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2021 MLB Draft Prep: Free thinking

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A few thoughts about the draft and how a possible labor dispute might affect who’s chosen, and development.

Jud Fabian of Florida. Could the Cubs select him in the first round?
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

When it comes to MLB Draft Prep, the reader is free to regard or disregard proceedings however they want. So is the writer. For quite a few people, ignoring the entire topic until the last few days is in vogue, and it’s a tough nut to crack. Some love getting swept away in the latest mocks. Breaking down video on rumored players is all the rage for some. Would Michael McGreevy (UC Santa Barbara right-handed pitcher) be a good selection? I still think that mindset is a bit putting the cart before the horse. If you don’t care about the college game, I can’t electrode-stimulate you into being particularly concerned. However, if you have a particular Cubs concern, it’s possible the Cubs could scratch that itch next month.

For starters, whoever the Cubs choose and sign, they will go through “the pipeline” for a few years of minor league tune-up in almost every case. Regardless what any expert projects, the players will prove themselves in games across the country before making it to the big venues. The experts will usually balance the upsides with the yellow or red flags, because anyone the Cubs select will have at least one of at least one of them. The process becomes more enjoyable when you begin to have your own opinions, and try the out for yourself. Minding minor league games can also help.

For instance, most experts use the term Power Five Conferences. It’s accepted protocol to lump the Big Ten in with the ACC, SEC, Big 12, and PAC 12. I say hogwash. The Big Ten isn’t a bad conference, but shouldn’t be confused with the other four in baseball prestige. It’s a thing of mine to reference the Power Four conferences, and I don’t think I’m wrong. The way I follow players, a player from a Big Ten school doesn’t necessarily equate with the other conferences, so I fly with what works for me.

I don’t prefer early draft choices to be pitchers. We know that pitching is important, but the Cubs have historically gotten more from bats than arms, early. I state that I prefer bats early, and will hold to it. Preps scare me, because I don’t think the predictability is as solid off of games against preps as with games against college arms, especially Power Four arms. Does that mean preps are bad choices, necessarily? Of course not, but I tend to lean toward probabilities, not upside.

Let’s take a look at the current Chicago Cubs situation, and the current labor strife scenario. Do you think there will be MLB games in 2022? Some of you expect it. Some of you don’t. If there is no Major League Baseball in 2022, or if there is labor strife over much of the MLB season, does that change how the Cubs should look at the draft? Miguel Amaya, who is on the 4- man roster, could very well miss much of the season — which would cut him off from playing in two of three successive seasons. That wouldn’t help his development. And, to cut off the “then the Cubs ought to trade him” talk, if there’s going to be labor unrest, Amaya’s trade value is probably spiked a bit, because MLB executives likely have a better idea than fans whether there will be a 140- or more game MLB schedule next season.

Let’s look at the team that might be on the 40 man roster next off-season. Perhaps the Cubs will re-sign the core veterans. Perhaps they won’t. Again, the front office probably has a decent idea what will, or won’t happen. Tossing aside “wishing and hoping” (which is a horrible method to use for planning), do you think the core will get extensions before the next games? If not, the Cubs had better get about developing more internally grown offense.

Of course, grabbing hitters and pitchers in each draft is astute. With a 20-round draft, adding nine to eleven of hitters and pitchers seems most balanced, but which players scout best? Get them. And to the best developers and selectors go the spoils.

More specifically, as much complaining as there has been with the Cubs backup catcher role this season, getting a two-way college backstop in the first six rounds or so ought to improve the pipeline from Myrtle Beach to Des Moines the next few seasons. Which ought to help the parent club eventually, if he is properly developed. This could be a more acute concern if there will be a work stoppage in 2022, which would take away from the likelihood of Amaya being a proper regular by 2023.

Have ideas. Roll with what you believe in. The baseball draft creates uncertainty, but the players that do cash in their early years are of great value, whether as somewhat later-round draft choices by their original teams (Keegan Thompson), unsigned free agents by their original teams (Tommy Nance), as free -agent signings later (Patrick Wisdom), or waiver-wire additions (Sergio Alcántara). Teams that get value from afterthoughts are fortunate for having done so.

I’d still prefer the Cubs lean toward a college outfielder early (first or second round), and if it end up being Florida center fielder Jud Fabian, I’d be ecstatic. Does that mean he’d hit at the MLB level? Of course not, I’m not that smart. However, whatever your favorite source is for complete draft information? Peg a favorite. Assess what you think you know, and what you’re dreaming on, Assess how accurate you are, and try to learn from your mistakes.

Each team had better cash on one of their first two choices, something else from the top ten, and something from the third day. Other teams will, so the Cubs might want to, as well. Feel free to treat the draft as a classroom the same way you can treat the “four-hitter bench” versus the “five-hitter bench” as a classroom.

Not only what you prefer, but weighing if what you prefer is actually a useful thing to prefer. I’d prefer hitters early, because whether you’re a Nico Hoerner fan or not, he’s been more useful than a handful of Cubs early pitching selections.