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2021 MLB Draft Prep: A focus on college baseball, now in its fourth week

With lots of video.

Andy Weber, the Cubs’ fifth-round pick in 2018, plays in a 2021 spring training game
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Through four weeks, I’m realizing how much I’m enjoying college baseball this season. Whether I’m being adequate at spreading the seasonal cheer is a different question, but I truly enjoy having games back. And that’s my focus this week. Having games to follow is more important than ever, and which teams are wearing which jerseys is less important than ever. I recently stumbled into a decent NAIA tilt between one school I was remotely familiar with, and another I had no awareness of. The announcer was decent at explaining the basics, and the game was enough to amuse me for four hours. My hope is to stress the continual: “Who’s better? The pitcher, or the hitter? And why?” aspect of the game.

As much as the owners of MLB teams give me reasons to not support their financial endeavors, and there are plenty of those, compelling baseball can take me places few other events can. While, for many, cheering for fabric is the key, I’m enjoying baseball exponentially more as I wander from that mindset. I still want the Cubs to make good decisions, and those good decisions should lead to a level of success, but that’s moving the needle less as time goes on.

On Saturday, I was following an Illinois twinbill that started shortly after the basketball squad punched their ticket to the Big Ten Tournament final. The Illini’s top player is their shortstop Brandon Comea. He hasn’t been hitting this season, but he hasn’t brought his offensive slump to the field, yet. Similarly, he’s gotten on base rather regularly. With the walks and hit-by-pitches, he’s been a virtual peak Mark Bellhorn. Comea is currently on my fourth-round page on my draft board (linked below). Instead of blindly cheering for the jersey, I’m much more about assessing my assessments this year. I know that most of the people that seriously draft-assess are better at it than I am, but when you enjoy something, the learning angle is fun. What is it that gets me to think one guy is a third-rounder, and another guy sixth? It’s still in-flux, but it’s the angle of baseball that amuses, baffles, and mystifies me.

One thing’s for certain. Getting annoyed over a spring start by Adbert Alzolay is far less compelling for me than the Saturday game in Baton Rouge. LSU had defeated Texas-San Antonio 3-1 on Friday, but the visitors had the Bayou Bengals on the ropes, repeatedly, in the middle game of the series. LSU blasted a three-run shot in the ninth to tie, a two-run shot in the twelfth to tie, and I listened in for the 13th-inning walk-off blast. If UTSA is pushing LSU that hard, someone on that Roadrunners squad can either pitch or hit. And they’re among the far-too-many squads I’m not especially familiar with, yet.

I’m still strongly preferring a Cubs draft awash with hitters. Not entirely, but more than normal. The entire premise of prioritizing greatly flawed pitchers by the bushel-basket-full, while avoiding college hitters that hit, hasn’t worked. Pitchers break too often, and are regularly exposed as they can’t reach the Double-A level without retaining the edge they had on draft day. Meanwhile, fifth-rounder (2018, from the University of Virginia) Andy Weber keeps on representing. College bats in the top six rounds ought to hit well enough through a pipeline to retain their value for a while. Find them, like other teams do. (Not exclusively, but 60/40?)

My mindset on the first pick is still to get the player most likely to get 10 WAR, or better, through his cost-controlled seasons. If the Cubs don’t have a computer program efficient at that, they might as well go back to the Jim Hendry days. For the second, third, and fourth rounds, I’d want the guy most likely to eight WAR, six WAR, and five WAR (or better), with on-the-fly adjustments necessary to account for adding pitching and a prep or two. However, realistically, I want a steady supply of players who have not only represented in college, but should turn their games up a notch or three as they become pro athletes. How would you phrase the type of player you’d most be interested in the Cubs bringing in with pick 21?

Poll

Which best defines you?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Leaning pitcher.
    (6 votes)
  • 30%
    Leaning hitter
    (13 votes)
  • 30%
    Leaning college
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    Leaning high school
    (4 votes)
  • 13%
    It’s not July yet
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (1 vote)
43 votes total Vote Now

The reality is, once I take to digging a college player’s game, I can back him regardless who drafts him. If the Cubs do the basic things properly, they’ll be rewarded. If they do the essentials poorly, they’ll get what they deserve for that. I have about six or eight compelling college arms I’d like to get a read on, hoping to add to the quality of my draft board. And I won’t prioritize two relievers in the top five rounds.

Here is D1 Baseball’s Friday recap of various college games. And, here are some notes and video on various players the Cubs should be interested in.

Peyton Stovall is a hitter moving up the prep side of the board.

Dylan Neuse update:

Izaac Pacheco is on the major lists, near the top. Here’s why.

Ethan Wilson is a first- or second-round name for the Cubs. Here, he mounts a huge at-bat for South Alabama in a mid-week game against Alabama. Check the entire thread.

Gunnar Hoglund doesn’t like to be on my second-round list, showing possible first-round talent.

I won’t show much Jordan Lawlar on the list, but...

Who is Jud Fabian? Why is he off the board long before the Cubs select?

Perhaps I need to prioritize a Hoosiers game.

An ex-Cubs draft pick (36th round, 2018 out of high school in Wisconsin) went yard for Illinois on Saturday.

Here’s a fun hypothetical: Would you be interested in this player off of this 80-second video? Why or why not?

Poll

What round is too late for you? And, yes. I know you’re not a pro scout.

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Sixth round
    (1 vote)
  • 41%
    Eighth round
    (5 votes)
  • 25%
    14th round
    (3 votes)
  • 25%
    18th round
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Let another team draft him, and run him to the advanced minors in two years.
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
12 votes total Vote Now

If that’s not your way of talent assessment, how about Jarrett Whorff? A senior for Louisiana Tech, he was a stud on Sunday facing the top-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. Whorff went the distance, taking 102 pitches to give up two hits in a complete-game shutout. He walked one and fanned 10. That Hogs team isn’t likely to get humiliated by an 85 mile per hour fastball with added garbage. A early-third day pick off of that outing? Certainly. But get the Louisiana scout to his next couple starts. (Tulane in New Orleans and Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg are their next two stops.)

Poll

Which best approximates your interest in Jarrett Whorff?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    I’d send a scout for his next few starts.
    (8 votes)
  • 23%
    The Cubs should have already had a full dossier on him.
    (3 votes)
  • 7%
    8th to 12th Round
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Let St. Louis or Cleveland get value out of him. Then, I’ll complain, instead of being pro-active now.
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
13 votes total Vote Now

Here is my board, which is very college-heavy. Here’s another mock, with the Yankees torqueing me off. And here’s Mason McRae’s updated board for the July draft:

If teams all got to spend the same amount of money on the draft, gaming the system wouldn’t be rewarded so much.