Here at North Side Bound it’s always Draft season so in addition to MLB Draft rankings, Mocks, and player analysis, we’ll be doing a monthly Q&A. I’ll tackle questions related to past draft picks and next year’s class. It’s very early so I’ll avoid specific links of players and teams. I wouldn’t put much stock into those links until much, much closer to the Draft.

Let’s get to the questions!

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to parse this out and I feel very comfortable saying James Triantos would have been a first-rounder if teams could go back and re-do the 2021 Draft. Let’s break down where he may line-up.

The Top Nine: I would say very comfortably that each of the teams picking in the top nine of the draft feel very comfortable with each of their selections. Even the picks that were slot savings such as Colton Cowser or Frank Mozzicato were encouraging in the first few months in the organization. Other players in this class brought extreme upside. The Royals were very interested in Triantos prior to the draft. Could they take him at pick 7 and offer him 40% of slot ($2.17 million which matches Triantos’ asking price)? Possibly, but I’d lean against that.

Pick 10: The drafting of Kumar Rocker was a complete flop by the New York Mets. There’s not much to say other than the Mets really botched this pick and it’s going to affect Rocker next season. It’s a layup to think the Mets would pick a different player in hindsight.

11-20: This is where things get really interesting from a projection standpoint with James Triantos. His profile of a plus hit tool with average (or better power) from an infielder is very reminiscent to Nick Yorke, who was drafted 17th by the Red Sox in 2020. Diving even deeper though, the teams that prioritize this type of profile (Houston, LA Dodgers, and Boston in particular) weren’t picking in this range.

21-30: The Cubs pick here and I think it’s very possible the Cubs would select Triantos at 21 if Wicks was off the board in this redraft. Other options include at 27 for the Padres who took a player with a similar profile in Jackson Merrill.

After the first round: According to a few notes I’ve heard around from multiple sources the Royals, Rangers, and Cubs were the most interested in Triantos. The Rangers appeared to have him as an option for their second round selection, but backed off when they needed to allocate almost $8 million to Jack Leiter. The Royals could have taken him at pick 66 if he was on the board. The Cubs didn’t let him get that far.

Talent worthy: I think Triantos would be a mid-first round selection.

Final Guess: Drafted 21 by the Chicago Cubs.

In a very general way, possibly. All teams incorporate scouting models to create a foundation to make selection/offer decisions on during the draft. And even small changes to weigh certain factors can dramatically shift how teams create their final rankings. Let’s take a quick look at the Cubs. I would say that in 2020 and 2021, there’s a bigger weight put behind LHP vs RHP. Jordan Wicks may have simply fallen in their lap, but Drew Gray, Burl Carraway, Luke Little, Riley Martin, Chase Watkins and even Wilson Cunningham all dominated the pitching ranks. The Cubs signed five LHP to 4 RHP in the 2021 draft and didn’t even select a RHP until the 11th round. Ultimately that doesn’t mean they discount RHP, but I’d guess that in recent years the Cubs favored southpaws. It’s very possible that it’s due to scarcity.

We have seen teams prioritize positions that are historically scarce such as catchers. The Giants had Buster Posey in the majors, Joey Bart as a premier prospect, and still took Patrick Bailey 13th overall.

Cubs 2022 Plans

Barring any significant MLB Draft changes, the Cubs will pick 7th in 2022. In both years under Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, the organization selected players described as “high-floor” in Ed Howard and Jordan Wicks. Calling Howard and Wicks “high-floor” doesn’t mean they don’t have a high ceiling, but the organization devoted the most significant draft capital to players that have a high likelihood of making it to the major leagues. Neither player is a “boom or bust” type of prospect. It would be hard to pinpoint specific players, but don’t be surprised if the Cubs prioritize taking a player you feel confident you can pencil on to the major league roster in a few years. College hitters such as Chase DeLauter, Gavin Cross, and Jace Jung as well as high school second baseman Temarr Johnson fit that profile.

