Cubs Selected Albert Almora with Sixth Pick in Draft

The 2012 First-Year Player Draft began Monday night. The Cubs made three selections on day one of the three day draft … outfielder Albert Almora and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn.

With the sixth overall pick, the Cubs selected Albert Almora from Mater Academy Charter School in Florida. The Cubs scouted the 18-year old outfielder rather heavily and they do not anticipate having any troubles signing the Scott Boras client that has already committed to the University of Miami.

The Cubs had two picks in the compensatory round and selected RHP Pierce Johnson from Missouri State with the 43rd overall pick and RHP Paul Blackburn from Heritage High School in California with the 56th pick. The Cubs received the sandwich picks for Aramis Ramirez (43) signing with the Brewers and Carlos Pena (56) inking a contract with the Rays in the off-season after both players were offered and declined salary arbitration.

Under the new CBA, the deadline to sign players selected in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft is July 13.

Albert Almora (OF)
The 18-year old, 6-foot-2, 170-pound outfielder does not graduate from high school until Friday, June 8 and he should be making his professional debut in the next six weeks. Almora was USA Baseball’s 2011 Athlete of the Year after being MVP of the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in November of 2011.

According to Baseball America, scouts love his grinder approach and in-game savvy. Almora has outstanding tools and he uses them. Almora runs the bases well and uses his speed to cover ground in centerfield. Some scouts consider his defense to be Major League ready right now. Almora has a plus, accurate arm and a natural hitting rhythm with plenty of bat speed. He is a line-drive hitter with a loose swing that stays inside the ball. Almora projects to have 20-homer power that could translate to a corner outfield spot if he slows down.

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Pierce Johnson (RHP)
The Cubs selected the 21-year old, 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander with the first of two sandwich picks. Pierce Johnson has two plus-pitches with a mid-90s fastball (92-96 MPH) and a hard three-quarters breaking ball. Johnson will mix in an 86-87 MPH cutter and has shown improvement with his changeup. Johnson is a strike thrower (119 in 99 2/3 innings) and has drawn comparisons to the Nationals’ Drew Storen.

Johnson’s biggest issue is staying healthy. Johnson missed time this season with a forearm strain, missed time in the Cape Cod league with a dislocated knee and a broken hand cost him most of his senior year in high school.

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Paul Blackburn (RHP)
The Cubs selected the 18-year old with the 56th pick in the draft. Blackburn is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and throws a fastball that sits in the low-90s and tops out at 94. Blackburn’s curveball and changeup have shown promise. Blackburn is athletic and has shown he can repeat what has been described as a clean delivery. Scouts like his smooth mechanics and feel he will eventually pitch with above-average control and command.

Blackburn has committed to Arizona State but many feel he will choose professional ball over college.

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Round two of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins Tuesday morning at 11:00am CDT. Rounds 2-15 take place Tuesday. The Cubs first three picks of the second day of the draft are as follows: 67 (Rd 2), 101 (Rd 3), 134 (Rd 4)

Updated with Second Day Selections

Round 2 (Pick 67) Duane Underwood, RHP, Pope HS, GA
Round 3 (Pick 101) Ryan McNeil, RHP, Nipmoo HS, CA
Round 4 (Pick 134) Josh Conway, RHP, Coastal Carolina, SC
Round 5 (Pick 164) Anthony Prieto, LHP, Americas HS, TX
Round 6 (Pick 194) Trey Lang, RHP, Gateway Community College, AZ
Round 7 (Pick 224) Stephen Bruno, 3B, Virginia
Round 8 (Pick 254) Michael Heesch,LHP, University of South Carolina Beaufort, SC
Round 9 (Pick 284) Chadd Krist, C, California
Round 10 (Pick 314) Chad Martin, RHP, Indiana
Round 11 (Pick 344) Rashad Crawford, CF, Mundy’s Mill HS, GA
Round 12 (Pick 374) Justin Amlung, RHP, Louisville
Round 13 (Pick 404) Bijan Rademacher, OF, Orange Coast College, CA
Round 14 (Pick 434) Corbin Hoffner, RHP, St Petersburg College, FL
Round 15 (Pick 464) Carlos Escobar, C, University of Nevada-Reno

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