A while back, I had an entire idea brewing up on the run, or the limp, toward the season finish, with an eye on the Draft. The reality seems that the Cubs are a much better team than some of the teams that look like they will draft fifth or sixth. Two things that have played out positively this season have been rather apparent. The Cubs have gotten a huge immediate payout on waiver wire claim Frank Schwindel. Their aggressive use of the Des Moines to Chicago shuttle has given scads of pitchers a chance to shine or misfire. With the July trades, the Cubs pipeline is relatively balanced and nourished. Here is a look at the last few weeks of the season and the 2022 Draft class.
In general, the 2022 class is deeper than top-heavy. As such, getting a pick in the top eight probably wouldn’t be that much different than a pick in the top six. Arguably, the bigger discrepancy in selecting eighth or sixth (or whatever the number ends up being) will be in the dollar amount the Cubs get to spend on their entire pool. For instance, Jordan Wicks, selected in July at 21, was in the club’s internal Top Ten. It’s very possible the Cubs’ fifth preference in the 2022 cycle might slip to them, wherever they’re selecting.
Whether you are a devotee of the MLB site, Fangraphs, Prospects LIve, or whoever else, the depth is real. Regardless if I’m buying the specific orders on any specific list, there is quality on the college and prep sides, pitching and hitting. Not only will the top pick likely be useful, the Cubs won’t seem to have many players (hitters or pitchers) in the pipeline being gifted opportunities they haven’t earned. That hadn’t been the case in many seasons.
The Cubs can shoot for upside, generally, in the 2022 Draft. Whether a college arm, a prep athlete, or whatever, the entire premise of needing a placeholder at a spot in South Bend, or whatever, is no longer a concern. If you take the time to watch a college game or three in 2022, you’re allowed to prioritize players that look legitimate, instead of merely functional. Here are a few names that have jumped out at me, in no specific order.
Termarr Johnson, infield. Mays High School (GA)
Despite being on the smallish side at 5’8”, Johnson can hit. He hits with power, He hits it where it’s pitched, and has the jets to stretch singles to doubles and doubles to triples. He’s unlikely to stay at short, but his bat figures to play wherever he ends up.
Elijah Green, center field. IMG Academy, Florida
Power meets speed. Most people might put Green at the top. I’m not, because I’m not hung up on rankings. I’d like to show eight players worth taking in the first round. Already 6’3” and 215, he looks the part.
Jace Jung, infield. Texas Tech
Like Johnson above, Jung might be a second baseman or third baseman as a professional. Jung is already 6 feet and 200 pounds. Gary Scott was listed as 6 feet and 175. Bill Mueller was 5’11”, 175. Jung is bigger than those guys. Already. Jung’s Big 12 OPS in 2021 was 1.159, with 21 homers in 56 games. (The league average OPS was .828.) To make it more fun, Texas Tech has a fantastic audio stream, so you can hear Jung do what he’s going to do in 2022.
Brooks Lee, shortstop. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Playing for his dad in college, he hit .342 with 10 homers in 250 plate trips in 2021. Moving to the Cape Cod League through the summer, he hit six homers in 21 games. Lee makes all sorts of sense up the middle. A 6’2” 205 switch-hitter, even if bounced to third, the bat should play. And he might be able to stay at short.
Druw Jones, center field. Wesleyan High School (GA)
Yes. That’s Andruw Jones’ son. Yes, he’s representing the moniker, so far. He’s 6’3”, because why not? He’s still tinkering with his swing a bit, but pretty much every prep will adjust a little something with their swing as they develop. (Brennen Davis is a good example.) If “forced” to accept Jones with the first pick, he seems acceptable.
Dylan Lesko, right-handed pitcher. Buford High School (GA)
I’m notoriously afraid of selecting prep arms early. If Lesko is still on the board when the Cubs are selecting, he’d be really tempting. He’s already throwing in the high 90s with a reasonably tame delivery. At 6’3” ,170, his best secondary pitch, so far, is a change-up. Sounds like what the Cubs might lean toward.
Brock Porter, right-haded pitcher. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School (MI)
Porter is already used to cold weather, is regularly in the mid-90s, and his best secondary is a change-up. The 6’4”, 205 pounder is already getting “spin rate” praise for his slider.
Jacob Berry, third base. LSU
A beast at Arizona as a freshman last season, he’s followed his coach to Baton Rouge for 2022. The 6 foot, 205 pound switch-hitter had an OPS of 1.115 in Tucson in 2021. He ought to be able to stick at third, and his average and power are both worth being interested in.
Needless to say, draft boards will change between now and June or July. One need not get bent out of shape if the Cubs would have to “settle” for a player like any of these. However, if the Cubs do stumble a bit late? They’ll get an earlier choice with more spending space.