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2021 MLB Draft Prep: Tre Hondras, the College of Central Florida, and other thoughts

The college baseball season will be under way soon.

Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I had developed a bad habit. I was sending in most of my articles on my phone. It's so easy, especially in the hibernation months. Nonetheless, my notebook had had a minor crash, and I hadn't gotten back around to washing it. (What a terrible term with a computer device. Computers and bathtubs don't mix.) I finally got around to my computer fix, and now, I can watch college games on a screen bigger than my phone. And, hopefully, my draft prep content can border on last season's.

One team I've entirely taken to is College of Central Florida. I can even tell you the moment I knew I was hooked. Tre' Hondras (from suburban South Holland and Ed Howard's teammate on Jackie Robinson West in 2014) brought me in, but any of the top four hitters for CCF could get drafted. Their lead-off hitter, shortstop Nick Calero, seems a bit Ryan Theriot. (Look up Theriot’s career value before dismissing him.) Matt Cedarburg is their second baseman, leading the team in hits. Miguel Usechi hits third, and moved from left to catcher about a week ago. I assumed the regular catcher was injured. On Friday, I learned Usechi took his spot. When I realize strategy is going on, and said strategy fascinates me, I'm hooked. Hondras has moved from fifth to fourth in the lineup, and from right to center. When one of them gets selected and signed, which figures to happen eventually, I will follow their progress. Any of the four.

Three years ago, the Florida junior college scene had me mystified. The Cubs selected Brendon Little out of State College of Florida/Manatee-Sarasota. Toronto selected Nate Pearson next, out of CCF. They're two of my main watches now. (Announcers seem allergic to announcing velocities, though. Sad trombone.)

Hondras has three homers, but has a bit of trouble with anything off-speed. As a reminder, it's early February. If he had stayed with Michigan, not only would he have not played yet, his schedule would still be a secret. (Shame, Big Ten.) Assessing the players that will be the best selections isn't only on who and what they are now, but five and six years from now. If a team waits until it's obvious a player is good to acquire, they only get a break if the other team is in salary dump mode or is bad at talent assessment.

The Cubs sit at overall picks 21, 55, 93, and 123 so far, come July’s draft. It might toggle a bit still, but the big names have signed (so compensation picks have generally already been set). The Cubs also have yet to lose any international spending space for the next cycle, if the international draft is delayed.

Since Albert Almora Jr. has gone to the Mets, a bit has been made on what qualifies a draft pick as botched or wasted. Almora played in a Game 7 in the World Series for his team, scoring a tie-breaking run. To me, that sounds like a valid contribution.

Would it have been nice if he was a 500 at-bat guy for four straight years? Of course. I still consider a reasonable guide for a botched draft pick to be Earl Cunningham. Given three years to get out of Low-A Ball in the Midwest League, he failed. Ed Howard was the 16th overall pick last June. Slightly over half of the 16s play in MLB. Which includes players with no WAR, or negative amounts.

Assessing merges what can be seen now and what will become available in the future. Will the player be able to hit the "in pitch" in five or six years? Or mix his pitches well enough to retire those who do? Look at the histories. Look at percentages. For teams that are far better than average, attempt to figure out why they prosper. Instead of getting angry at the player or executives, I try to take mis-steps as a learning moment. When I botch something, how do I get better so I don't botch the same thing the next time?