The 2014 Draft continues today, with the 3rd-10th rounds starting at noon. MLBN has the coverage again; I believe it’s strictly experts today (Jim Callis, John Manuel, Jonathan Mayo, etc..), so that’s nice. We will be following along here at OV. The most probable scenario is that this thread will just be updated with the Cubs’ picks, since they come fast enough that separate threads with more in-depth analysis aren’t practical. Plenty of time for that later, if there is indeed anything to talk about.
Cubs Day One Recap
No one who had been paying attention was too surprised by the Cubs’ first overall pick, future first baseman from Indiana Kyle Schwarber. What was a bit surprising was the tidbit from Jason McLeod that the team had Schwarber second on their board. Most assumed that Rodon would be the pick were he available. For their second pick, most assumed that the team would use the likely bonus savings on a high-ceiling high school arm. Keith Law mentioned Jack Flaherty, who went off the board before they had a chance. So instead we got this:
(Image courtesy of Ryno)
In gauging reactions around the pundit-sphere, no one seems all that shocked by Stinnett going in the second round, he’s big and reaches the mid-90’s with his fastball. However, he’s a college senior from Maryland, meaning the Cubs he will likely go for underslot money, as well. Which is nice, except that the majority of the depth in high school pitching went off the board after the Cubs picked. In addition, the Astros and Marlins pick before the Cubs today, and both of those teams still have money enough to draft any tough high school signs that managed to slip through the second. So, unless the Cubs still have a multiple targeted players on the board, this could end up being a very cheap draft for Tom Ricketts.
Day Two Prospectus
Onto the names. The highest rated high school pitcher left on the most boards is righty Jacob Bukauskas (BA #33). According to pundits, he is as close to unsignable as they come, having sent a letter to teams a month before the draft asking that they not select him. I’m not going to hold my breath there.
Among the more realistic names that have been mentioned by several sources are RHP Dylan Cease (BA #77, a Vanderbilt commit), RHP Keith Weisenberg (BA #70, Stanford commit), LHP Carson Sands (BA #53, FSU), LHP Mac Marshall (BA #57, LSU), and RHP Austin DeCarr (BA #68, Clemson).
College pitchers thought to be tough signs for one reason or another include RHP Michael Cederoth (BA #45, San Diego State) and RHP Zech Lemond (BA #78, Rice). And, yes, it’s Zech.
In the 3rd (#78), the Cubs have taken Mark Zagunis…
…a catcher from Virginia Tech. BA has him at #111, Scout has him at #112, MLB.com has him at #149.
Zagunis’ father, a high school assistant coach, moved him behind the plate in high school in south Jersey, and he is still trying to prove to scouts that he can be an everyday backstop. He started 28 of 62 games behind the plate for Virginia Tech’s 2013 regional team, while also playing the corner outfield spots. He has been the regular catcher this year as well as the team’s leading hitter and No. 2 basestealer. A successful high school quarterback, Zagunis shows more athleticism than the average college catcher, with plus speed to go with his powerful 6-foot, 212-pound frame. He’s not afraid to take a walk and has a line-drive approach that should allow him to hit for average. His slugging percentage has declined by 100 points this season with less protection in the lineup, with just two homers after 14 his first two seasons. Teams still recognize his overall offensive track record, however, and see an impressive power/speed combination. Zagunis’ receiving and defense remain below-average. He needs reps receiving and blocking, and his above-average arm strength hasn’t translated to throwing out basestealers; he has thrown out less than 20 percent for his career.
A three-year starter at Virginia Tech and a Johnny Bench Award semifinalist, Zagunis is an athletic catcher who has performed in one of the better college conferences in the nation.
The ACC standout has shown a propensity for putting the ball in play and hitting for average, albeit from a slightly unusual setup. He’s shown some extra-base pop in the past, though not as much in 2014. He runs extremely well for a catcher and has shown that his athleticism plays well in the outfield. His arm is average but on target, and his other skills say he could stay behind the plate full-time.
The team that believes he can continue to hit might think he has the chance to be an everyday backstop in the future, and it will draft him accordingly. At the very least, Zagunis’ versatility provides a team with options if catching doesn’t work out.
