clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 MLB Draft: A review of the 20 new Cubs

There are 20 new Cubs. Here’s what you need to know about all of them.

Zyhir Hope
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 MLB Draft concluded yesterday with picks 11 through 20. Overall, the Cubs selected 20 players, including seven infielders, three outfielders, one catcher and nine pitchers. Of the pitchers, seven were right-handed and two were left-handed. They went very heavy on college players this year, taking 16 players from a four-year school, one junior college player and three high school players.

Here are the 20 players the Cubs took over the course of the three-day event.

  1. Matt Shaw. SS. Maryland. 5’11”, 185 B:R. T:R DOB: 11/06/01
  2. Jaxon Wiggins. RHP. Arkansas. 6’6” 225. DOB: 10/03/01
  3. Josh Rivera. SS. Florida. 6’2”, 215. R/R. DOB: 10/10/00
  4. Will Sanders. RHP. South Carolina. 6’6”, 230. DOB: 03/30/02
  5. Michael Carico. C. Davidson. 6’0, 190. L/R. DOB: 09/04/02
  6. Alfonsin Rosario. OF. P27 Academy (SC). 6’6”, 210. R/R. DOB: 06/21/04
  7. Yahil Melendez. SS. B You Academy (PR). 6’3”, 165. L/R. DOB: 09/05/05
  8. Brett Bateman. OF. Minnesota. 5’10”, 170. L/L. DOB: 03/19/02
  9. Jonathon Long. 1B. Long Beach State. 6’0”, 210. R/R. DOB: 01/20/02
  10. Luis Martinez-Gomez. RHP. Temple College (TX). 6’2”, 178. DOB: 05/27/03
  11. Zyhir Hope. OF. Colonial Forge HS (VA). 6’0”, 193. L/L. DOB: 01/19/05
  12. Carter Trice. 2B. North Carolina State. 6’0”, 200. R/R. DOB: 08/23/02
  13. Sam Armstrong. RHP. Old Dominion. 6’2”, 245. DOB: 09/26/00
  14. Grayson Moore. RHP. Vanderbilt. 6’3”, 215. DOB: 07/09/01
  15. Ty Johnson. RHP. Ball State. 6’6”, 205. DOB: 09/25/01
  16. Daniel Brown LHP. Campbell. 6’3”, 200. DOB: 07/09/01
  17. Ethan Flanagan. LHP. UCLA. 6’3”, 205. DOB: 06/05/02
  18. Brian Kalmer. 3B. Gonzaga. 6’2”, 215. R/R. DOB: 08/17/00
  19. Nick Dean. RHP. Maryland. 6’3”, 210. DOB: 12/26/00
  20. Drew Booster. 3B. Stanford. 6’4”, 226. R/R. 10/02/01

If I had to characterize the Cubs 2023 Draft, I’d say they were hunting for upside as much as possible. They took guys with big tools but big question marks—whether that be an injury history, big holes in their swing, control issues or something else. Most of them will probably never make the majors leagues, but if any of them do, it could pay off big for the team. It’s not everyone they drafted—certainly a few of the Day 3 draftees are limited in their upside—but it is most of them, including many Day 3 picks.

They also took a lot of tall and athletic pitchers. The Cubs certainly believe tall and athletic pitchers give their much-ballyhooed Pitch Lab more to work with and greater upside if they can fix them.

An exception to all of this is first-round pick Matt Shaw. Shaw is pretty close to the complete package and he was a very conventional pick for a Cubs draft team that has liked to defy expectations over the past few seasons. Shaw was one of the best hitters in college baseball this past season, making lots of contact (.341 ave.), getting on base often (.445 OBP) and hitting the ball hard for power (24 home runs, 20 doubles). He has good instincts and good hands on defense. His only real weakness is a below-average throwing arm, but Dansby Swanson has already told him he’s moving to second base. (That’s not official.) Shaw is a guy with a pretty-high upside and relatively low-risk. (All draft picks are risky, but some are less risky than others.)

I’ve already covered the Day 1 picks and the Day 2 picks and I’m not going to repeat myself on that here.

Zyhir Hope is the real prize on Day 3, Hope is a high school kid with 80 (elite) speed and a plus glove and arm. His high school played him mostly in right, but most scouts see him as a plus glove in center. He’s also pretty strong and can drive the ball with at least average potential major league power. The reason why he was still on the board in the 11th round—other than being a tough sign—is that he has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. He needs to be much more selective at the plate. On top of that, he’s struggled in some events where he faced better stuff. But Hope is young and there is some massive upside here. Hope fits right in with the Cubs draft strategy.

Hope also pitched in high school, just in case that hitting and defense thing doesn’t work out for him.

Hope was ranked as the 276th-best player in the draft according to Baseball America.

As I mentioned, Hope was expected to be a tough sign but he’s already told his local paper that he intends to sign with the Cubs. The Cubs doubtlessly knew what his bonus demands were (he had a private workout at Pelicans Park) and both sides believe that they will come to an agreement.

Carter Trice burst onto the scene at Old Dominion in 2021 and was a Freshman All-American, hitting .355/.426/.663. In his sophomore season, Trice didn’t have as many hits fall in (.295), but his home runs went from 14 to 17. He was also a pretty good baserunner.

Trice then transferred to North Carolina State and he struggled against the better competition in the ACC. They also moved him out to left field, although the Cubs announced him as a second baseman. He has hit well in the Cape Cod League this summer, albeit in only seven games.

Trice’s big issue is that he strikes out too much and he struggles to catch up to higher velocity. But he’s a great athlete with some real 20/20 power/speed potential. Obviously he has a lot of work to do, but the upside is there. Trice was ranked as the 249th-best draft prospect by Baseball America.

