Todd Johnson and Greg Zumach are back to bring you dueling five-round mock drafts for the Cubs. We’re still a ways out from the draft. Despite what some mocks will try to tell you, draft boards aren’t even close to coming together. However there is enough data to look at trends and enough outings to see which players are beginning to distinguish themselves from the pack. We each took different routes to build towards the next great Cubs team.

I didn’t set out to connect the Cubs to any specific players based on intel for this mock. Rather, I modeled my mock after a formula the Cubs used recently. The 2021 draft saw the Cubs take a college arm with a wipeout changeup who shouldn’t have even been on the board, and overslot high school shortstop, projectable prep lefty, college centerfielder, followed by a deep slot-savings selection. It’s unlikely 2023 plays out the same as 2021, but let’s evaluate what could happen if it did.

13 – Rhett Lowder- RHP – Wake Forest

If you’ve gone through Todd’s mock, you’ll notice that both of us went straight for the talented Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, NC. Wake Forest has an incredible program that also features one of my favorite players for the 2024 draft, Josh Hartle, but don’t forget about 2023’s class, Rhett Lowder, Brock Wilken, and Sean Sullivan. Lowder is very similar to Cubs upper-level prospect, Jordan Wicks though he’ll show more velocity (2022: averaged 92.6 with the sinker, touched 96.6). Lowder averages a good full tick and a half to two than Wicks did in his draft year and could be a pitcher who settles in higher. But both pitchers thrive off a plus (or better) changeup, but Lowder’s slider also shows plus characteristics. This is a pitcher, like Wicks, that you pencil in to a mid-rotation or better starting slot in a few years.

68 – AJ Ewing – Shortstop – Springboro (HS), OH

The shortstop class of 2023 isn’t historic like 2021’s where a record eight high school shortstops went in the first round, but 2023’s group could be one of the best in a decade plus. Some of these impressive prep shortstops will be taken in the second or third rounds as overslots. Ewing features impressive bat speed and looks like he can stick at SS in the pros. I also looked strongly at Trent Caraway from JSerra. More on him in a later piece.

81 – Paul Wilson – LHP – Lakeridge (HS), OR

Left-handed pitcher, Oregon State commit, future projection… sure looks like a Dan Kantrovitz selection. Why not use a third round selection to take another prep lefthander (Gray in 2021)? Wilson looks like a strong bet to take a significant step forward in professional ball. He could be a top selection if he makes it to campus.

113 – Colby Shade – OF – Oregon

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Colby Shade a number of times in person and the defense all across the outfield stands out along with the contact ability. Shade can be a CF at the next level and a CF with above-average hit tool is a valuable profile.

149 – Zac Shoemaker – LHP – Pittsburgh State

This is a deep cut but mirroring this draft with 2021 finds the Cubs in need to save bonus pool. Riley Martin was a sixth, not fifth round pick, but I felt this fit better. Over the course of four solid, but not spectacular seasons for Missouri Southern, Shoemaker still had one season of eligibility remaining. His 2022 season already had to be scrapped due to TJS, but Shoemaker planned to use the last eligible year and get his MBA so he transferred to Pittsburgh (KS) State. Perhaps it was coming back from TJS and finally healthy or maybe things have just clicked, but Shoemaker has been a revelation. He’s posted a 69/5 K:BB in 46 innings while racking up the lowest ERA in his college season. Could the Cubs mine the DII ranks yet again? I believe they could.

So what could happen if the 2023 draft shapes up similar to 2021’s? This five-round mock gives some idea. The Cubs could walk away with five players that inspire optimism about future projection. I’ll be looking forward to debuting a good deal more MLB Draft content coming soon.