Three Mock Drafts, Three Possible Picks for the Cubs

With the First-Year Player Draft (June 5) just around the corner, the top talent evaluators in the game have begun releasing mock drafts for the first round selections. The general consensus is the Astros, Marlins and White Sox will take pitchers with the first three picks in the draft, which could leave the Cubs selecting a position player at No. 4. The injuries and subsequent Tommy John surgeries to RHP Jeff Hoffman and RHP Erick Fedde have impacted their draft status and reduced the number of college arms the Cubs could have taken in the first round.

Reports and rumors have suggested the Cubs wanted to take a college pitcher with the fourth pick in the draft, and the front office was very high on Jeff Hoffman. Multiple reports have stated the Cubs cannot take Hoffman with their first round pick and despite the raw talent; the high school arms, RHP Tyler Kolek and, LHP Brady Aiken, carry a lot of risk and are not as projectable as college arms.

LHP Carlos Rodon is the top college pitcher that will be available in the draft. RHP Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt), LHP Kyle Freeland (Evansville), RHP Aaron Nola (LSU), LHP Brandon Finnegan (TCU) and LHP Sean Newcomb (Hartford) are considered to be the other top college starters behind Rodon. And with Hoffman recovering from Tommy John, the college pitchers not named Rodon have similar projections. Aaron Nola, the right hander from LSU, is considered to be a safe bet and some think he could be ready to pitch in the majors by next summer. Nola projects as a middle of the rotation starter and not a top of the rotation starter that a team would select with the fourth overall pick in the draft. The Cubs were also thought to be interested in Brandon Finnegan, but his recent issues (shoulder) have likely taken Finnegan off the Cubs board.

The Cubs appear to be high on two high school position players, C Alex Jackson and SS Nick Gordon, and either one of those two prep players might have been at the top of the Cubs draft board earlier this spring.

Keith Law (ESPN), Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) and John Manuel (Baseball America) released mock drafts on Friday. And both Law and Manuel have the Cubs taking a pitcher while Mayo thinks the Cubs will take a position player.

Keith Law

Keith Law has the Astros selecting LHP Brady Aiken with the first pick in the draft and Alex Jackson going to the Marlins with the second overall pick. And the White Sox taking RHP Tyler Kolek with the third pick. Law thinks LHP Carlos Rodon will slip to the Cubs with the fourth pick.

Keith Law called Carlos Rodon dropping to the fourth spot “close to a dream scenario for the Cubs.” Law said the Cubs would “love Rodon or Brady Aiken” and would like Tyler Kolek with the fourth pick. If Rodon and the other two arms are not there, the Cubs would have “to choose from the next tier.” Law thinks if the three hurlers are gone, Alex Jackson, OF Michael Conforto, Aaron Nola “and at least half-dozen other possibilities” will be in the mix for the Cubs. Law passed along a rumor that the Cubs could select C Max Pentecost “on a huge under-slot deal.”

Jonathan Mayo

Before the college baseball season began it was considered a given that LHP Carlos Rodon would go 1:1 in the draft to the Houston Astros. Rodon has been inconsistent this spring and his performance has opened the door for the Astros to use the first pick on a player other than the lefty from NC State.

Jonathan Mayo thinks the Astros will take Carlos Rodon with the first pick, Tyler Kolek going to the Marlins and Brady Aiken ending up on the South Side with the White Sox. With the top three pitchers off the board, Mayo sees the Cubs grabbing Alex Jackson with the fourth overall pick. Mayo pointed to the injury to Jeff Hoffman as the reason the Cubs would take Jackson, who is considered to be the best hitting prospect in the draft.

John Manuel

John Manuel released his second mock draft on Friday. In his first projection for the upcoming draft, Manuel thought the Cubs would take RHP Brandon Finnegan. But Finnegan’s recent issues with his shoulder and subsequent poor outing has changed Manuel’s mind.

John Manuel has Carlos Rodon going to the Astros, the Marlins selecting Alex Jackson and Brady Aiken ending up as the third overall pick to the White Sox. Manuel thinks the Cubs will take LHP Kyle Freeland.

About the Cubs’ pick, Manuel said, “Here’s where it gets interesting. The Cubs want a college pitcher, but Rodon is unlikely to fall this far, leaving Kolek and his 100 mph fastball staring them in the face. Kolek is such an outlier, however, that teams aren’t sure what to make of him. It’s not only his velocity and height (6-foot-6), but at 250 pounds he’d be the biggest high school pitcher ever drafted in the first round by weight, bigger than the Indians 1998 first-rounder C.C. Sabathia (listed at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds when drafted). Kolek’s extreme velocity, at a time when every other hard-throwing prep pitcher, it seems, is having Tommy John surgery, further complicated matters. Kolek’s unique combination appears to be dropping him down boards.”

Lefty Kyle Freeland has improved his stock with a “stellar season” and Manuel does not see him dropping out of the top 10 “if he doesn’t falter down the stretch.”

Jon Heyman posted a report on why Jeff Hoffman will likely still be selected in the draft. A team with multiple picks in the first round, like the Blue Jays, could take a chance with Hoffman. Another factor in a team selecting Hoffman in the first round, that Heyman did not bring up, would be the team being able to sign Hoffman for under slot and use the money saved with signing Hoffman on a later pick for a player that might have been considered unsignable.

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