Cubs draft class highlighted by Nico Hoerner, four Outfielders with first five selections

By: Thomas Gibbons

The MLB draft, June 4th to 6th, does not get that much hype or coverage as other professionals sports drafts do, but none the less there is work to be done.

Theo Epstein had five picks in the top 100 as he looks to re-tool the farm system after a few years of trading prospects away for the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Jose Quintana, and others.

Looking back over Epstein’s tenure with the Cubs, he has hit on his first round picks. Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ are enjoying success at the pro level. This year, analysts eyed the Cubs to draft a “big bat” in an attempt to re-stock the farm system.

In this article, Thomas Gibbons breaks down every pick through the first two days of the MLB Draft

24th pick: Nico Hoerner, SS Stanford

The Cubs believe they found a gem in Hoerner and believe there is untapped power in his swing. He has exceptional makeup,” said Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development. “If you talked to people in the program, people he’s played with on other teams outside the program — teammates, coaches, counselors — I think everyone would come back with the same thing. And when you watch him play on the field, you see it. He fits exactly what we’re looking to do.”

Hoerner finished his junior season hitting an impressive .345 with an on-base percentage of .351, 2 HRs, 40 RBIs and only struck out 22 times in 232 at-bats. His efforts helped lead Stanford to its first Pac-12 Conference Championship since 2004. Hoerner was also an All-Conference selection.

Outside of Stanford, the 21 year-old shortstop participated in the Cape Cod League last summer, batting an impressive .300 with six home runs.

Our plan obviously is to leave him at shortstop,” McLeod added. “We think he can play shortstop. But he’s such a good baseball player that if down the road we ever asked him to move somewhere else, I think he’d probably do it flawlessly, because that’s just who he is.”

The Cubs minor league system is getting a pretty good player. Hoerner was also a finalists for the nations best shortstop this season. His speed and patience at the plate already makes him a very good player and the Cubs believe the best is yet to come from his swing. Shortstop is a very sought after position in baseball and for the Cubs to land one of the nation’s best at the end of the first round is pretty remarkable. It will be fun to see how fast Hoerner moves up in the minor leagues.

62nd pick: Brennen Davis, OF Basha HS (AZ). 

The Cubs picked their first high school player of the draft in Round 2. Davis is committed to the University of Miami in FL., but he told the Arizona Republic he will meet with a Cubs representative Tuesday and likely will forgo college and sign with the club.

“He was a two-way guy until his senior year, when he gave up basketball to focus on baseball. That, coupled with hamstring issues his senior year, have made it hard for there to be a consensus among scouts about whether he’ll actually develop into a capable hitter.”- Brett Taylor from Bleache

In addition, Davis is asking for more money than the projected value of the pick, $1.0609 million. His range is reportedly in the $1.2-1.5M. So signing him may take longer than expected and college is still an option.

Pick 77 ( Compensation pick for Wade Davis): Cole Roederer, OF Hart HS ( CA)

Roederer, committed to UCLA, has impressive bat speed that some evaluators think could lead to above-average power down the road according to a story from CBS Sports. Roederer hit .392, .527OBP, five doubles, seven homers and 19 RBI in his senior season.

The Cubs will have a lot of convincing to do to get him to skip out on college and join the club. The 77th pick is an assinged value of $775K. Not a bad pay-day.

Pick 78 (Comp. for Jake Arrieta): Paul Richan, RHR University of San Diego

Richan has a pretty impressive junior season and it backs up being drafted on day one. He struck out 101 batters in 89.2 innings of work and only walked 13 batters. The Cubs put him through a workout leading up to draft night. The slot value is $762,900. Former Cub Andre Dawson announced the pick.

Scouts were impressed with Richan’s competitive nature on the mound, workhorse mentality and ability to locate a fastball that approaches the mid-90s.

Pick 98: Jimmy Heron, OF Duke 

Duke and Heron are still alive in the NCAA tournament, advancing Monday night in an 8-5 win over Georgia. Heron went 2-5 with an RBI.

Drafted by the Yankees in the 31st round last year, Heron turned it down to play in the Cape Cod league and return to Duke. He became the first Blue Devil in school history to total 50-plus career doubles and 50-plus career stolen bases.

This marked the third outfielder the Cubs took through their first five selections. On MLB.com, the Cubs top 30 prospects are loaded with pitchers and position players needed a boost. Losing Eloy Jimenez hurt, but the Cubs look to be adding some of the best talent at the college level with hopes to be contributors at the major league level in a few years.

Pick 128: Ethan Roberts, RHR Tennessee Tech U

The closer for TTU, Roberts earned a 2.41 ERA with 14 saves and 98 strikeouts in 71 innings. Yet on Monday, Roberts made his first start of the season and led the charge in a 15-5 win over Mississippi of an NCAA regional. TTU will play Texas in the super regional this weekend.

It’s too early to say what the Cubs will develop him into, a high-end starter or a lead role in the bullpen. But the versatility is a good start.

Pick 158: Andy Weber, 2B Virginia

Recently, Weber was honored by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as a Third Team All-American. He became the first Virginia second basemen to earn these honors. Weber hit .334 with 5HR and 49RBIs this season.

Pick 188: Kohl Franklin, RHP Broken Arrow Sr HS (OK)

Franklin is committed to Oklahoma so another player the Cubs will have to lure away from college. The slot value is $245.6K.

Kohl earned All-American Honorable Metion honors in 2018.

Pick 218: D.J. Artis, OF, Liberty University

Artis was drafted in 40th round in 2015…by the Cubs. That is a long time to wait for you name to be called. I bet round seven was a lot better.