In the 4th (#109), the Cubs take Carson Sands, LHP…
…And there’s the high school pitcher we’ve been expecting. Sands is an FSU commit. He’s ranked #53 by BA, #64 by Scout, and #53 by MLB.com.
Sands, who is old for the class at 19 years old, has been known since he was an underclassman on the showcase circuit, showing intriguing potential against older competition and winning a Gold Medal on the 2012 18-and-under USA Baseball national team (as one of two rising juniors on the team). But evaluators felt some prospect fatigue as he remained a similar player over the showcase circuit last year, with some belief that he may have plateaued. But he has come on strong this spring, especially once the weather began to warm. He went from sitting 88-90 mph, touching 91, to sitting 90-92, touching 94 and 95. Sands, who has a quick arm, has also reduced the effort in his delivery, quieting a head whack, and throwing more strikes. His delivery offers deception, downhill plane and at least average glove-side run to his fastball. Sands’ breaking ball has improved significantly, and has at least average potential, flashing above-average. Scouts also like the way he throws his breaking ball for strikes. The Florida State commit showed better feel for his changeup last summer, and the offering has at least average potential. The lean, 6-foot-2, 205-pound Sands has a good pitcher’s build with room to get stronger. Sands’ younger brother Cole has a low-90s fastball and has followed in his brother’s footsteps as an underclassman who has drawn notice on the showcase circuit. He will likely be a priority follow for the 2015 draft.
Along with Matthew Railey, his North Florida Christian teammate and fellow Florida State commit, Sands has seen his stock increase this spring.
Sands’ rise has been partly attributable to the strength gains he has made over the past year. That led to a jump in his fastball velocity, and he now throws the pitch in the low 90s, regularly touching 94 mph. He also throws a solid 12-to-6 curveball and has a good feel for his changeup. He repeats his delivery well, allowing him to throw strikes with all three of his pitches.
Sands’ strong season, size, stuff and projectability have helped push him up Draft boards as more scouts see him pitch.
In the 5th (#139), the Cubs take Justin Steele…
… Another high school lefty, this one I hadn’t heard of. He’s ranked #121 by BA, #154 by Scout, #122 by MLB.com
Most of the premium high school players selected out of Mississippi tend to be athletic position players, but Steele could buck that trend. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has a lean, athletic build with room to get stronger. He comes from an athletic family, as his brother played college baseball and his father played football at Alabama. Justin jumped onto the national scene by running his fastball up to 93 mph and sitting in the low 90s at East Coast Pro last summer, before his velocity fell to the 85-87 mph range. This spring he has shown similar peaks and inconsistency. At his best early in games, Steele can sit in the low 90s and touch 95. His fastball plays up because he hides the ball well, has a quick arm and has the potential for plus life with sink and run. His velocity regularly falls to 85-87 later in outings, however. His secondary stuff remains behind his fastball. Although he doesn’t use it frequently in game action, Steele’s changeup shows potential and is ahead of his breaking ball, a slow, looping curveball that needs a lot of work. But he has thrown strikes this year and his athleticism allows scouts to project average control. He broke his left wrist last summer and had a screw inserted to repair it, adding to the complicated calculation teams will have to make about his value.
Not since 1999, when the Braves took Matt Butler in the second round, has a Mississippi high school pitcher signed out of the first five rounds of the Draft. A lefty with a loose, quick arm, Steele should end that drought this June.
Steele baffled scouts at the East Coast Professional Showcase last summer, when he ran his fastball into the low 90s but later dipped to the mid-80s. He has done a better job of holding his velocity this spring, working at 88-92 mph and reaching back for 94-95 on occasion. He’s better when he throws with less effort in his delivery and gets more quality life on his heater.
Steele’s curveball used to stick out more for its shape than its velocity, but he has boosted it from the upper 60s to the low 70s as a senior. His changeup has some movement, but the Southern Mississippi recruit tips it off by slowing his arm speed and doesn’t trust it much. Though he’s athletic, his lack of size and true command could have him destined for the bullpen.
Apparently fasteners are the new market inefficiency. Steele has a screw in his left wrist to go along with Stinnett’s pin in his pitching elbow. Maybe these guys were under-scouted because of their trouble with boarding airplanes.
