My draft writing here has slacked a bit recently. I suppose I should apologize, but I won’t. Part of it involves what the draft is likely to become. Some of it is a reduction in quantity of scheduled games. But, part of it is best run through in a recent discussion. The draft, as important as it is, doesn’t move the needle for most baseball fans, when they’ll have to wait years to see any payoff.
Someone posited that draft picks should be eligible to be traded, because if the Cubs were going to trade some known pieces for the chance to draft Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter, it could be big news. Perhaps, it might be. I think the interest in most prospects is both based on unrealistic expectations, and fleeting. Cubs fans are fascinated by Patrick Wisdom because he’s crushing the ball. In spring training, when putting up ordinary numbers, he was an afterthought.
The person that Wisdom, or Sergio Alcantara is, doesn’t matter. All that matters is him putting up numbers. Then his story becomes fascinating. If one of the fire-and-brimstone relievers ceases to record outs, he’s boring. What matters is the results, for almost everyone. A prospect can’t put up results, yet, so they don’t matter, yet. If they never do, they never will. That’s the prevailing mindset, and I’ll die on that hill. To continue success, players from “wherever” have to be located to come to MLB, eventually, and force MLB fans to care about them.
One of my follows this college season was East Carolina University. Connor Norby has as good of a bat as there is in college. Gavin Williams can rush it up at 97 and 98 and has a full repertoire to boot. I don’t know that I’d request Williams or Norby at 21, but I’d certainly cheer for them through the pipeline if it’s the case. However, if the Cubs flipped their 21st pick for the 27th pick, and a seventh-rounder in 2021 and a third-rounder in 2025 (not currently permitted), ordinary fans wouldn’t care. Even if they grabbed Norby or Williams at 27.
Most fans want to see the current Cubs team run off a nine-of-11 win string. Who they select in the draft is too far in the future. Since the draft has been backed up to July, I’d imagine many college and high school prospective picks are taking three vacations. MLB teams have compounds in Florida or Arizona. Line up nine or 10 interviews in each time zone, get some numbers on a computer screen, discuss signing bonus expectations, and be-bop to the next site. And don’t forget to make it to the MLB Combine in North Carolina to guarantee full draft bonus rights.
I do think how players have done in the NCAA baseball tournament will matter. The guy who hits four homers on the season, but hits four in the regional? That sort of guy will get drafted. But much of everything is going to get more like “Tampa Bay.” If the Cubs like a pitcher or hitter, college or prep, but he’s a tough sign? They might go another way. Find guys that answer the questions properly, and are ready to play right away.
Did I just describe Norby or Williams? I don’t have any idea.
To me, draft homework isn’t about running off 450 words on some prep out of Philly that was just mocked to the Cubs in the third round. That might be what you’re after, but to me, it’s bassackward. Know which leagues are good. Know which college arms seem useful. Michael McGreevey has been mocked to the Cubs a few times. Cool. I still don’t like pitchers in the first round, especially with as few valid offensive outfielders as the Cubs have in Myrtle Beach. Or South Bend.
The Cubs will draft a few pitchers, who will get either slow-played or entirely shut down in 2021. Then, if they’re healthy in 2022, they’ll pitch in a few games. Then, I’ll pay more attention to them. Drafting pitchers is part of the draft, but the hitters are the ones that get to play five games a week. That gets to answer questions sooner than later.
You’re welcomed to look forward to this or that about whichever drafted pitcher. I want players to get brought in, and start playing. Join the 180 players permitted to play, and push guys toward the back into being traded to other organizations. Trades of draft picks won’t make the draft interesting if people don’t care about a pitchers duel between ECU’s Williams and Kumar Rocker from Vanderbilt. College games are often fantastic, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. If you want to discuss what you think the Cubs ought to be looking for, feel free to fire away below.
As far as any insightful comment on which mock drafts carry more weight than others? I’m more interested in the Dallas Baptist game against Virginia, or the Notre Dame game against Mississippi. I learn from listening to games, not whispers from unnamed sources in an MLB front office.