Sam Armstrong is a pitcher who very much improved this year, his second at Old Dominion. He’s got a 92-94 mph fastball, a tight curve and a change. He has a clean, easy delivery and the size and athleticism to start. Armstrong posted a 3.51 ERA this past year and was second-team All-Sun Belt. In the Cape Cod League this summer, Armstrong struck out 13 in ten innings over two starts.

You could argue that you can never go wrong taking a Vanderbilt pitcher and Grayson Moore is a Vandy pitcher. He was used mostly as a reliever in college and that’s likely to continue in pro ball. He’s got a 94 mph fastball and a big, loopy 12-6 curve that almost looks like an eephus pitch. He threw four perfect innings, striking out four, in a relief appearance against Oregon in a College World Series Regional game back in early June,

I don’t have much on Ty Johnson. If there are any Ball State fans out there, fill us in. He both started and relieved at Ball State and he got better results every year. Last year he went 4-3 with a 4.53 ERA and four saves. He started ten games and relieved six times. Johnson put up some good strikeout numbers with 68 in 53 23 innings last year. But he also gave up too many free bases—31 walks and 11 hit batsmen.

Daniel Brown is going to be a legend around here one way or the other. This past year, he got into one game at Campbell, pitched one inning, allowed no hits and struck out three. I should also probably mention he walked nine batters in that outing.

Brown has hit 102 mph on the gun and he’s got a sharp slider as well. He has no idea how to throw either one anywhere near the plate.

But he’s never allowed a hit in college either! How many drafted players can say that?

Brown is either going to flame out in rookie ball or he’s going to become a legend. Or both, I guess. Clearly he could be a dominating closer, but the odds are probably a thousand-to-one against it. The Cubs doubtlessly think the Pitch Lab can improve on those odds significantly.

Ethan Flanagan is a draft-eligible sophomore at UCLA, so he might be a tough sign. Flanagan’s pitching history is filled with injuries, including Tommy John surgery in high school. Forearm tightness meant Flanagan only made nine appearances, six starts, totalling 31 23 innings this past year. He went 2-1 with a 5.12 ERA. Flanagan struck out 31 and walked 16.

When Flanagan does pitch, however, you can see a lot of promise there. His fastball is normally sits in the 89-91 range, although he has hit as high as 94 and you have to think he could sit there with better health and more practice. But what’s most impressive about his fastball is the spin rate and the vertical break, which is the kind of thing that the Cubs have been hunting for in recent drafts.

Flanagan’s mid-80s change is his second-best pitch and he also has a curve and a slider. He pitched mainly out of the bullpen in 2022 and there is certainly some risk that’s where he ends up. But if Flanagan gets healthy, there might be a solid starter in there somewhere.

Baseball America ranked Flanagan as the 295th-best draft prospect this year.

Brian Kalmer is a slugging corner outfielder who hit .358/.454/.682 with 16 doubles, two triples and 15 home runs over 240 at-bats this year. Kalmer spent two years at Arizona State and barely played, so he transferred to a junior college and eventually Gonzaga.

Kalmer’s power has a cost, however, He does strike out a lot (56 times last year) and he’s known to chase stuff out of the zone. The Cubs might also want to tinker with his swing, which has a lot of moving parts.

Kalmer is older as a senior and he’ll probably have to move to first base, sooner rather than later. But there is some real power potential in his bat.

Baseball America has Kalmer as the 295th-best prospect in the draft.

The Cubs picked a Terrapin teammate of Matt Shaw with right-handed pitcher Nick Dean in the 19th round. A four-year starter at Maryland, Dean has a low-90s fastball that he combines with a low-80s change that might be his best pitch. He’s also got a standard low-80s slider and a mid-70s curve. He’s a workhorse, having made 15 starts in each of the past two years. Dean does command the strike zone well, limiting walks and getting strikeouts with the changeup.

Kalmer was ranked as the 429th-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.

Drew Bowser was a high-school teammate of Cubs’ top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong at Harvard-Westlake. He was getting some second- or third-round buzz three years ago, but the shortened five-round draft that year combined with his strong commitment to Stanford meant he went undrafted.

Obviously things didn’t go as planned for Bowser or he wouldn’t have lasted until the 20th round. While Bowser was a three-year starter for the Cardinal and he did hit 39 home runs over those three campaigns, he also struck out a lot. His plate discipline and pitch recognition skills are poor.

But when Bowser does connect, he hits the ball hard and far. He’s a strong slugger with 35 home run a year potential, just with a very low chance of getting there without significant improvements.

Defensively, Bowser can play second base or third and there is some disagreement as to which position is his ultimate home. There’s the possibility of Bowser moving to a corner outfield position as well.

Bowser was number 231 in Baseball America’s draft list this year. He was 63rd back in 2020.

As I mentioned yesterday, I expect all ten players taken in the first ten rounds to sign. Last year, only three players taken by all 30 teams in the first ten rounds didn’t sign.

WIth Hope saying he intends to sign, there is a real chance the Cubs sign all 20 draftees, which would be a first. (Of course, back in the days of 30 and 40 rounds, the Cubs would draft players they had no intention of signing near the end of the draft.) The other nine players taken on Tuesday are all college players and it is rarely advantageous for drafted college players to return to school. Brown is a senior, but he still has a year of eligibility because of the pandemic. Bowser could try to recapture what made him a top prospect as a high school student, but Stanford clearly isn’t making him a better player. Flanagan is a sophomore, but with his injury history, his best decision is probably to sign now if he wants a pro baseball career. The others should definitely sign unless there’s some factor that we (and the Cubs) don’t know about.

The tl:dr summation: Other than first-round pick Matt Shaw, this is a very high-risk and high-reward draft by the Cubs this year. It would not be a surprise if Shaw was the only one to make the majors. But there’s also a real possibility that the Cubs picked up a major haul of talent this week.