In the 6th (#169), the Cubs take Dylan Cease, RHP…
… That’s kind of exciting. Vanderbilt commit who the Cubs obviously think they can sign. Well, now Mayo is talking about some elbow problems. I hadn’t heard about that. Regardless, it’s reassuring that the team is actually selecting players that other people like. Cease is ranked #77 by BA, #80 by Scout, and #76 by MLB.com.
A preseason first team All-American, Cease has been sidelined since early March with an elbow injury. He has been throwing since his velocity dipped into the mid-80s during a chilly, early season game, and he hopes to throw a few bullpens before the draft. Cease gained national recognition as a junior at the National High School Invitational in 2013, when he ran his fastball up to 96 mph. Cease and his twin brother, Alec, led Milton to a state title as juniors. Cease had an uneven summer on the showcase circuit, touching 97 mph but struggling to consistently throw strikes or show a plus breaking ball. Cease came out strong this spring, sitting 92-95 mph and touching 98 with the ball jumping out of his hand from a very quick arm. His curveball showed better in the spring than it had on the showcase circuit. The pitch flashes above-average, but he needs to become more consistent at repeating his best breaking balls. His third offering is a changeup that shows average potential. Cease has some effort to his delivery and he tends to rush, leaving his arm dragging. A Vanderbilt signee, Cease’s injury makes him something of a wild card on draft day.
Cease is one of the hardest throwing high school pitchers in the 2014 Draft class, but he was dealt a significant setback this spring. He suffered an elbow injury that has kept him off the mound since March, leaving his future uncertain.
When healthy, Cease throws his fastball from 91-95 mph, topping out at 97 mph. He doesn’t have a physical frame, instead generating his velocity with athleticism and arm speed. There is some effort to his delivery, and the rest of his game may remain inconsistent until he refines it.
His mid-70s curveball will range from a below-average to an above-average pitch, and his changeup shows flashes of becoming an effective offering, but he’ll need to throw it more often.
Cease, who plays with his twin brother at Milton High, is committed to Vanderbilt.
The Vandy commit will likely get Tommy John surgery and is a 6’1 righty, but he hit 100 mph on some guns early in the year and the belief is he’ll get and accept a 7 figure offer, though it isn’t a sure thing.
Doing a little more digging, it looks like he had a partial tear of the UCL, and received a PRP injection. That rarely seems to work, though apparently he’s back throwing again.
In the 7th (#199), the Cubs take James Norwood, RHP…
…Another right-hander with elbow issues, though that was last season and he pitched this year for Saint Louis. 6’2″, 200 lbs. Well thought of by the pundits, at #79 for BA, #119 for MLB.com, and #102 for Scout.
Norwood has followed an atypical road to the draft, hailing from New York City’s All Hallows High in the Bronx and then attending Saint Louis, which never has produced a first-round pick. Last year was the first time since 1982 that a Billikens player went in the first 10 rounds, and Norwood has a chance to be the school’s first second-rounder since 1976. He also could be its first big league alum in the draft era thanks to a strong body at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and a plus fastball. A reliever as a freshman, Norwood saw an elbow strain end his sophomore year in March and he didn’t pitch in summer ball. However, he touched 97 last fall and has continued to do so this spring, usually sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball when he’s at his best. He sinks the pitch and gets some arm-side run as well. Previously considered an arm-strength future reliever, Norwood has shown better pitchability this season, throwing solid fastball strikes and mixing in a curveball, cutter-type slider and changeup. Some scouts like his changeup while others prefer his curveball as his better secondary pitch. Norwood needs innings and experience most to help determine if he can be a future No. 3 or No. 4 starter or if he has to move to a bullpen.
A year after going winless and battling an elbow strain, Norwood is poised to become the highest June Draft pick out of Saint Louis in history. He figures to go in the first three to five rounds after displaying one of the best fastballs among college starters in this year’s class.
Norwood’s fastball has been clocked up to 98 mph, and he usually operates at 91-95 with some sinking and tailing action. He doesn’t miss as many bats as that velocity indicates he should, because he lacks a quality secondary pitch to keep hitters from focusing on his fastball. He probably would be better off working on one breaking ball rather than throwing both a curveball and a hard cutter/slider, and his changeup is still a work in progress.
