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2021 MLB Draft Prep: MLB Pipeline’s mock Top 20 picks

And some more possibles for the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in July.

Christian Franklin (25) at the College Baseball Showdown in February
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Often, I’ve had my introduction ready before the college baseball week begins. As I listened to Max Ferguson and Tennessee walk-off Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, I had no introduction yet. Fortunately, a mock draft that initially tweaked me served as a perfect opportunity for an introduction. Two of the best, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, mocked the first 20 picks. With the Cubs sitting at 21, this is a decent shot for me to give you the why on my “next five” coming off of their mock.

I remain rather steadfast in my belief that if you want your draft opinion to be of any concern to anyone, do whatever you consider your prep work to be before the draft. If you choose to predict by astrological sign, numerology, or best video clip, then do it, and go on record before the choice is made. Sometimes, the information moves rapidly after the draft. Waiting three weeks or three years, to see who does what, completely disrespects the reality of the draft being on three specific days, now in July.

Getting the selection and development down is how the Cubs caught up to the Cardinals in the middle of the last decade. If they had selected Jon Gray and Max Pentecost instead of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, we might still be waiting, and debating if a team can win through the draft.

Here are my “next four” in alphabetical order.

Ryan Cusick, right-handed pitcher, Wake Forest

I’m not a fan of picking pitchers early, and Cusick is a boom/bust type. At 6-6, he’s given up a hit an inning in an ACC schedule, and walked a hitter every other inning or so. However, his high nineties velocity tempts me like a quarter sale on used CDs. There’s every chance he’s insignficant, but I’d buy on the Cubs’ willingness to tweak pitchers. Toss in that the Brewers drafted him out of high school (40th Round in 2018), and I’ll sign off on it.

Jud Fabian, center field, Florida

How important are numbers in assessing players for the baseball draft? They’re kind of what we go by, He entered the campaign top five on draft boards. The odd “throws left bats right” type, he’s a legitimate center fielder. His strikeouts are way up, and so are his homers. He doesn’t seem to be “that guy” for contact-craving fans to detest, but his strikeout rate has ballooned. I’m still buying him, if he’s on the board.

Christian Franklin, center field, Arkansas

In the mock, they note a run on catchers. Which is fine with me. My primary is Harry Ford, who went a couple before the Cubs in this mock, but I want better outfielders, anyway. Franklin has a four-figure OPS this season, and the pitching in the SEC is filthy. I won’t swear on his swing on a holy document regarding MLB pitching in five years, but his strikeout/walk numbers are better than Fabian’s. The Gator has better power and defensive creds. I’d take either at 21, and would almost expect the White Sox to take the other at 22. He’s generally done what’s been needed to sell me.

Luca Tresh, catcher, North Carolina State

If you’re having a catcher run, and leaving the second-best one on the board, I’ll take him. The preps have too little history. Adrian Del Castillo is a catcher like JD Davis is a third baseman. Tresh’s home run swing isn’t there yet (a bit below seven percent for his career), but he doesn’t really have many weaknesses. If Tresh is the guy, he should be in Advanced-A South Bend by August of 2022. Tresh should have a 10+ WAR career over his cost-controlled years, as with the other two bats. I’m totally good with any of these four if those are the first twenty.

Tresh is a cousin of 1960s Yankee star Tom Tresh.

Chase Petty is a prep pitcher. Do you like video?

I’m aware of first baseman/outfielder James Wood. Not quite willing to put him on my list at 21, but he can hit.

The 2016 Dodgers draft class:

Brendan Comia, great defense:

Nice catch, Blake Marabell:

Bob Moore:

When are you good drafting the best closer in the country?

The Illini had a three-pitcher no-hitter on Sunday. Two plays were stunning in the 1-0 final. With one out in the home eighth, Purdue had a runner on third with a 2-2 pitch. Here’s what happened:

Illinois hadn’t scored into the home ninth in that one. With the runners cornered and one out: