Massive 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft Preview

I started talking about the draft a few weeks ago, and how much prep time Theo and company were putting into it, well now we are close enough to the draft so you should get to know who the Cubs have been looking at.  The draft will be broadcast live on MLB Network at 7:00 PM EST, one hour earlier MLB Network will air a draft preview special.  Want to know who they will be talking about, and who the Cubs are thinking about taking at number six?  Then keep reading.

The Cubs, as an organization are thin in the pitching department, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be taking a pitcher with the 6th pick overall.  A pick that high is usually reserved for best available rather than a positional need.  That said, the Cubs look to beef up on pitching with four picks in the top 75 this year.  Here is a look at who the Cubs might be drafting, and a top 10 outlook.  The order I post these previews in is from the latest Jonathan Mayo ranking, this is not the order I think they will be picked.

Speed, speed, and more speed.  Buxton can fly, but that is not the only thing he has in his arsenal, the kid can hit.  When I say hit, I mean gap to gap line drives, couple that with his speed and he is a weapon.  His speed not only helps his base running, it makes him an above average center fielder, he can track down a lot.  Given that he is only 18 years old he needs some work, but the raw talent and skill sets might make him the best prep player in the draft
Prediction – Drafted #2 overall – Minnesota Twins
Cubs Chances – None, no way.  Even if he slips past the Twins, he won’t make it past the Mariners at #3

Probably the best of the big three college arms in the draft.  Because of that it sounds like Appel could go first overall.  Appel was drafted in the 15th round three years ago but ended up going to Stanford because of sign-ability issues.  That was the best possible thing for Appel as he has developed into a potential top of the rotation arm.  He can throw his three best pitches for strikes, and can use them as out pitches.  He is projected to possibly fill out his frame which means he could add onto an already mid 90’s fastball that he can command. 
Prediction – Drafted #1 overall – Houston Astros
Cubs Chances – Zero, Appel will go #1 in my opinion, if he doesn’t there is now way he gets past #5, too many teams want college arms, go figure.

Backstop of the future for whatever team drafts him.  Zunino is by far the best catcher in the draft and projects to be an above-average catcher at the big league level.  His bat projects to be in the middle of the order, and there’s a good chance that it will get even better.  Couple that with plus catch and throw skills and the ability to handle a staff makes him a top five pick this year.
Prediction – Drafted #3 overall – Seattle Mariners
Cubs Chances – The Cubs have an outside shot at Zunino, but if there is a college arm on the board still they should go in that direction instead.

Strike throwing  righty who has the ability to strike guys out at will as evidenced by his 118 strikeouts in 100.2 innings this year, couple that with 23 walks and he’s a hot commodity.  He works off his fastball, which like so many top arms sits in the mid 90’s.  I would say the majority of those walks would be when he has fallen in love with his curveball which he has had trouble locating.  Despite that he still projects as a front of the rotation arm.
Prediction – Drafted #5 overall – Kansas City Royals
Cubs Chances – This would be one of the college arms I mentioned, if for some reason he is still on the board the Cubs will draft him, I don’t think he will be.

Ballplayer right here, no question about it.  The one thing you always hear about young SS is they will probably be moved because of defense, not Correa.  He can stick at SS, and that is why he is so attractive to so many teams.  He has an above average bat, and big power right now.  When I say big, I mean outstanding power, think middle of the order power with the ability to play short for his whole career.
Prediction – Drafted #7 overall – San Diego Padres
Cubs Chances – The key to the whole draft is Correa, if a team ahead of the Cubs chooses to take him instead of a college arm then the Cubs will get that arm that is left over.

Zimmer round out the big three college arms “behind” Appel and Gausman.  Zimmer has a plus fastball hovering right around 97 MPH, and has a power breaking curve that can be an out pitch.  He has no problems finding the strike zone with either which makes him an attractive option at the top of the draft.  Right now Zimmer would have four pitches that would be considered average at the big league level, that’s scary.
Prediction – Drafted #4 overall – Baltimore Orioles
Cubs Chances – The two most “likely” college arms available to the Cubs would be Gausman or Zimmer, I like Zimmer, but I really don’t see either guy there at 6.

Fried is the best left-handed pitcher in the draft.  Unlike his right-handed counterparts he does not throw in the mid to upper 90’s.  Fried relies on solid downward movement with his fastball and has a major league ready curveball.  Excellent mound presence coupled with his stellar command make him a top 10 pick. 
Prediction – Drafted #8 overall – Pittsburgh Pirates
Cubs Chances – Don’t sleep of Fried, if he is there and all three college arms are gone the Cubs might value need (pitching) over Correa/Almora.

By far the most intriguing player in the draft.  Giolito is not only the best prep arm in the draft, but he might be the best pitcher in the draft.  He was projected by many to be the #1 pick overall but he sprained the UCL in his throwing arm, not good.  He has rested the arm, but there is a lot of concern about using a high pick on a guy that has a bad elbow, especially the price tag that comes with that type of pick.
Prediction – Late First Round / Supplemental – Unknown
Cubs Chances – Given the fact that Giolito might be looking for a top of the draft payday he might not be worth the pick, but might be worth a supplemental pick depends on the money.

Hard worker who has played for team USA a lot, and has shown the natural ability to lead by example, sounds like a Theo guy.  Not bad for someone who just turned 18 years old.  Every part of Almora’s game can be considered above average with the ability to hit to all fields and show solid power.  Defensively he is outstanding as he has excellent range and a superb arm.  Character guy to the max.
Prediction – Drafted #6 overall – Chicago Cubs
Cubs Chances – This is where the Cubs go I think, unless something crazy happens with one of the big 3 college arms.

The reason for Jonathan Mayo putting Stroman in the top 10 is he is the best closer in the draft.  I would have to disagree with Mayo, not with him being the best closer, but with him being a top 10 pick.  His fastball is in the mid 90’s and he has solid command, not great.  He has a lot of movement on his pitches, been compared to Tom Gordon endlessly. 
Prediction – Top 20 pick, not top 10 – Unknown
Cubs Chances – He will be on the board at #6, but the Cubs should and will pass on him at that point.

Other players to watch:  Michael Wacha, RHP – Texas A&M University, Deven Marrero, SS – Arizona State University, Courtney Hawkins, OF – Mater Academy.

I hope that you now have a better understanding of the players that everyone in Major League Baseball has been focused on all year.  To recap, I would love for the Cubs to get Appel, Gausman, or Zimmer, the chances of that are slim to none.  So the options remain of Correa, Almora, and Fried.  If I had to guess, I think the Cubs go with Almora, but it really depends on where Correa goes, and if one of Gausman, or Zimmer are still on the board.  If they are I would love for the Cubs to get Zimmer, but Almora is my safe pick.  Enjoy the draft, I will have live commentary as it happens on June 4th.

Thanks, go Cubs!
– George


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