The MLB Draft starts this Sunday, July 17. We’ve been looking at several candidates for the Cubs’ first pick at number seven over the past two weeks and today the series concludes with look at some of the lesser possibilities.
I’ve written up four of these candidate profiles already: Chipola College third baseman Cam Collier, Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee, Mays HS (GA) second baseman Termarr Johnson and Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada. I strongly believe that the Cubs’ first-round pick will be one of these four players. However, I’m not 100 percent convinced, so just in case the Cubs go off my board, here are four more possibilities.
The one thing that everyone is saying about this draft is that it is one of the most unpredictable drafts in many years. There’s no clear-cut number one player and many teams drafting near the top may look to draft someone willing to take a lower bonus so that they can spend the money they saved on players who fell into the second- and third-rounds because of their bonus demands. On top of that, as I’ve mentioned, there is a real scarcity of elite pitching in the draft this year. The few pitchers who scouts believe have the elite stuff to be potential No. 1 or No. 2 starters are recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The man in charge of the Cubs draft is yice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz. This is Kantrovitz’s third draft with the Cubs after taking over in 2020. But it’s not the third draft he’s been in charge of. From 2012 to 2014, Kantrovitz was in charge of running the Cardinals drafts. In those three years, he selected Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty and Patrick Wisdom in 2012, Marco Gonzalez and Luke Voit in 2013 and Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver in 2014, among others.
Kantrovitz has said the Cubs are focused on seven players right now (The Athletic sub. req.) and that makes sense as the Cubs have the seventh pick in the draft. If there are seven players the Cubs love, then one of them has to still be available at number seven.
Of course, Kantrovitz isn’t saying who those seven players are. If we go by the rumors and the on-line rankings, those seven are the four I’ve already profiled and three high schoolers: outfieders Druw Jones and Elijah Green along with shortstop Jackson Holliday.
Kantrovitz won’t make these picks by himself. Usually the team president and general manager have a lot of input on who the first few picks will be. After that, Kantrovitz will mostly be making the picks himself although by the time the draft gets into the teens and twenties, scouts will be lobbying him to take the favorite players that they’ve seen. Scouting directors don’t have the time to personally see all thirty players their team is going to draft.
So if the Cubs don’t take one of the four players I’ve already profiled, it’s extremely likely that they will choose one of these four players.
Elijah Green. OF. IMG Academy (FL). 18 years old. 6’3”, 225. B:R, T:R.
Considering the consensus top-seven players in the draft, two of them, Jones and Holliday, have no practical chance to fall to the Cubs. You could say the same thing about Green, but the rumors are all over the place about him.
Elijah Green, the son of former NFL Pro Bowl tight end Eric Green, is an incredible athlete with raw power, speed and a strong arm. He’s drawn some Justin Upton comparisons, or at least what Justin Upton was when the Diamondbacks took him with the first pick of the 2005 Draft. He’s got an incredible combination of power and speed and scouts put a 70 grade on both tools. His arm and defense are both plus as well.
For all these reasons, Green has been expected to go well before the Cubs pick at number seven. But for all this talk about Green’s ceiling, scouts have worried about his ability to make consistent contact. When he does hit the ball, it goes a long way, but for the past two seasons he’s gotten fooled more often than you’d like for an elite prospect, especially on breaking pitches.
Teams can get skittish at the top of the draft because one busted prospect there can cost scouting directors their job. So some teams are going to be scared off by Green’s hit tool. But others will note that he improved in that area as this most recent season went on. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel also makes the point that the quality of pitching that Green has faced at IMG Academy is far better than what most high-school prospects see. And the one thing that no one has questioned on Green is his work ethic. Although his father’s NFL career ended before Elijah was born, he has no doubt absorbed the lessons of what it takes to be a professional athlete from him.
Honestly, Green is not the type of player that either the Cubs or Kantrovitz has favored in recent drafts. I don’t think he’s the man they want. I don’t think he’ll even still be on the board when they pick. But if the Cubs have seven prospects that they like and Green is the last one on the board, they might roll the dice and hope they get a superstar out of him.
