We’re less than a month till the MLB Draft and Todd Johnson and Greg Zumach are here to answer your draft questions. Make sure you like and subscribe to the North Side Bound’s YouTube channel because the North Side Bound crew will be hosting the 2022 Live Draft Show on July 17th. Let’s get to the questions!
Seems like Collier won’t make it to 7. You think T Johnson is favorite for Cubs at 7 now?
Todd – He’s one of a handful. The Cubs probably will be planning for several scenarios depending on who gets taken above them. Signability is such a huge uncertainty, even with less than a month to go.
Greg – Termarr Johnson is definitely one of my top targets with the Cubs this summer. When I made my Mock Draft 1.0, I really wasn’t sure that was likely, but sure enough, we’re hearing organizations questioning Johnson’s future position. I see the hit tool and his ability to hit for power along with his soft hands and smooth infield actions and think that’s plenty. If he’s there at 7, I’d be overjoyed.
Do you think we go after one of the bat only guys like Melendez or DiChiara
Greg – I’ve scouted DiChiara in person and I don’t know if I feel comfortable with him at first base long term. It’s a big bat from a power perspective, but the contact lags behind. Even as a senior signing, I’m just not sure that’s the route I’d go. Ivan Melendez is a whole other view though. Melendez makes slightly above-average contact, but a ton of that contact is hard. He handles velocity and breaking balls. I don’t know if the Cubs go after either, but I think a Melendez selection as early as the second round (especially for a discount) would be a very fun pick.
Todd – With the DH now a part of the National League, this strategy should be a part of the Cubs plan going forward. Melendez might be available in the second round and at the beginning of the third round, at the latest. He will not be there in the fourth.
What kind of power potential are we looking at from Termarr Johnson? Who has the higher ceiling and floor between Zach Neto and Cam Collier?
Todd – I could see Johnson hitting between 15 and 20 home runs if he makes it to the majors. He could hit more depending on how much he sells out for power. Defensively, Neto has the higher floor, but at the plate Collier has him beat on both
Greg – I won’t speak for everyone, but scouts appear somewhat mixed about Termarr Johnson’s power projection. However much of that stems from several early 60-grades being thrown out there. A 60-grade (plus grade) corresponds to a future 23-27 home runs projection per Fangraphs. I personally think he settles in closer to above-average (19-22 home runs annually). It’s the overall combination of plus-hit and above-average power profile that I like so much and organizations like Houston have had a ton of success building offenses with these profiles.
Higher ceiling/floor between Neto and Collier: Fun question. At first blush, I’ll say Neto has a higher floor and Collier the ceiling. While grouped together in rankings, the profiles are very different. I’m high on both.
College pitchers post Tommy John vs high school pitcher pre TJS?
Greg – I personally would rather have the high school pitcher in this scenario. If for no other reason than if the pitcher did need Tommy John surgery later, you know, as an organization, all the details about the procedure and are sending that pitcher to the best surgeon and rehab professionals possible. We take TJS for granted sometimes (I know I do), but there is a lot of variability in the individual procedures and rehab processes. So even in your worst-case scenario where you take an HS pitcher and then that player requires TJS, I’d rather have the HS pitcher. That exact scenario happened in 2021 when the Cubs took Drew Gray at pick 93 and the White Sox took Maryland’s Sean Burke with the following pick. Burke is a former TJS pitcher and Gray required it this past spring. They even received identical $900k bonuses. Give me Gray.
Todd – I will go with high school pitchers just because of the age factor. By the time you get that pitcher developed, a good high school pitcher could still be 23 and make the majors. A good college pitcher probably could be there at 25 – a really good college arm could make it by 23.
Is performance in the Cape Cod League a tie- breaker?
Greg – I don’t think I’d call it a tie-breaker so much as providing much more perspective to the overall picture. For example, I was recently reviewing a college hitter who showed some pop, but when I reviewed his wood-bat league numbers I saw a good SLG, but minimal home run pop. Nearly all his SLG came from using his legs to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. That doesn’t make me disregard him, but it provides more depth into how I review his profile. There are additional layers of depth that can be performed beyond those as well, but those require more access to batted-ball data.
Todd – I wouldn’t call it a must, but it does play an important factor because you’re playing against advanced competition and the bats are made of wood. So, any kind of performance there would elevate most prospects above others.
