While Spring Training officially kicks off on Friday, so does the NCAA baseball season. And with that, pro scouts will be crossing the country in search of prospects. The Cubs are currently set to select at #104 in the MLB Draft in June, though they’ll move into the mid-60’s if Dexter Fowler signs elsewhere. Either way, the Cubs are not going to get the elite prospects they have in years past. That said, it would not surprise me if they have something up their sleeve for this summer’s draft.
Last year’s draft saw the Cubs sign 29 of their 40 picks, and they also did well in international free agency the following month. Combined, the Cubs added a lot of talent in Eddy Martinez, Aramis Ademan, Yonathan Sierra, Ian Happ, Bryan Hudson, Donnie Dewees, and Darryl Wilson, to name a few.
Regardless of who they signed the past three years, the Cubs have been laying the groundwork for this draft. There is an MLB rule which states the following:
“A player who is drafted and does not sign with the Club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year’s Draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year’s Draft. A Club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless the player has consented to the re-selection.”
So the Cubs could redraft several players from the 2013-2015 drafts who did not sign with them for whatever reason, as long as the players submit to being drafted. It is an interesting concept and a far more interesting strategy considering the Cubs don’t have a lot of money to play with in the 2016 draft ($2.2 million unless Fowler signs elsewhere). They likely will end up drafting a lot of college seniors in 2016 and trying to sign them on the cheap.
Even so, the Cubs could strike some gold by redrafting a couple players with whom they have already built relationships.
Josh Greene – OF, High Point University – 5-11/170 – Junior
He was recently named as the Preseason Player of the Year in the Big South. That’s a pretty good plaudit considering top 10 Coastal Carolina plays in the same conference. His game is built on speed and hitting, though he did have 7 HR’s last year. Projects as day two pick right now. “Sneaky good” would be the best way to describe him.
Zack Brown – SP, Kentucky – 6-2/200 – Junior
Last year as a sophomore, he was the Wildcat’s Friday night ace. Some find that surprising since Kyle Cody is on that team. But while Cody is unlikely to make it out of the first round, Brown would be an excellent day two selection.
Jeremy Martinez – 1B, USC – 5-11/200 – Junior
Coming out of high school, Martinez was a highly touted catcher. At USC, his transformation to 1B was completed last year. He could be picked on day one or day two depending on his season. His only downfall is that he doesn’t have much physical projection left in that frame.
Sean Johnson – SP, Ole Miss – 6-7/215 – Junior
He tore it up in 2014 at Iowa Western (88 Ks in 75 innings) and then transferred to Ole Miss in 2014. TJS in 2015 forced him to miss the whole season. His return this year should be something to keep an eye on. He’s got a huge frame and might be worth the risk depending how he recovers.
DJ Peters – OF, Western Nevada – 6-6/225 – JC Sophomore
This kid is my favorite to be re-drafted. A two-way player, he had 7 HR’s in 2015 and already has three this year. He plays right field and has only pitched once in relief this year. The Rangers tried drafting him last year in the 36th round after the Cubs picked him in the 36th in 2014.
Jake Kelzer – SP, Indiana University – 6-8/230 – Senior
The Cubs have had pretty good luck with picks from Indiana University lately in Schwarber and Scott Effross. Kelzer fits the size mold the Cubs have been selecting lately as they look for big guys who can handle 200 innings. Used mostly as a starter last year, Kelzer chose to return to school and improve his stock. He will likely be the Saturday or Sunday starter for the Hoosiers this year.
John Kilichowski – LHP, Vanderbilt – 6-5/210 – Junior
It was going to take a lot to sign Kilichoswki, a draft-eligible sophomore, last year. I don’t think the Cubs came close. Kilichowski returns to one of the top programs in the country and has two years of eligibility left. He would fill a need for lefties, something the Cubs do not have a lot of outside of low-A. If he has a good year, he could sneak up into day one territory.
Taylor Jones – 1B, Gonzaga – 6-7/225 – Senior
Given Jones’s size, it took a couple of years to figure out whether he’d be a pitcher or a position player. Last year at 1B, Jones began to put it together. After becoming a full-time starter in mid-March, he hit .358 with 5 home runs and 30 RBI. This year, the first-team WCC player should do even better. Likely a day two pick.
The Cubs cannot select all of these “redraftees,” as there is no way they could afford them. I would think one or two might make it. I like DJ Peters the most, followed by Josh Greene – both great athletes who fit the Jason McLeod mold. I don’t know if Jeremy Martinez is the kind of player the Cubs now covet. Sure, he can hit, but where do you play him? I also love the potential of Taylor Jones.
Kilichowski’s price tag, along with Brown’s, might be too much. Kelzer, I think, could be persuaded to join his teammates in the Cubs organization. On the other hand, they could also take some risks with Sean Johnson and his injury history. I think his track record before the injury was so good, it might be worth a shot.
As the NCAA season begins, these are some names it would be worthwhile to follow as the Cubs likely have been doing so over the past one to three years.