The Chicago Cubs finished the regular season with a 73–89 record. Honestly, that was more than I thought they would win heading into the year but it also put the Cubs in the draft lottery. Currently they rank 12th and have a 1.10% chance of having the top selection. Those are not good odds. As a result, the Cubs have fallen down from what I like to call the Dylan Crews lottery. But there’s more to the draft then just having the top pick. Here are some storylines that we are going to follow over the next nine months leading up to the draft. The lottery is set to take place on December 5 or 6.
Greg Zumach Thoughts
North Side Bound’s very own draft expert Greg Zumach has some thoughts on what should be some key things to think about. According to Greg:
This upcoming draft is fascinating and Todd will touch on certain parts of it. First, you can’t deny the impact of the draft lottery. According to reports, MLB clubs that didn’t make the playoffs will find out in early December where they select in the first round of the draft next July. What if a club that had low odds – and conceivably more close to contention – wins a top 1-3 pick in this draft? Should that team take a more near-ready player like a Dylan Crews, Jacob Gonzales, or Chase Dollander (or the top healthy college SP)? We haven’t seen a similar situation before. Perhaps 2021 gives some clues. The 60-game 2020 season played under pandemic conditions led to the Boston Red Sox finishing with the 4th overall pick. They were a club that landed on the lower end of expectations, but may have looked a lot different over 162. The Red Sox took the consensus top player on the board, high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer with their 4th pick. We’ll have to see how the first club who beats the odds makes their decision.
Looking at 2023 demographics on the early side gives us a preview for the spring season. There are a good number of advanced high school bats. Unlike 2022 with Jackson Holliday, Druw Jones, and Elijah Green, we don’t currently have a bevy of players at the top with jaw-dropping tools. The first round could be filled with loads of high-floor high school players with advanced hit tools. This doesn’t mean the ceiling is lower for the high school class, but it will be viewed differently by different clubs and analysts. We also saw a huge impact of NLI rules. Players that wouldn’t have made it to campus in prior years will be playing college ball rather than MiLB. That’s unlikely to change. Expect a few “WHOA!” tweets to come out in late June to the week prior to the draft in July.
We spent all year talking about how the pitching in the class felt underwhelming and it really wasn’t as strong as previous years. However we also saw the return of Kumar Rocker and the ascendance of Cade Horton both to the top 10. Entering the winter, the pitching class looks stronger. Hopefully we see fewer injuries to the arms in the upcoming class.
That is a good place to start. Thanks, Greg!
The First Round
I already have a 2-3 names at the 12 spot and I’m sure Greg has about 10 times that many at 12. A lot can happen between now and the draft when it comes to development as we always see players rise and fall throughout the draft season. This year will be no exception. I have not gone all hog on draft pick research and I won’t until the lottery takes place. Then, and only then, we will know where the Cubs will pick.
Compensation/MLB Free Agency
Willson Contreras is going to get a qualifying offer. If he doesn’t sign it, the team that signs him will forfeit a pick and the Cubs will pick up that selection at the end of the second round. That could be a big thing as it adds more money to the pool and it also gets the Cubs another top 75 player. The Cubs could go out and lose their own second round pick depending if they sign a certain free agent attached to a qualifying offer.
Pitching Versus Hitting
In the 2022 draft, the Cubs selected 15 pitchers and one two-way player. I am not sure what the composition could look like next year. At a minimum, at least half of their draft class next summer will be pitchers. It is unlikely to Cubs go heavy with hitters, but you never know what players the Cubs are going to like until it’s draft day.
Nondrafted Free Agency
The Cubs only signed one guy this year in Grant Kipp. The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to players from the pandemic, and those guys are just about out of time at the end of this year. That could change the market this summer as those players near graduation and have used up their extra year. As a result, we could see the Cubs signing a few more free agents than they did last year.
Right up until draft day, there are a lot of external factors that are going to influence the draft this year in terms of the big league club. The Cubs are always going to go for who they think is the best available player that they can sign.
Greg Zumach and I can look at certain players between now and December 5, but the draft season really begins when the lottery ends. Then fine tuning who the Cubs could get starts to come into focus.