“I’d been waiting since round three,” Artis said. “I was supposed to go early — round three or four — but it didn’t work out. I was waiting, processing everything in my head. Would I have to go back to school? I was freaking out, my parents were freaking out. But in the end it was worth it all.” Artis also confirmed in a interview that he will sign with the Cubs.

Artis was the Freshman of the Year in the conference, setting a school record with 52 walks. He was the conference player of the year as a sophomore and broke his own walk record with 62 on the season. This past season, Artis put on 25 pounds of muscle before his junior campaign. He finished with a .292 BA, 4 HRs, 23RBIs, 23 stolen bases, and 52 walks to earn All-Big South honors.

Pick 248: Zach Mort, RHP, George Mason U

Mort earned a 2.48ERA in his junior year as a Patriot, down from 5.71 the year before. In 15 starts, Mort held opposing hitters to a .238 BA, struck out 108 and walked just 13 in 105.1 IP.

Pick 278: Derek Casey, RHP Virginia

The Cubs drafted Casey in 2014, but he decided to stay in school. He also joins four of his teammates to be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Casey posted a 7-4 record with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts this season. He struck out 106 and walked 25.

I was very honored that I had the opportunity to go down that route (Virginia),” Casey said in an interview with Richmond.com. “So that was very exciting for me. It had been a childhood dream. For me, at that time though, I felt like I needed to go play college baseball and polish my craft a little bit.”

Casey missed the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Therefore, he has one more year of eligibility but many expect him to turn pro.

Pick 308: Luke Reynolds, 3B University of Southern Mississippi

Reynolds junior season was highlighted by a .551 on-base percentage to go along with .389 batting average, and 15HRs.

Pretty impressive draft class so far for the Cubs. Moving up in the minor league system is very tough. It will be fun to watch these guys develop and especially Hoerner on how fast he can crack the major league roster. The MLB draft continues Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

DAY 3

Pick 458: Tyler Durna, 1B UC San Diego

Durna was the first prospect to stick out to me on Day 3 of the MLB draft. First, he has many accolades including Rawlings All-West Region First Team, D2CCA All-West Region First Team, and CCAA Championship All-Tournament Team. Second, the Chino Hills native hit .333 with 7HRs, 54RBIs, and 18 doubles this season for the Tritons. The lefty hitter is viewed by scouts as a guy with plenty of pull power in his offensive game and a  aggressive hitter.

I like this pick a lot. The numbers speak for themselves but the Cubs added another proven bat with high upside. He decreased his strikeouts, added to his walk total, and made only three errors in 2018. Durna is a really impressive player and a guy to watch through his climb in the Cubs system.

Pick 578: Layne Looney, RHP Richmond University

Looney’s ERA for 2018: 0.60!

In 30 innings of work, the star Spider struck out 51, walked just 13 and opposing batting average was .183. Another impressive stat about Looney is that from March 13 to May 24, he pitched 16 straight scoreless relief appearances. Now that is someone you can count on.

Along with teammate Robbie Baker, Looney made first team All A-10.

Pick 698: Hunter Taylor, C South Carolina

The Cubs drafted their first catcher of the draft in Round 23. Taylor, who lost 30 pounds before his final season, saw a big jump in his numbers. His slugging percentage jumped from .300 to .497 to go along with eight home runs and eight doubles.

“I got a little bit quicker, a little bit easier to do a lot more stuff, I can get a lot more swings in without getting as tired,” Taylor said of the difference between this year and last. “I worked on my defense a lot. That was a big thing I wanted to improve on from last year and the year before. Hitting just kinda filled in with what we do every day in practice.”

Taylor obviously has the drive and now a slimmer body to continue to improve his game. I’d say he is a guy to keep an eye on, especially if the Cubs keep him at catcher. He threw out 45% of potential base-stealers last season.

Pick 758: Dalton Hurd, CF Seattle U

Hurd owns Seattle University’s career records for runs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, runs batted in and stolen bases. The Cubs have done it again!

His size? 5-9, 174lb. He may be small but he’s dangerous. “I know and love that Major League Baseball has gone to more of a sabermetric (look), looking at on-base percentage and what guys can do defensively,” said Seattle U coach Donny Harrel. “It’s not just prototypical sizes or people anymore, and why couldn’t he be the next (Jose) Altuve?”

His coach Donny Harrel is right. If a player puts up good numbers then forgot about his measurables. You have to get him in the lineup and who knows what he can do.

Pick 878: Levi Jordan, SS Washington University

Jordan earned All-Pac 12 and NCAA Conway Regional All-Tournament Team. He is the 7th Husky to play in 200-plus career games (205) and is 5th all-time in UW history with 690 at bats.

2018 stat line: .300 BA/.364OBP/.498 SLG/8HR/39RBIs.

Pick 968: Jack Patterson, LHP Bryant University

Opponents hit just .232 against the lefty in his senior season for the Bulldogs. Patterson made 14 starts going 6-3 including one complete game shutout. His ERA was 3.84, struck out 101 and walked 46. Below, Jackson struck out 12 in a three hit shutout against CCSU this season.

 

Pick 1208: Itamar Steiner, RHR Niles North HS

The Cubs draft a local kid from Skoie, IL with their 40th round selection.

The Cubs drafted a boatload of talent. All Conference, Conference Players of the Year, school record breakers, and even someone with a  0.60 ERA. The chances of the majority of these players cracking a major league roster in their career is slim, but you never know. The top picks make it to the show,  but those players drafted late on day 3 got a big hill to climb. Nevertheless, the Cubs farm system has improved after years of stripping it down to acquire big league talent.

Thanks for reading and stay with WCC for all you latest Chicago sports news and features!

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