This is the "pitchers-only version" of ”Who are these guys?" Pitchers in the first round of a draft are a risky gambit, as so many things can go wrong, and in any outing. For instance, it seemed every four or five Dylan Cease starts in the Cubs pipeline, he was being lifted early for this reason or that. Pitch count was the least concerning. The "his forearm stiffness seems relatively minor" reports had me seeking out useful antacid brands. He's stayed reasonably healthy, but still hasn't figured out commanding the strike zone. Any early draft pick who doesn't stay healthy, and command the zone (at the MLB level) is a wasted pick. That information isn't available for an amateur pitcher.
Garrett Crochet, left-handed pitcher, Tennessee
Volunteers coach Tony Vitello took a rather noted gamble early in the college campaign. He held back his presumed Friday guy the first three weekends. The Volunteers won most of the time, anyway. Crochet finally pitched in an abbreviated outing in week four, the season's last week. Crochet was fine, but on a pitch count.
Crochet tosses 95-97. His second pitch is a slider, with his third a change. For Crochet to be an MLB starter, two have to get MLB outs, and the third has to be usable. It's a coin-flip, with a huge payout if it works. The draft, though, isn't about hope. Will he be able to stay healthy and get outs above Triple-A? I haven't seen the Cubs develop a hard-thrower in awhile. My guess is he's not the guy, but if he is, saddle up for a bumpy ride. And, if it is Crochet, listen to an audio stream of his. Listening leads to learning. And for more on Crochet, here’s video:
Cole Wilcox, right-handed pitcher, Georgia
I don't like early pitching draft selections. Nonetheless, much of my four-week college baseball foray in 2020 was pitcher-centric. Listen to as many of the top arms every week in game action. Are they "strike one-strike two," or are they nibbling? Wilcox was an easy listen, as he wasn't a Friday guy. (The Friday guy is usually the best arm on the team.) Why wasn't he a Friday guy? Emerson Hancock.
In as quiet of a voice as possible, I might prefer Wilcox. Wilcox seemed to fare as well against teams as Hancock, who figures to go in the top five choices. The velocity isn't a question for Wilcox. Whether he can get outs with his other pitches, and whether he can throw enough strikes are valid yellow flags, though neither seem especially red. Developing pitchers is a craft beyond measure, because it's so tough to peg which guys can do it well. I like Wilcox, and wish I'd had more chances to follow him in 2020.
Here’s Wilcox pitching in the Cape Cod League in 2019:
Carmen Mlodzinski, right-handed pitcher, South Carolina
Mlodzinski (pronounced in the area of muh-JIN-ske) was down the board at the start of the college campaign, but rose each of the first three weekends. I listened to his fourth start. While I don't remember anything concretely, I valued his start over, say, Hancock, who wasn't falling to 16.
Now, after weeks and months of no games, Mlodzinski is back down in the 40's on the Fangraphs board. In other words, if the Cubs buy on Mlodzinski, they'll still have to take him early. I doubt it happens, and he'll likely be gone before the Cubs second choice at 51. Mlodzinski has mid-to-high nineties velocity. Here’s video:
Nick Bitsko, right-handed pitcher, HS (VA)
Bitsko was going to be a top-ranked high school senior, until he made a very fortunate decision to reclassify as a 2020 draft-eligible. As tricky as this draft promises to be, next season's draft will be bonkers. Bitsko ought to go top 20, and get on after that with his career.
I really have no idea how to "in-depth" on a high school senior. He was better than teams with 98 percent of the guys he pitched against in high school games not going pro in baseball. I doubt it's Bitsko at 16, but scouting is seeing into the future. He'll be an entirely valid prospect for whichever team selects him which applies for 50-80 names, this cycle.
The Cubs figure to take a pitcher in Round 1 or Round 2 come the tenth an eleventh. The pitcher they select will likely be capable of starting at the MLB level. Will the potential get turned into reality? As long as the Cubs remain sub-standard at getting results from pitching prospects, their post-season success opportunities will remain scant.
Here’s video of Bitsko: