Cubs truly focused on best available in first round of today's draft
The Cubs farm system isn't so loaded with talent that they can pick and choose based on need.
So when they make their first-round draft pick Sunday at No. 21, every option seems to be on the table. Scouting director Dan Kantrovitz was asked this week is there is one player at the top of the wish list.
"It's fluid," he said. "I think if you ask any of our scouts, they probably have a gut-feel guy that maybe they hope is our pick at 21. But having done this now for 15 years, that player rarely ends up being the guy you take with your first pick.
"Especially picking at 21, it doesn't matter too much who we want, what matters is who's available. We don't necessarily control our own destiny. But everybody, including me, probably has a favorite or two. It wouldn't make sense for me to say who that player is before the draft, but we all probably do."
Like every other scouting director in baseball, Kantrovitz appreciated the chance to get back out and scout players in person again, after most college and high school baseball was halted by the pandemic last spring. The MLB Draft was just five rounds last year. There will be 20 rounds this time.
"It is energizing. It feels real right now," Kantrovitz said. "This is the first time we've had our entire scouting department together since last January. Being in the war room, talking about players and debating with all the scouts, I think everybody was pretty thirsty to do that."
The Cubs haven't developed many homegrown starting pitchers in the past decade, so that's one area to target. The player that shows up the most in the mock drafts is Michael McGreevy, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from UC-Santa Barbara.
McGreevy is often compared to Cleveland's Shane Bieber, mostly because Bieber also played at UCSB. McGreevy throws in the mid-90s, but his most impressive college stat is probably 194 strikeouts, compared to just 31 walks over his career.
A high school pitcher who has been linked to the Cubs is 6-5 lefty Anthony Solometo from Pennsauken Township, N.J. He throws in the 90s and has an unusual delivery that reminds some observers of Madison Bumgarner.
Right-hander Gunnar Hoglund from Mississippi had Tommy John surgery in May and was once projected as a possible top-10 pick. If he's still on the board at No. 21, the Cubs might see him as a good value pick.
A couple pitchers thought to be late-risers are East Carolina right-hander Gavin Williams, who had an impressive outing against Vanderbilt in the super regional; and righty Will Bednar, who led Mississippi State to the College World Series title.
Last year, the Cubs chose shortstop Ed Howard from Mt. Carmel High School and their top position prospect in the system is outfielder Brennen Davis. So if the Cubs stick with the theme of athletic guys with high upside, there are a couple of candidates.
Outfielder Will Taylor from Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, S.C. is a three-sport star who is committed to play slot receiver at Clemson. As a high school quarterback, he led Dutch Fork to a state title last fall and is also a two-time state champion wrestler. Speed is thought to be his best attribute.
Speaking of Clemson football commits, right-handed pitcher Bubba Chandler is listed as the No. 21 draft prospect by mlb.com. The football QB has thrown in the mid-90s and is also a switch-hitting shortstop. Chandler went to North Oconee (Ga.) High School, the same school that produced Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker, a possible top-five pick.
There were always questions about being able to sign guys who plan to play a second sport in college. That might be a bigger concern now that college athletes are allowed to earn money.
Another player with high-upside athletic potential is Florida outfielder Jud Fabian. He drew some comparisons to Mookie Betts when he played in the Cape Cod League. This season for the Gators, he hit just .249, but with 20 homers.
If the Cubs want to go in-state with their pick for the second year in a row, there's Eastern Illinois' Trey Sweeney, who likely projects as a power-hitting third baseman. The 6-4 Louisville native hit .382 this spring with 58 RBI in 48 games.
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