A first-round selection often requires the most resources of any selection in the draft. Even beyond a financial aspect, there are greater opportunity costs associated with taking a player higher. It’s also the pick that most often defines a draft. That may not be the most exhilarating projection, but picking 7th offers the Cubs the ability to combine ceiling and floor.

This is very different than the 2013-2015 Cubs that invested heavily in college hitting at the expense of other profiles. This Cubs scouting infrastructure is one that will explore all the main demographics: college hitter, college pitcher, high school hitter, and even high school pitcher with high selections.

Dr. Kim asks a couple great questions that I’ll tackle in two parts:

  1. While it’s easy to link the two scouting eras of Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer led Cubs, I’d even break it down into three different scouting tendencies. From 2012-2017, the Cubs strategy appeared to focus on players from safe demographics. In many ways this was successful. From 2012-2015, every first round pick made an impact in the majors. However the team struggled to find any success after the first round. The pitchers the Cubs targeted primarily were from college and perceived to have a higher floor, but lower ceiling.
    However in from 2018 on, the team spent more resources in upside pitchers, even taking the risk of prior injury. This process intensified in 2019 when the Cubs had started a long-overdue process to go all in on player development. They were willing to accept some higher risk if it meant higher reward. And Ryan Jensen is that type of profile. Ditto for Michael McAvene and Chris Clarke. With Dan Kantrovitz taking over prior to the 2020 season, the Cubs pitching draft strategy changed to incorporate both of the two strategies. Kantrovitz targeted a mix of higher upside pitchers (Drew Gray, Luke Little, Koen Moreno) with higher floor (Wicks, Carraway).
  2. Focusing on a prospect with average tools vs one exceptional tool: it depends on where in the draft that prospect is landing. Early in the draft I can see where average tools would play better. It gives you a great chance to land a major league player even if the ceiling isn’t as high. One exception, give me a hitter with a 70/80 grade hit tool. As the game grows, I believe investing in elite hit tools can pair well in a diverse lineup. Further down in the draft, give me one elite tool. A hitter with 70/80 grade defense or speed (or power) can still make it to the majors with 30-40 grades in other areas.

2022 Player Evaluations

As I was getting my initial notes together on the 2022 draft class, two names stood out in the college catching ranks: Daniel Susac and Kevin Parada. Reaching out to a few people in the game there was a slight preference for Parada early. I think that scale has flipped at this stage. When my initial rankings come out I’ll have Susac ahead of Parada.

Daniel Susac is a switch-hitting catcher who profiles as a run producing bat with plus defense. That is an incredible profile in the draft. The last premier pick to fit that criteria was Adley Rutschman drafted #1 overall in2019. I’m not sure if Susac reaches those lofty levels, but it’s an elite profile. My view of Susac is that I’m a believer in the bat, but his profile benefits greatly from being a plus defensive catcher. Despite being a true freshman, Susac hit 12 home runs and only produced a 17.7 K%.

As far as whether he’d be taken prior to the Cubs’ selection at pick 7, that’s hard to tell. It is very early. Not every organization will invest in a catcher that high in the first round so it is possible that a team’s draft models knock him for his position. On the other hand, it’s still such a valuable profile. If Susac comes out swinging this spring, I’d guess he gets taken before the Cubs can send their selection in for Rob Manfred to read.

Chase DeLauter (CDL) is one of my favorite players in the entire draft class. He has the type of profile that could even go 1-1 to Baltimore. He is an above-average hitter with legitimate plus (or better power) in a profile that many feel will stay in centerfield. He also stood out on the Cape Cod League (14.4 BB%,12.3 K%, with 9 home runs) which dramatically raising his profile. The Cape is one of the best proving grounds for college players and the use of wood bats gives a good benchmark for how hitters may translate to professional ball. CDL’s one knock is that he plays for the small school James Madison, which is why his success on the Cape is all the more important. I’m all about DeLauter and his hype as a possible top 5 pick only makes me a bit disappointed if he won’t be donning a Cubs jersey next summer.

Next up

Thanks very much for sending in your questions for the first North Side Bound Draft Q&A. I’m already looking forward to the next Q&A in December .My first 2022 Mock Draft will be debuting in November as well.