It’s February. Baseball is still a ways away, unless you’re watching amateur ball.
But the Cubs’ front office is busy. One of the things they’re doing—among many, many others at this time of year—is gearing up for the draft by evaluating their farm system and understanding their organizational needs. They’re also off and scouting any potential high school players they’d like to have in their organization, and they’re watching college ball, which is just about underway this weekend in most parts of the country.
In previous years, the Cubs have gone with position players at the top of the draft, and pitchers in later rounds. But, here’s the thing: The Cubs won’t have their first pick this year until the third round, 104th overall. They gave up their first round pick after signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward. With no second round pick, either, the Cubs are not going to have the opportunity to draft a lot of the high-profile players they’ve targeted early in recent years.
This means that the Cubs are going to have to adjust their draft strategy, and that means it’s much harder—near impossible—to predict who they might pick. The only lists I’ve seen are Top 100 college draft prospects, so, once you mix in the high school draft prospects, looking towards the bottom 25 of the college prospects list gives an idea of who the Cubs may have available to them. So, in the service of a way-too-early exercise, I’ve scanned over a hundred names on those lists and found a couple who might possibly end up being targets. Fair warning: there’s a lot of uncertainty in this exercise, I’m not a scout (this is important!) and we’re very, very early in the process. That’s life down at the bottom of the draft board. Anyway. Here are some names you might hear over the next few months.
Nogosek is a junior right handed pitcher at Oregon who has never been drafted before. In 2013, Perfect Game had him ranked at 591 in the Top 1000. What’s changed since then? Nogosek was named to his third preseason All-American team by Perfect Game and is also on Team USA’s Collegiate National Team.
From watching footage (again, I’m not a scout, so take this with several grains of salt), his delivery and follow through is a bit funky, with his leg going 180 degrees from the kick to the plant. It’s almost Tim Lincecum-esque. The overhand throw looks like he’s putting a lot of force into it. His secondary pitch appears to be a curveball that could complement the fastball, but is still very raw.
Nogosek could fit into the Cubs organization as a reliever, which is his role with the Ducks right now. He’ll be 21 when he’s drafted, which gives enough time for him to develop the curveball into an above average pitch and maybe even work on a third pitch if necessary. At best, he might be able to be a seventh inning guy who can throw hard, and the Cubs have put a premium on bringing live arms into their organization.
A junior righty from Cal State Fullerton, Hockin has also never been drafted before. After a standout sophomore season (2.95 ERA in 18 games, 1.31 WHIP), he spent last summer playing in the Cape Cod League with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Hockin appears to throw a fastball and a slider, and has as standard a delivery and follow through as can be. That isn’t always bad, especially when paired—as it seems to be in Hockin—with reliability and durability.
Junior, righty, out of North Carolina State, never been drafted before, pitched for the Harwick Mariners in the Cape Cod League last summer. Now that that’s out of the way: Wilder’s not a hard thrower. He’s got a straight fastball with a little life to it, and a looping curveball. Here’s the difference between Wilder and the last two names I mentioned: he’s a starter. He pitched in 15 games in 2015, starting 14 of them. He fared a lot better than when he was a reliever in 2014, finishing the 2015 season with a 3.50 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He would need to develop or hone a third pitch if he wants to be a successful starter, and I’m sure the Cubs would help him make that happen if they see promise in his stuff.
Garcia is a junior out of the University of Miami who has never been drafted before. He did not pitch in the Cape Cod League last summer and he’s a lefty, so here’s someone to break up the status quo of righties who pitched in the Cape.
When you search Garcia’s name on YouTube, you get videos of a boxer by the same name, so there’s not much to say about his pitching from my own analysis. Perfect Game had his fastball clocked at 91 miles per hour in 2012.
His Miami page says that he spent the 2015 season as the team’s fourth starter and primary long reliever, which explains why he pitched in 23 games and started 11 of them. If drafted by the Cubs, he could have the potential to be the team’s LOOGY in the future. Isn’t that what every kid dreams of when they’re playing in the backfields?
The third round isn’t all doom and gloom, really. At that level, this is about what you expect. Currently, the Cubs’ best six prospects in the BP top 101 are two infielders and four outfielders, so they’ve made an effort to build up their position player depth. But their pitching could be built up stronger. Most of the pitchers who would still likely be available in the third and fourth round appear to be relievers, which could work in the Cubs’ favor.
Of course, the Cubs should build up both their future rotation and bullpen together, but if the market says, “Here’s a bunch of relievers you could have,” you take advantage of that. Building up the bullpen for the future can be key for the Cubs, especially to make sure that games that are on the line stay in their favor. And that could be a key component for the Cubs to continue their climb to the top.
Lead photo courtesy David Manning—USA Today Sports.