What will the Cubs do in the 2017 MLB Draft?


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David Banks - USA Today Sports
David Banks - USA Today Sports

The MLB Draft is on Monday, June 12th. With an uncertainty on who will go number one, and with the Cubs having two picks in the first round, it should be an exciting draft to watch. Since 2011, the Cubs’ 1st round draft picks have been (in order) Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ (they did not have a 1st round pick in 2016). It’s safe to say that they have drafted pretty well this decade.

Before that, the Cubs selections in the 1st round have been many hit and misses. Many Cubs fans remember the hype that Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters brought, but their time in the majors was a complete catastrophe. In between them, however, was Andrew Cashner, who the Cubs eventually traded to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo. Looking further down history, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were both 1st round picks.

This year, the Cubs will have two picks: the 27th pick and the 30th pick, after receiving compensation for the Cardinals signing Dexter Fowler in the offseason. In the Theo Epstein era, the Cubs have only selected hitters in the first round. With the establishment of a young offensive core, this could be the first time where they select a pitcher.

Here are a few players that could fit the Cubs system well in either pick:

Clarke Schmidt – RHP, South Carolina
The Gamecocks have been a historically strong baseball team, as they recently won back-to-back championships in the College Baseball World Series. Notable players from South Carolina include Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sam Dyson. This year, South Carolina could have three pitchers go in the first three rounds, with Schmidt being the best of them. Schmidt was the best pitcher in the SEC in 2016, but blew out his arm and needed Tommy John surgery, hurting his draft stock. His best pitch is his fastball, which sits at 92-94 mph and has some sink to it. His breaking pitches are good, but they lack some consistency. He has great stuff, but the biggest question for him is durability. Like many pitchers, Schmidt may be a risk to pick first round, but he has a high upside.

Bubba Thompson – OF, McGill-Toolen HS
Talk about an athlete – Bubba Thompson was the quarterback for McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile Alabama, racking up 3,860 yards and 43 touchdowns last fall. Mississippi and Tennessee offered him football scholarships, and many schools offered him two-sport scholarships, but he decided to stick with baseball. He could climb in late in the first round solely because of his athletic ability. Thompson is known for his speed, running a 6.35-second 60-yard dash last summer, but has been rising in stock since displaying more power than scouts might expect. His ceiling is becoming a 15-20 homer player with 30-40 steals. He has a strong arm fit for any position in the outfield but still needs to work on his defensive skills in center field. Yes, the Cubs have plenty of outfielders currently, but as a high school player, Thompson would not reach the major leagues until around 2020 anyways.

Matt Sauer, RHP, Righetti HS
It is hard to find a pitcher with strong arm strength AND high upside, but Sauer fits both categories. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has a fastball that has reached 97 mph, plus a nasty slider that hits 87 mph (!!!). He’ll need to work on his changeup for a third pitch in the majors, but has plenty of time for that in the minors. Sauer might end up as a long inning reliever, as some scouts are not crazy about his arm action. With a good fastball and strong slider, however, he could be a right-handed version of Andrew Miller. Still, a high school pitcher that could be destined for the bullpen does not favor his chances of being drafted in the first round.

Keston Hiura, 2B/OF, UC Irvine
It is not a Cubs draft without picking a college hitter in the first round! Hiura stands out as an all-around player with a terrific swing. He has one of the most talented bats in this draft, hitting for high contact and showing some power. He is OK defensively and is likely to play more time in center field than at second base. Scouts have no idea where Hiura will end up in the first round, as an elbow injury has set him back and forth on the Big Board. There is a chance that he needs Tommy John surgery, which is of less concern as a hitter compared to a pitcher but would naturally slow down his game development. Of the four draft prospects on this list, Hiura is most likely to be selected before the Cubs have a chance to get him.

Look for the Cubs to do what they have done over the past few years: draft a college bat in the first round, and focus the next four rounds on pitching prospects. With two picks in the first round, they might draft a college and a high school hitter. So far, the college hitters have paid off, and a few of the pitchers (Pierce Johnson, for example) are starting to make their way into the big leagues.

This draft class is top-heavy, meaning that there are many good players for the first ten picks, but the rest of the teams will have to find a diamond in the rough for a successful pick. The number one pick could be Hunter Greene, a right-handed pitcher who can also hit. Kyle Wright and MacKenzie Gore also have a chance to be picked first. The Minnesota Twins have the first pick this year.

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