Latest Expert Predictions on Who Chicago Cubs Will Draft
With the 2014 MLB draft just about a month away, the Cubs once again have a top-five pick. Last season they appeared to hit a home run by taking 3B Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, and this season they hold pick No. 4. There are several different directions the club could go, but pitching is likely to be a top priority.
Based on expert projections from various baseball writers and reporters, including Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum, here are the three players the Cubs are most likely to take when their turn comes up in the first round of the draft.
RHP Tyler Kolek: Shepherd HS (Texas)
Kolek is an absolute force on the mound and continues the long line of great high school pitchers to come out of Texas. Amazingly, at 6'6" and 240 pounds, Kolek has reached triple digits on the gun while still in high school. One argument is that having that velocity at such a young age could burn out his arm before he could contribute to the major league team. Another argument is that he could only be getting started, and that's scary.
In addition to his fastball, which he maintains mid-90s velocity on deep into games, Kolek throws a slider that has the potential to be devastating. The last two pitches in his repertoire are a curveball and changeup, and the latter is still developing. Should he be able to make that changeup above average, Kolek could be a superstar at the next level.
C Max Pentecost: Kennesaw State
Pentecost has been shooting up draft boards lately, and Cubs President Theo Epstein has checked him out. While pitching is a more pressing concern for the Cubs right now, catcher is the one position the organization isn't deep in. Past Welington Castillo, the club doesn't have much in the way of backstops, so the Cubs may decide to add depth in that area.
Pentecost doesn't have great home run power, but he does project as a similar hitter to former All-Star catcher Jason Kendall. Like Kendall, Pentecost does have gaps power and will be able to drive in plenty of runs while also providing speed on the bases, which is unusual for a catcher. This could be a reach at this pick, but if Cubs brass likes him enough, they may be convinced into taking him with the No. 4 pick.
C/OF Alex Jackson: Escondido HS (California)
There are a lot of top prospects in this year's draft who are pitchers. However, the three teams in front of the Cubs could easily take the top three pitchers on the board in Carlos Rodon, Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek. If that's the case, the Cubs may go for the best value left on the board. That best value would be in Jackson, who figures to move to corner outfield in the pros.
Jackson has some of the best raw power in the draft, and his limited range will likely relegate him to right field. Already at 6'2" and 215 pounds out of high school, Jackson can really fill out his frame and develop into a great power hitter. Adding Jackson to an already loaded hitting farm system would give the team even more room for error if a few position player prospects falter. If none of the top three pitchers are on the board for the Cubs, they would be better off taking Jackson and working about pitching in the second round.