It usually takes a couple of years to see the impact of a draft class on an organization. And it is rare to see a class impact the system right away, as most pitchers are on strict pitch counts and inning limits after having already pitched a season in the spring. However, hitters have no limits. And they can often come in energize an organization and its affiliates immediately.
In 2018, the Cubs signed 32 of their 42 draft picks and also added three non-drafted free agents. All 35 have been assigned to an affiliate and have begun to play. Unfortunately, some were injured while other draft picks are shining in their new profession in just a brief amount of time.
Nico – Like a one-named rock star, Nico Hoerner came into the system and his play quickly turned heads. He showed the ability in just a couple of weeks to put the bat on the ball, along with some power potential. Nico also displayed a mature defensive profile. The first game I saw him in person was the game in which he was injured at South Bend. However, before he got to South Bend, Hoerner played at Eugene for a week and showed on MiLB.TV that he is a bit more physically impressive than most people first thought at 6’1″ and a sculpted 200 lbs. In just 14 games, he went .327/.450/.571 with an OPS of 1.021. That’s not too shabby for two weeks worth of work.
Nico’s regular season pretty much ended on one play while diving for a ball. He did stay in the game and hit a home run later, but that was it for him. When I saw him on Wednesday three days later in Davenport, he did not even take BP. He was placed on the DL and declared out for the season by the end of Thursday. He should be back in plenty of time for fall instructs and might be ready for the last week of the season. Then again, I don’t think the Cubs are going to rush him. Then, in Arizona this fall, Hoerner can work on incorporating more of his lower half to increase his power.
Cole Roederer – Heading into Tuesday night, he had played in only 13 games. Still, in that short span, Roederer has dazzled many with his play on both offense and defense in the Arizona Rookie League. Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell was impressed by Roederer’s defensive talents. At the plate, Roederer has been filling up the box score as he gets on more than 50 percent of the time, and he’s hit three home runs so far. His OPS is a dynamic 1.211.
Roederer’s play has fans thinking he should go to Eugene even after a small sample size. It’s an intriguing idea, but Cole might be best suited to play out 2018 in Mesa and possibly begin next year at South Bend, depending on how the spring goes in Mesa.
Clayton Daniel – A 31st round pick out of Jacksonville State, Daniel is already on his third level of the system in the past two weeks. He dominated the Arizona Rookie League at the plate, hitting .370, and then he made short work of Eugene in just seven games. He arrived last Wednesday in Davenport to play for South Bend. Over the next six games, I watched Daniel show excellent bat-to-ball skills as he has sprayed the ball all over the Quad Cities and Kane County. He can easily execute the hit-and-run in classic fashion, as he did on Sunday hitting into the vacated hole raising his average to a stellar .417 at that point. With an impressive hitting floor, he also comes across as one of the more mature players in the system.
Starting to Show Glimpses
While many on Twitter were excited the Cubs selected college on-base machine Luke Reynolds from Southern Mississippi, Reynolds got off to a rough start in Mesa. Once he was promoted to Eugene, though, Reynolds started to take off, hitting almost .400 in his first week of short season ball. His defense still needs some work, but the bat is special as is his approach at the plate. He might even find his way to South Bend in the next few weeks based on his advanced hitting pedigree.
Wait and See
The Cubs drafted mostly position players in this draft, but they still took a fair share of pitchers. Most of them are at Eugene, while a few still remain in Mesa. Derek Casey, out of the University of Virginia, is a favorite of mine to watch. His over-the-top delivery makes it hard for hitters to square him up. Combined with his experience in the ACC, he should take off without any shackles or inning limits in 2018.
Second round pick Brennen Davis played in two games before he was injured and spent three weeks on the shelf with the leg issue. He started back playing this past weekend. When I sat down to write to this article, his on-base percentage of almost .500 is very impressive for an 18-year-old kid who, ironically, was also injured most of the spring. Then again, he’s only played in six games.
It’s Only Been a Month…
In just a short month of time, several picks have already come into the system and brought some excitement. In the last two draft classes, position players were an afterthought to drafting pitching. Not this year. Hoerner, Roederer, and Davis will likely be ranked in the top 20 of any Cubs’ prospect list, with Hoerner near the top. That’s a lot of juice for one draft. It won’t rebuild the system, but it is a start. It will be even more exciting next year to see all of them in their first full season of pro ball at Eugene, South Bend, Myrtle Beach, and if all goes well, maybe even Tennessee.
Lead photo of Nico Hoerner courtesy of Todd Johnson.