Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft starts one week from Monday (June 8-10) and the Cubs have the ninth overall pick in the draft.
The Cubs have been linked to several of the players expected to be selected within the first 10 picks. Jason McLeod said this week the Cubs are focused on four players but Theo Epstein said there are nine players on his list because the Cubs have the ninth pick in the draft.
The Cubs are expected to take the best player available and it’s not clear if Jason McLeod will select a position player or a pitcher. The Cubs pre-draft meetings with scouts and executives begin Sunday.
Position players such as Arkansas OF Andrew Benintendi, University of North Florida OF Donnie Dewees, OF Daz Cameron, OF Trenton Clark and SS Cornelius Randolph have been mentioned as possibilities for the Cubs along with shortstops Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, but both highly touted shortstops are expected to be off the board by the time the Cubs pick rolls around at No. 9.
If the Cubs select a college arm, Vanderbilt right handers Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler and Missouri State RHP Jon Harris are believed to be high on the team’s draft board.
Another pitcher to keep an eye on is LHP Brady Aiken.
Aiken was at the top of the Cubs’ board last year. Not long after Aiken didn’t sign with Houston, it was believed the Cubs would be interested in him this June. And the Cubs have not ruled out taking a chance on Aiken and drafting him a little over two months after he had Tommy John surgery.
Jason McLeod said, “A kid of his talent certainly is going to be discussed and he’ll be someone that we will talk about.”
Brady Aiken was selected with the first pick in the draft for a reason. Prior to the surgery, Aiken was projected as a top of the rotation arm that would make an impact at the big league level.
The Cubs will draft the player with the ninth pick they feel could provide the biggest impact in the near future. Jason McLeod pointed out that it is a weird year, injuries have taken a toll and this draft is not considered as deep in talent as in recent years.
A report from Comcast SportsNet suggested the Cubs taking Aiken in the first round is a long shot. But the lefty is still viewed as a first round talent that will not be there when Cubs pick again in second round (47th overall). The Cubs could actually select Aiken with the same pick as the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Jeff Hoffman a year ago. And Hoffman was also coming off Tommy John surgery.
Matt Dorey, Cubs director of amateur scouting, told Patrick Mooney the Cubs built a “great relationship” with Brady Aiken and his family last year. Dorey explained that he is proud of the work the Cubs and area scout did to get to know Aiken.
Dorey pointed out, “It would be very irresponsible to not have a conversation with our doctors, with Brady and his family, just to get an updated breakdown of where he’s at in his rehab, were he’s at mentally, so that he … and the player that he was pre-injury … is allowed to compete against the players that will be on our board this year.”
The front office will have team doctors “dig into the medicals” and “paint a pretty clear picture of what his rehab would look like.”
If the Cubs decide to take Aiken with the ninth pick, could they sign him to an under slot deal and use the pool money they save to select other pitchers later in the draft? The Cubs used money saved on picks in the first three rounds last year (Kyle Schwarber, Jake Stinnett and Mark Zagunis) to sign LHP Justin Steele, LHP Carson Sands and RHP Dylan Cease. And Cease is actually pitching in extended spring games 10 months after undergoing Tommy John.
The front office has several directions it could go with the ninth pick in the draft. Every player taken comes with an amount of risk and uncertainty. The reward and impact Brady Aiken could provide might be worth taking a bigger gamble on now knowing the payoff down the road could be huge for the Chicago Cubs.