Here at North Side Bound it’s always Draft season so, in addition to MLB Draft rankings, Mocks, and player analysis, we’re continuing with a monthly Q&A. In this Q&A, I tackle questions related to past draft picks and this 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. Enjoy Part 1 of our January Q&A.
Update from December Q&A
This was a fun one that elicited some chuckles when I asked around. Speaking with some that have been in the draft room, there is definitely a mix of meals over the several days the draft board is finalized and during the three day draft, itself. I have confirmed that you can bet that Chicago pizza is a frequent choice. Also given a huge shoutout was Chicago Cubs Assistant in Amateur Scouting, Ben Kullavanijaya. Already respected within the organization for his advanced draft models, Kullavanijaya also gets huge marks for his refined palate. He seems to have a pulse on what the draft room needs to keep it running smoothly.
Both questions tackled different areas, but each touched on a player that deserves some significant consideration for the Cubs at 7, LSU’s Jacob Berry.
Berry is a switch-hitter who transferred from Arizona to Louisiana State. He has a potent bat and while ranked 11th on my board entering the season, I’ve been told that’s a bit light. His .352/.439/.676 line for Arizona shows off the potent bat and his 11.1 BB% and 19.5 K% will play well even in the SEC. My biggest question is a common one about Berry, where does he play? He saw a handful of innings at third base (.833 fielding percentage, but on only 18 opportunities) and seems destined to log more time at DH with stud defensive first baseman ‘Tre Morgan set to continue on at his primary position.
Digging more into these questions, I do think that drafting Berry very quickly addresses any organizational need at 1B. Ultimately ensuring first base is covered within the system isn’t the most important for a few reasons. For one, first basemen are already easy to find at relatively inexpensive prices. Two, plenty of prospects could use first base to fall back on. Though I’m a believer in giving Owen Caissie a solid run in the OF, him falling back to first base would be just fine. It sounds like I’m making a case that the Cubs shouldn’t draft Berry, but that’s not true. The Cubs shouldn’t take him to fill a need at first base but should absolutely consider him if they view that bat as an organizational anchor in their lineup for years to come. He’s a quick-moving switch-hitter who immediately lands in the conversation for the best bat in the system.
As for what that choice at 7 tells us about the Cubs contention timeline, I’ll be honest and say “not much”. One of the ways the Cubs assess their draft success is by how much WAR they project the entire class to earn over their first five years. The Cubs could absolutely identify a specific high school player at 7 to be the best first pick in a class where the majority of the players still are advanced players. Viewing the entire draft class may offer some clues. We’ll have to explore that this summer.
Pick 7: Options and Considerations
The Cubs drafting in the Top 10 adds some excitement to the draft cycle for fans so let’s tackle each of these questions.
I’m still debating who I’ll have mocked to the Cubs in North Side Bound’s Mock 2.0, but I’ll throw out a name that I think will be linked to the Cubs in the next few months. Arkansas’s Robert Moore plays an excellent second base and some scouts feel he can be run out at shortstop in pro ball though it’s more of a Nico Hoerner defensive profile at the position. Moore, son of Kansas City’s lead executive Dayton, is lauded for his make-up, but he has an above-average hit and power profile despite standing just 5’9″. The Arkansas infielder succeeded in the SEC with his .284/.384/.558 line. His 19 home runs, 14.4 BB%, and 18 K% will play well and speaks to the high floor/medium-to-high ceiling the Cubs may target early. As the son of a General Manager, I’m not sure Moore would automatically come as a discount, but his family would make sure he is well-prepared to navigate the financial considerations of the draft. He’ll have a good sense of what value to place on his talent. Check out this moxie and imagine this ball goes out on Sheffield in front of 41,000 at Wrigley.
Outside of the ones mentioned, I have Cal Poly’s SS/3B Brookes Lee, Arizona’s C Daniel Susac, Chipola JC’s 3B Cam Collier, Virginia Tech’s OF Gavin Cross, and Florida State’s LHP Bryce Hubbart all ahead of Lesko in the draft and would happily take any of those players at 7. As you can see it’s all populated by college performers and I’m very good with leaning into the strength of the class.
Elijah Green: Unlimited Potential, but Risk
Elijah Green’s tools are almost unbelievable. He sports both elite power and speed grades and he’s built like a defensive end prospect. But like you mentioned, there’s serious swing and miss to the profile. His showcase circuit data has similar whiff and chase rates to Joshua Baez’s in the 2021 class. Baez entered last draft cycle with some top 10 buzz himself, but the Ks piled up. He still ended up with a very solid $2.25 M bonus. Could Elijah Green experience a similar slide? I don’t think so. Green’s tools are stronger.
The Cubs have shown an ability to address swing-and-miss and were even rumored to be kicking the tires on Jud Fabian last year (elite college talent with unsustainable K-rates). So does that mean Green could be an option for the Cubs at 7 so he can turn Wrigley summers into batting practice sessions? I’m sure they’re monitoring his progress, but I’d be surprised. The Cubs have picked higher floor players with their top selections under Dan Kantrovitz. At seven overall I expect them to take a similar profile with the added benefit being that drafting that high you can go heavy on floor and ceiling. Elijah Green will be someone I will be closely watching this spring.
Deep Draft Questions
If you’re asking about which demographic I’d guess the Cubs go, I’ll take a stab this far out and say college hitter. The past two years the scouting team has played to the strengths of the draft class in the early rounds. This year looks to be deep in college hitting and at 7, there’s a very good chance that an impressive college hitter is sitting there waiting for team.
But if you’re looking at my personal favorite, I’d go with high school hitter. I buy that the Cubs’ player development team has the ability to take a player at seven and coach them up to an all-star level.
Thank you for the questions
I appreciate all the interaction! Part 2 of this Q&A drops tomorrow Monday the 31st. Leading into February there will be deeper dives into the tiers of players in the class entering the spring season.