Today we hit the mark where there’s just over 3 weeks until the MLB draft. The festivities will last from July 17 through the 19th. North Side Bound‘s going to be covering it live on Sunday night and I’ll be doing live blogs on Monday for rounds three through 10  and rounds 11 through 20 on Tuesday. I always enjoy doing rounds three through 10, but 11 through 20 test my research skills.

Because we’re getting so close, we’re also starting to see a lot more movement towards the top of the draft. The top 6 picks are solidified in terms of who they are. Druw Jones, Elijah Green, Brooks Lee, Tamarr Johnson, Jackson Holliday, and Cam Collier seem to be locks. Then comes a second tier of players like Gavin Cross, Kevin Parada, Jace Jung, Zach Neto, Dylan Lesko, and Chase DeLauter. However, the biggest factor that  is going to influence the top of the draft is signability. What can you get a player to sign for and how much money can you save?  And it’s always sad to ask that.

So who are the hottest names rushing up through the first round?

Probably the biggest riser has been shortstop Zack Neto of Campbell. The first time I saw his swing, my mouth dropped open at the size of his leg kick and then he hit the baseball a long way. The Cubs will quiet that leg kick down substantially as a pro. That will not take much. I haven’t seen a whole lot of him, but from what I have, the dude can hit. Whether he can hit enough against advanced competition would be my biggest concern in taking him that high. There’s plenty of upside.

Justin Crawford is a name that is also moving very fast. The son of Carl Crawford is a little bit taller than his dad at 6-foot-3 and has about the same speed Carl had when he broke in with Tampa. But Justin is his own guy. Right now his game is tailor made for his speed and the question I have going forward is how much power is he going to have. MLB Pipeline had him rated at number 13 in the latest rankings.

Another big riser is Eric Brown from Coastal Carolina. He is an athletic infielder who probably slots in at second base that has moved his way into the top half of the first round. Prospects Live popped him in the top 15 and was really high on his potential.

The two biggest names to keep an eye on the next three weeks actually did not pitch at all in college this year. 

One is Kumar Rocker who has been sitting in the mid 90s in three inning outings. The Cubs are going to have to do their due diligence on his medical records and find out just exactly what went on with the Mets last year before they think about taking him.

The other guy is Carson Whisenhunt of East Carolina who is easily a top 15 pick. I am extremely intrigued with the possibility of Whisenhunt being available as a somewhat top of the rotation lefty. While we did get Jordan Wicks last year, Whisenhunt would be a step above Wicks as he has three offerings that are plus. He throws a low to mid 90s fastball, has an excellent changeup, and tops it off with a nice slider.

It’s clear right now the strength of this draft at the top is going to be hitters. The Cubs could take an arm here but it’s still highly unlikely. And if they did take Rocker or Whisenhunt, would it come at a discount? That might allow them to pick up someone in the second round on an above-slot deal like J.R. Ritchie or maybe even prep third baseman Tucker Toman?

I talked all spring about other teams going under slot at the first pick, but I’ve never talked about the Cubs doing it. It’s an option if they can lock in somebody for round two. Would Rocker and Whisenhunt sign for less? What about Brown or Neto? I’m sure Gavin Cross of Virginia Tech would not. Who knows, maybe the Cubs reach all the way down and get Jacob Melton from Oregon State. The possibilities are almost endless with three weeks to go. Most of the names though are pretty finite. We’re not seeing any rapid risers just coming up from the 30s and 40s to being a top 10 prospect this year.

Last weekend also saw the Draft Combine take place and two names stood out for their bullpens – Connor Prielipp of Alabama, who missed all of this spring after TJS, and Jacob Misiorowski of Crowder JC. Jacob Misiorowski was throwing triple digits and flashing a 90 mph slider that wowed scouts. Keep an eye on him the next three weeks! He is 6’7 and 190 lbs.

If you have not already, you need to follow the MLB Draft League Data on Twitter as they have daily data (not just stats) of player performance in the league. There’s a lot of good stuff there.