How catching heavy will the Cubs’ draft class be this year? Last year, it was just Opitz. Can we expect 2 or more?
Todd – The Cubs are probably eyeing one guy in the top 10 rounds this year. Outside of that, they could get a guy as a non-drafted free agent. I don’t see this as an area of need within the organization unless, of course, his name is Kevin Parada.
Greg – I actually see this as an area the Cubs could strengthen. I really dig the college catching class this season. Even beyond the Kevin Parada and Daniel Susac duo who should be first-rounders, there is a great group of catchers in rounds 2-5. Names like Silas Ardoin, Caleb Ricketts, Dalton Rushing, Matt Wood, and Nick Cimillo are a few of the names that really intrigue me. I’ll say the Cubs pick up two catchers in the first 10 rounds.
What would be a good over/under on pitchers? Or even Left-handed pitchers?
Todd – Great question, Todd! I will roll with 10.5 for this year, 13.5 if you include non-drafted free agents. You always need to load up on pitching every year. It’s like they are added a whole team of pitchers…because they are. As for lefties, I’m gonna go 3.5 and take the over. The Cubs should load up on lefties because they are the rarest commodity out there
Greg – Oh Todd, you’re incorrigible. I’ll say the over/under is 11.5 for total pitchers and I’ll guess 4.5 for lefties.
Is there a guy at 7 you WOULDN’T be happy with?
Greg – I’m spending a lot of time watching video and diving into Jacob Berry. I talk with people in the game who like him a lot and those are people whose opinions I definitely respect, but I struggle with Berry. It’s all a bat projection and I don’t love that profile at 7. I think he’ll produce, no question about it. But the bat has to be the carrying tool and I just don’t see elite tools there. I might be wrong and I’m learning about this every day, but that’s one player where I won’t say he doesn’t deserve to be picked there, but I’d have preferred a different profile.
Todd – I would not be happy if we wound up with someone slated for the middle of the first round such as a college bat like Susac or Berry. Jung is pushing it for me. I would be OK with any prep kid at 7, pitcher or hitter.
Will the Cubs draft P high?
Todd – Oh yeah, I don’t see the first round pick being one but the second round pick is definitely in play. There’ll be a lot of good high school arms at 47 spot but they’ll come out a little bit higher price.
Greg – I could see a pitcher (high school or college) in the second round. In our latest ten-round mock, I listed Drew Thorpe of Cal Poly as my mocked second-round selection. A few other names that may make sense are Troy Melton, Jake Pfennings, and Blake Burkhalter. Some of their pitch mixes fit well with players the Cubs could target.
Is last years’ draft (BPA early followed by 1-2 college Seniors to save $$$) a blueprint you expect DK to follow again?
Greg – I think the Cubs aggressively go after impact players early and then take a handful of college seniors to save money similar to last year. I also believe the Cubs will be opportunistic in drafting, especially early. If a great player just “falls” a bit during the process and your scouts are in agreement on the guy, don’t overthink it. It’s how some of the best organizations draft and the Cubs benefitted from it last year with Jordan Wicks.
Todd – This draft is quite different because they’ll be picking at the front of the rounds rather than the back. So they could get four really good players before they start signing seniors this year.
What percent would you give Cubs taking pitcher at 7 to save money for later?
Todd – I’ll roll with one percent. I think it’s very very low. The only way they sign a pitcher is on an under slot deal. I don’t know of anyone right now who would be worthy of the number seven spot as a pitcher. If the Cubs were at the back of the round, this would be a totally different story.
Greg – Very, very low truthfully. If Dylan Lesko was there I would consider it higher. I’ll throw out a couple of theoreticals however. Though I wouldn’t bank on this, Brock Porter was widely talked about as just a tick below Dylan Lesko and he’s done nothing to dissuade that. If any pitcher goes 7, I could see him or Brandon Barriera. I don’t believe JR Ritchie is in play, but he’s a fun name to watch there as well. All this is to say that I don’t believe the Cubs go pitcher, but I’ve heard chatter that a prep pitcher COULD go high and it’s not impossible for that to be the Cubs.
Thank you for all of these wonderful questions as we had a lot of fun answering them!
Stay tuned to North Side Bound for all your draft content over the next three weeks. This week, Todd will have a post on some recent movement toward the top of the first round that’s interesting and could impact the Cubs. Greg Zumach is working on his next mock draft and he also has a draft primer in the works!