The Cubs reward for going 71-91 last year is that seventh pick, which is the earliest they’ve picked in the draft since they took Kyle Schwarber with the fourth pick back in 2014. The last time they had the seventh pick was in 1976, when they took Herman Segelke. The other time they had the seventh pick, they took Scot Thompson in 1974. However, that was a lifetime and two ownership changes ago. Some very good or great players taken this century with the seventh pick are Andrew Benintendi (2015), Aaron Nola (2014), Max Fried (2012), Mike Minor (2009), Clayton Kershaw (2006), Troy Tulowitzki (2005), Nick Markakis (2003) and Prince Fielder (2002).
Of course, there were some busts with the seventh pick as well, such as Trey Ball (2013) and Matt LaPorta (2007). But more often than not, the seventh pick will produce at least an average major leaguer and will produce a star a decent percent of the time. So the Cubs need to get this right.
Who will the Cubs take with the seventh pick? I can promise you that I don’t know, but I can offer some possibilities. I can tell you that there is at least a 95 percent chance that they will take a hitter. Why? Because while this draft has many promising young hitters, there isn’t a single pitcher that any of the people who study this for a living thinks is worthy of a Top Ten pick. The pitching in this draft is weak. It is possible, although unlikely, that if all the position players the Cubs want should be gone at number seven, that they throw a Hail Mary and take a pitcher. It could be someone like right-hander Kumar Rocker, whom the Mets took with the 10th overall pick last year but didn’t offer a contract because there was something on his medicals they didn’t like, or Alabama left-hander Connor Prielipp, who hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2021 but who was impressive at the Draft Combine and was projected as a possible top five pick before his surgery. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think the Cubs want to take on that much risk with this pick.
So who might the Cubs take? They might take third baseman Cam Collier.
There are three sons of former major leaguers expected to go in the first 10 picks. Two of them, Druw Jones, son of Andruw Jones, and Jackson Holliday, son of Matt Holliday, are expected to be two of the top three picks. Neither one is likely to be still on the board at number seven. But Cam Collier, the son of Lou Collier, just might be.
Yes, Cam Collier is only 17 years old. Collier, like Bryce Harper many years ago, got his GED after his sophomore year in high school and then enrolled in Chipola College in Florida, one of the premier junior college baseball programs in the country. This made him eligible for the draft this year, after what would have been his junior year in high school.
What everyone loves about Collier is his bat. He’s got a quick, left-handed stroke with superior bat-to-ball skills. He has the ability to square up the pitch and line it to all fields. He’s shown no problems handling better velocity on fastballs in junior college. Right now he hasn’t shown a lot of loft on the ball to drive it for home runs, but he’s only 17 ½years old and he’s still growing. Now measured at 6’2” and 210 pounds, the feeling is that he will develop the strength to hit for power in the majors.
Collier has also shown strong pitch recognition skills, which can be hard to find among players so young. That’s something that the Cubs have prioritized lately. He still reportedly struggles to make consistent hard contact against breaking pitches, but at least he’s not swinging at a lot of stuff in the dirt. Collier has a good eye and combined with that stroke, he should be a good hitter.
Playing against players who are two or three years older than he is at Chipola this spring, Collier hit .333/.419/.537 with eight home runs in 52 games. He walked 25 times and struck out 33. He’s now playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League and while he’s only hitting .217 there (albeit with a .379 OBP) in nine games, just the very fact that he’s surviving in that tough league at that young age is a strong sign for his future.
Defensively, Collier should stay at third base. He has a very strong arm (Collier also pitches at Chipola and his fastball is clocked in the low-90s) and he’s athletic enough to make the plays. Even he admits he needs to work on his footwork somewhat, but he reportedly has a strong work ethic and I don’t think there’s any physical reason he can’t improve. There are some scouts that see his big body and young age and project him to outgrow the position, but there is always someone who will say something like that. Maybe in his thirties he moves to a corner outfield position like Kris Bryant, but there’s no reason to worry about that now. That’s still 13 years away.
On the basepaths, Collier is pretty average. Some worry he’ll slow down as he matures and adds weight, but that’s the risk you take with a 17½ year old.
Collier’s biggest strength and biggest liability is his age. For a analytic-based drafting strategy that values youth and age vs. level calculations, Collier is a dream draft pick. He’s regularly outplaying 19 and 20 year olds at age 17. But his age also adds a lot of risk. While Collier is extremely advanced for a 17-year-old, the key phrase there is “for a 17-year-old.” He’s still a raw kid who hasn’t faced a lot of adversity on the diamond. It’s hard to project how young players will turn out, but Collier has a lot of things going for him, including his dad. Collier also lists two of his dad’s old buddies, Marquis Grissom and Marvin Freeman, as mentors who have helped him navigate the ups-and-downs of the sport.
The Cubs have been connected with Collier for so long that I think if he’s on the board at number seven, they’re going to take him. What might stop them from taking him is that Collier has been too impressive this year. If the draft had been held six weeks ago I think there would have been a 90 percent chance that Collier would still have been available when the Cubs got a chance to pick. But after an impressive outing at the Draft Combine and what he’s doing in the Cape Cod League has got other teams interested in him as well. He’s not likely to go among the first three picks of the draft, but the Pirates at number four have had more and more scouts and front office personnel present when he plays. The Marlins could take him at number six as well. Right now, I’d say there’s less than a 50 percent chance that Collier is on the board at number seven. But if he is, I’m going to say he’ll be the Cubs pick.
Here’s some video of Collier at a game for Chipola in May. Although I think he only goes 1 for 4 in this game, you can tell a few things from this video. The first is his crouched batting stance and how he stays back on the ball. The other thing that stands out is the amazing bat speed through the zone. It’s a pretty level swing as well.
And here is Collier at a high school showcase in 2021. Here you get to see him do some fielding drills and even make a nice diving stop at third in a game.