either way, sways an organization's draft effectiveness, and translates somewhat accurately to wins and losses. This draft is awash in right fielders. Some will cash. Some won't. Deciding what fact, and where's the friction, moves the needle.
Hendrick has power. Lots of it. That's really not a question. His defense seems reasonable or better, but he is a right fielder. The friction is the contact. He swings and misses quite a bit, especially against good pitching. He's in western Michigan, which isn't Houston, Los Angeles or Miami. Will he learn to hit better pitching as a pro athlete, facing good pitching six or seven days a week, five months a year? Answer the question now, because, if he figures it out, he won't be easily obtained in trade in four years.
I'm good with Hendrick, who has mildly slipped since play stopped. The Cubs need to start filling in position with guys who are really good at baseball, and Hendrick might be along those lines. In a DH-always environment, having 12 or 15 good hitters might as well become the standard. Coaches unable to get Hendrick to hit might be gone soon, for good reason. His swing needs ironing, and if he commits to that, he should be fine. Eventually.
Here is some video of Hendrick, including from the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field last year.
Robert Hassell, outfielder, HS (TN)
At some point, researching prospects from a team perspective, you find guys you want to see selected before your team selects. Hassell falls into that category. It isn't that he's a bad player or citizen. I don't want to break ties 54 different ways.
Hassell sounds center field over right. The bat sounds more developing than developed. The Padres seem to have a focus on him, and a few other teams as well. Cool. I can pass on Hassell a bit, not expecting the decision to matter. Could he develop into Charlie Blackmon? Sure. I doubt the Cubs get the chance, and I doubt most Cubs fans will consider him worth minding in another pipeline. But, he could be a great get.
Here is some video of Hassell.
Ed Howard, shortstop, HS (IL)
The bells keep going off in my head about Howard. The Cubs should have great information on a player from Mount Carmel. He comps very similarly to Cristian Hernandez, who the Cubs are likely investing in come July 2 when international signings begin. Would the Cubs invest heavily in two shortstops in a month? Wouldn't that be overloading one position?
The reason shortstops make so much sense is that, if a shortstop can actually play, he can play just about anywhere. If two really good shortstops are developing in one organization in a similar timeline, and both are "top five in the order hitters," you move one to another position. Problem solved, quite easily, really.
Howard and Hernandez both have the defense down, and the bats aren't too far behind. Howard gets a slight nod with the glove, and Hernandez bats sounds a bit more advanced. In other years, add them both, and send Howard to Mesa. Prep Hernandez for Mesa in 2021. Am I expecting Howard? No. The Cubs brass hasn't tipped that yet.
The Cubs brass relishes in surprise. I will chuckle if Howard slips to the Cubs, with the Phillies and White Sox leaning college hitters. Howard is exactly what Theo Epstein covets. Quick and versatile, and a bat that should play. If it happens, bring it.
Here’s video of Howard.
Jared Kelley, right-handed pitcher, HS (TX)
Every draft class has a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher from Texas. The 6-2 Kelley is this year's model. He's in the 20 range on the Fangraphs list. As such, his game isn't as refined as some might have hoped. Of course, it's tough to refine a baseball dossier when no games are being played.
It boils to style and specifics. The Cubs new person turning in the draft names is Dan Kantrovitz. He selected Jack Flaherty when doing that role for St. Louis. If Kantrovitz buys Kelley as a suitable future rotation fulcrum, I won't argue. That said, I doubt it's Kelley to the Cubs. However, whoever grabs him has a valid arm to listen to every five days if the parent club is underperforming.
Here’s Kelley pitching in the Under Armour game at Wrigley last year.