Here’s Green taking some at bats in two games. You get the good and the bad here. Some swings and misses and some amazing loud contact.
Jacob Berry. 3B/1B. LSU. 21 years old. 6’0”, 212 pounds. B:S T:R
Berry has been among the best hitters in college baseball every season he’s been on campus. He was NCAA Freshman of the Year at Arizona before he followed his coach to LSU his sophomore season. Berry is a power hitter who stands at the plate in a crouch that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Bagwell — except as a switch-hitter. Maybe he’s not quite as extreme as Bagwell was. Berry has an excellent eye at the plate who walked more often than he struck out this season. He hit .370 with a .464 OBP for the Tigers, so Berry has the ability to get on base. There is a belief among some scouts that he’s just doesn’t have the kind of power from the right side that he has from the left. Still, if you’re a switch-hitter, you want the right side to be your weaker side. And he still hits for average and draws walks against left-handed pitching.
Berry has everything the Cubs look for except a defensive position. While Berry has played third base for LSU this season, few scouts think he can stick there. He also played some corner outfield and the jury is still out on his ability to play there. But most observers are pessimistic. The general consensus is that Berry is a 1B/DH type and it’s hard to use a top ten pick on one of those unless he’s an elite bat. And maybe Berry is an elite bat. He has that potential and he should move through the system fast. But the Cubs had better be sure he’ll be elite if they’re going to take him ahead of some of the other players likely to still be on the board at number seven.
Here’s a collection of Berry highlights:
Zach Neto. SS. Campbell University. 21 years old. 6’0”, 185. B:R, T:R.
Some observers have linked the Cubs with Neto because he’s the type of player that they’ve targeted in recent years. Neto plays a premium defensive position, has a superior hit tool and rarely strikes out. The Big South Player of the Year the past two seasons, Neto hit .407/.514/.769 this past season.
Neto has a really noisy batting stroke with a big leg kick that he might have to tone down in the pros. But so far, he’s had no trouble measuring up anything and making consistent hard contact. He had a 29-game hitting streak this past year with the Camels.
Neto doesn’t project to be a great defensive shortstop, but he’s likely to stick at the position. If not, he certainly could be a good defender at second base. Neto is also an excellent and intelligent baserunner and that makes his above-average but-not-great speed play better than it otherwise would.
Most scouts, however, seem to think the power Neto has shown in college won’t survive the move to wooden bats. Still, he’s the kind of player who could hit 30-to-40 doubles in a season along with low double-digit home runs in the majors.
Here’s highlights from Neto’s 29-game hit streak.
Gavin Cross. OF. Virginia Tech. 21 years old. 6’3”, 210. B:L, T:L.
I’d be pretty surprised if the Cubs selected Cross, but he’s likely to go in the Top 12 picks of the draft at worst. Cross is an advanced college hitter with good power. He does strike out more than the Cubs have liked in their recent draft picks--and he doesn’t have anywhere near the upside of someone like Green where you’d be willing to overlook something like that. But he’s also a patient hitter who is willing to take a walk. He did cut down on his strikeout rate considerably between his sophomore and junior seasons, so perhaps there’s still room for more improvement.
Defensively, Cross started out in right field as a freshman and although he’s moved to center field and doesn’t look bad there, most scouts feel he’s destined to move back to right field in the pros.
If the Cubs were to take Cross, they’d be prioritizing a relatively-safe pick with an advanced bat that’s done nothing but hit for both average and power in the tough ACC conference. He’s not a burner but Cross was fast enough to swipe 12 bases this past season and he’s just quick enough that pitchers need to worry about him. Cross projects out to be more of a solid regular on a good team than a star, which is why I think the Cubs will go in a different direction. But there is a chance that the Cubs will prioritize someone who will move through the system quickly.
Highlights from Cross:
With all this said, I’m extremely confident that the Cubs will select one of the eight players that I’ve profiled over the past week or so. Which, of course, means that they’re probably going to select a pitcher or something like that.