The question marks that surrounded the strangest draft in Major League Baseball history were replaced by exclamation points as new VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz pumped tons of excitement into the Cubs system over the past two days. After selecting Ed Howard with the No. 16 overall pick Wednesday night, the Cubs followed up in rounds 2-5 by targeting some of the loudest tools the draft had to offer.
We’ll have more in-depth analysis of each of the four draftees in a bit, but here’s the tl;dr version of Thursday’s action if you’re into that sort of thing.
Round 2 (51): Burl Carraway – Best reliever in the 2020 draft
Round 3 (88): Jordan Nwogu – Plus raw power, physical specimen
Round 4 (117): Luke Little – Literally has a 105 mph fastball
Round 5 (147): Koen Moreno – Projectable high school arm
This is no longer the Cubs of the past decade or so. The draft picks of the past that feature “pitchability” and “hard-nosed effort” are nowhere to be found and these guys have tools that pop off the scout sheet and have me more excited about a draft class than I have been in years.
Burl Carraway – LHP, Dallas Baptist University
Carraway was the closer at DBU and worked the 9th inning for Team USA as well. He will be a true reliever as a pro, so don’t expect him to be converted to a starter and follow in the footsteps of Michael McAvene, Riley Thompson, and Chris Clarke. He isn’t a big guy at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, but he has lightning quick arm action and also has some deception in his delivery out of the stretch.
Pegged by many as the best bet to be the first member of this draft class to reach the majors, Carraway features a two-pitch mix of a fastball and curveball. The heater sits in the high 90’s and can reach triple digits while the hook is an absolute hammer of an offering. Both pitches have tremendous spin rates, a skill that the new player development staff will love to see.
I expect Carraway to be a fast riser through the system as long as he continues to improve his command as he comes up. The strikeout numbers are where you would expect them to be from a guy with the aforementioned stuff, racking up 15.6 K/9 last year before cranking it up to 16.4 K/9 in this shortened season.
Burl to the Cubs!
— DBU Baseball (@DBU_Baseball) June 11, 2020
Jordan Nwogu – OF, University of Michigan
In a system that is almost completely absent of any type of raw power, Nwogu immediately jumps to the top of the list when it comes to dinger potential. He is a Greek god of a human being, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 235 pounds. He was actually recruited to play football out of high school but instead of coming off the edge to hit quarterbacks, he punished baseballs all the way to the College World Series.
Nwogu tinkered with his batting stance quite a bit during his three seasons in Ann Arbor and I’m sure there will be some more personalized adjustments once Cubs staff members get their hands and cameras on him. His load is a little clunky right now and even though he has strong hands, I worry about him catching up with high fastballs. Even with all of those changes at the plate in college, he consistently put up impressive numbers and finished with a career slash line of .334/.430/.545, good for a .976 OPS.
The big man actually has above-average speed as well, totaling 30 career stolen bases. That athleticism hasn’t played on defense, where his routes need some work in left field. I would invite you to get lost in dreaming about his bat rather than getting caught up on his defense. Besides, the DH will be universal by the time he’s in Chicago.
Does that follow through remind you of a current Cub? https://t.co/SUdJAUa05G
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 11, 2020
Luke Little – LHP, San Jacinto Junior College
One. Hundred. Five. Miles. Per. Hour. No typos. Little became internet famous when he was clocked throwing that hard in a spring workout video. Hot gun or no, he hit triple digits several times. His offspeed offerings aren’t much to write home about right now, although the slider flashes and could amount to something in the future. It really just comes down to the heat coming from the left side.
The stats he put up at San Jacinto were exactly what you would expect as he racked up an incredibly nice 69 strikeouts to go along with 36 walks over 35.1 innings. He will obviously need to figure out his control issues at least a little bit because even guys who throw that hard need to find the zone every once in a while. You can deal with walks from a reliever, and a lot of walks are even acceptable for a guy striking out 17 batters per 9 innings, but more walks than innings won’t work.
Like Carraway, Little will be a reliever as a pro. The Cubs drafted him because of the velocity and they won’t want to see it drop down to the mid-90s just to stretch him out for a few extra innings. Until real baseball rolls around, I will just be dreaming about Brailyn Marquez throwing 100 for eight innings followed by Little hitting 105 to close out the game.
Luke Little, Bullpen (T105mph). ? pic.twitter.com/euQj3H2Vpl
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 12, 2020
Koen Moreno – RHP, Panther Creek High School (NC)
There was no way I was going to get through the entire draft without the Cubs drafting someone I wasn’t familiar with coming into the night. Moreno fits a much different style than the rest of the 2020 class in that he is the only high school pitcher to be selected. After some quick research following the draft, I can tell you that the 6-foot-2 righty is an East Carolina University commit, although I can’t imagine the front office would have pulled the trigger on him without knowledge that they can get him away from that commitment.
Moreno played multiple sports in high school, which should be great for his athleticism and even the ability to make adjustments as a pro fairly seamlessly. He says he models his game off of Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and is already touching 94 mph on the gun as an 18-year-old. What’s more, he features a tumbling changeup that is always good to see from a prep pitcher. Moreno was downright dominant as a senior, putting up a 1.62 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.
The draft is always a fun time of the season because we get to watch young men seeing their dreams become reality right before their eyes. This year, the experience carried even more significance as a bright spot in an otherwise brutal period for the sport.
I can’t wait to see how this brand new approach to the draft, led by Kantrovitz, plays out on the field when live action baseball begins in the minor leagues. The organization was able to shore up weaknesses in the system that have been present for years and open doors for a new wave of talent to make its way to Wrigley Field.