Your Way-Too-Early Draft Preview: Time for Cubs to Reload for 2021 and Beyond

Based on the lack of talent in free agency this offseason, the Cubs will not be dipping too deep into those waters to fish out a player to help them on their quest for a second consecutive World Series championship in 2017. Because of that, they will have to lean more heavily on their first round pick come June. And if Dexter Fowler signs elsewhere (which I hope he does not), the Cubs will gain a compensatory pick after the first round.

Based on the number of free agents attached to a qualifying offer, the Cubs could actually be picking in the low to mid-20’s and then again in the low 30’s. Those would both be excellent spots in which to select some high-quality players.

In the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod era…

  • The Cubs have selected bats with their first round picks from 2012-15
  • 3 of those 4 picks played in the World Series
  • Only one pitcher drafted in that time frame has made an MLB start, albeit in a single spot start
  • Of the players on the 25 man roster, only 8 were originally signed or drafted by the Cubs
  • 7 of those 8 players were position players (4 OF)

Each draft in the EHM Era has served a purpose. In 2012, the Cubs rebuilt the minor league system with a plethora of arms and bats. The 2013 draft got the Cubs a second franchise player in Kris Bryant. The following year saw the surprise selection of Kyle Schwarber and several bats who have masterful control of the strike zone (Mark Zagunis and Chesny Young), along with some high-profile prep arms they paid $1 million apiece for. They garnered Ian Happ and several experienced college starters and relievers in 2015. And in this most recent draft, the Cubs went pitching-heavy with a mixture of big, tall college arms and experienced closers.

I think 2017 might be the most important draft of all going forward. First, the Cubs could/should have two top-35 picks and four in the top 100. And with a collection of position players signed through 2020-21, the Cubs have leeway go with a high school bat with their first pick. He would not be in a rush to make it to the majors quickly, which means the organization can take their time to fully develop said prospect.

When it comes to pitching, Cubs’ director of scouting and player development, Jason McLeod, has shown a propensity to take arms that are a bit projectable. That goes for prospects from both the college and high school levels. Case in point, both Casey Bloomquist and Kyle Miller were unheralded college picks in 2015. Both played key roles in South Bend’s championship run in 2016 and both are very willing to work to improve their game.

Francisco de la Torre is one of many possible prospects the Cubs could select next summer - Photo - Pitch Perfect
Francisco de la Torre is one of many possible prospects the Cubs could select next summer – Photo – Pitch Perfect

And while it’s clear that McLeod has a predilection for drafting college bats in the first round, I truly think he is open to taking the best player available. It’s still a little early to project who the Cubs might take with their first two picks, given all that can change over the course of the winter and spring seasons. Between injuries, going back to school, regression, massive jumps in development, and my personal favorite, the prospect who prices himself too high and freefalls from the top ten to the bottom of the first round.

But who will be there waiting for those players this year with some cold hard cash? That’s right, the Cubs will be.

If, however, you want to theorize as to the players McLeod and the Cubs will be looking for, you might start with those who have played for Team USA (at any level) and/or in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League. Playing against elite competition and under similar circumstances to what they’ll face as pros is a big deal to this organization.

As the winter progresses, we will have some profiles for several prospects listed below, all of whom represent a few of the potential picks in the next draft.. Over the next six months, I will be checking out reports and videos on each of these players and others who will shoot up to first round material. They are listed in no particular order.

Hunter Greene – RHP/SS/3B – 6-4, 205; Notre Dame High School (Sherman Oaks, CA)

Ricardo De La Torre – SS – 6-2, 175; Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

Justin Farmer – OF – 6-0, 195; Riverview HS (FL)

Brady McConnell – 2B/SS – 6-3, 175; Merritt Island HS (FL)

Jason Gonzalez – SS – 6-2, 175; Bishop Amat (CA) – Committed to Vanderbilt

Alex Lange – RHP – 6-3, 201; Louisiana State

Seth Romero – LHP – 6-3, 240; Houston

Royce Lewis – SS-  6-2, 188; J Serra HS (CA) – Committed to UC Irvine

Colton Hock – RHP – 6-5, 220; Stanford

Turner Larkins – RHP – 6-3, 200; Texas A&M

DL Hall* – LHP – 6-2, 170; Warner-Robins (GA)

 

*Ed. note: That’s a really unfortunate name for an athlete.







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Todd Johnson

During the day, Todd teaches US and World History in a small town in northern Illinois. As a Cubs fan, his first baseball memories are of Ernie, Billy, and Fergie. Baseball cards, Strat-O-Matic, and fantasy baseball eventually followed. The summer of 2017 will find him spending most of his days watching the South Bend Cubs throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes. You can always find him on Twitter: @cubscentral08

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