Though he has a strong build, Norwood features enough effort in his delivery to raise questions about his long-term durability as a starter. He’ll remain in the rotation for now, but his ability to refine his secondary offerings will determine his ultimate role.
Is it just me or do all these pitchers have a “head-whack?”
In the 8th (#229), the Cubs take LHP Tommy Thorpe…
…from Oregon. Apparently he was the Friday starter for Oregon. BA doesn’t have him in their Top 500. He’s among Kiley McDaniel’s 748, but outside his top 200. Also not in the top 200 for MLB.com, so unfortunately no scouting reports here. He’s 6’0″, 195 lbs, so on the smaller side, especially for pitchers drafted by the current front office. Played for Team USA last year.
We are nearing the “strictly depth” portion of the draft, though some on this blog might argue that started yesterday.
Thorpe had a 2.14 ERA during his three years at Oregon. 225 strikeouts, 92 walks, and 185 hits in 252 innings. His senior year he was 90/33/79 in 105. Seems like he was decent at suppressing runs despite mediocre stuff. I was trying to figure out whether he played in a pitcher’s park, when I found this:
The specially designed baseball turf is different than turf used in football stadiums, and feels more like natural grass. The infields and basepaths are created from special fibers for added durability, consistent ball bounce and optimal sliding.
So that’s interesting. I’ve never heard of artificial basepaths.
In the 9th (#259), the Cubs take James Farris, RHP…
… 6’2″, 213 pound senior from the University of Arizona. Farris is #357 on the BA 500, so we get a scouting report:
Farris started and pitched seven innings in Arizona’s clinching victory of the 2012 College World Series, and was drafted in the 15th round last season by the Astros. If he’s amenable to sign, he’ll go in the first 10 rounds this year as a cost-saving senior with good performance numbers. He doesn’t have big stuff and knows it, so he has developed into a command-oriented, durable starter. He had five complete games in a 6-6, 3.40 season with just 1.5 walks per nine innings, with 100 strikeouts. He’s matured physically and emotionally over four seasons and learned to pitch off his 85-89 mph fastball and changeup, his best pitch. He adds and subtracts from his fastball to get more cut and life. He’s also learned to throw his curveball for strikes, though it’s a below-average pitch on a pro scale.
Farris has been a member of Arizona’s starting rotation for the last three years. As a sophomore, he started the clinching game of Wildcats’ 2012 College World Series championship. Farris doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but knows how to use it and commands all of his pitches well. His fastball sits in the upper-80s and he can manipulate it to add or subtract velocity or movement depending on the situation. His changeup is his best pitch and he also throws a curveball, though it’s a below-average offering. Farris was selected in the 15th round last year by the Astros, but elected to return to Arizona for his senior year. He could be a solid option this year for a team looking to save money in its Draft budget.
A total of 321 innings over the course of his career with 247 strikeouts and 65 walks. So, pretty good control. Only a 3.93 ERA over that time, though there is probably a desert air effect.
In the 10th (#289), the Cubs take RHP Ryan Williams…
… Another Senior pick here for the Cubs, who once again went heavy on pitchers in day two, selecting seven in a row after Zagunis in the 3rd. Presumably Williams and Farris will help to save a bit of slot money for Cease and Sands in case they need it.
Williams is 6’4″, 220 lbs, which is very much in the mold of what we’ve seen out of righties drafted the past two years under this front office. He’s from East Carolina, so perhaps they noticed him whilst checking out Jeff Hoffman and his now-torn UCL. No ranking from BA or MLB, and he didn’t make Kiley’s top 748, so no scouting report. Surprisingly, there is a youtube clip with a few highlights, didn’t think I would be able to find anything except the British pop star. Oh wait, that’s Robbie Williams, isn’t it? Good thing day two is over; I’m evidently losing my mind.
Williams pitched a total of 335 innings
at ECU combined in two years of Juco and two at ECU, registering 214 K’s to just 64 BB’s, so that’s pretty good. ERA sits at 2.77 over his career, 1.81 for 2014.
The rest of the draft takes place tomorrow. No promises on how much I’ll be around. Usually there are a few intriguing names in the 11th-13th rounds, as teams who saved money on day two take players without risking any of their allotted pool money. Depending on where their budget sits, the Cubs may have enough for a player or two at $150-$200k.