The MLB draft of the past two years has become quite dissimilar to drafts of the pass. No longer do you have scouts driving around the country in beat up cars with clipboards and radar guns, it has now become a more centralized process. This week has clearly shown that as they are going to be several new names rising into the top 15 where the Cubs are going to be picking. This is due largely in part to the Draft Combine and the Draft League.
Here is why this is not your father’s draft.
1. The Combine
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the MLB Network broadcast two days of the draft combine in Phoenix at Chase Field. You basically got to see what amounted to as a giant practice. These were drills that players go through every day to get ready to play. There was infield practice, outfield, practice, batting practice, and open sessions, as well as a couple games a day. An MLB Network was there to capture it all live on TV as well as share that data with the press.
For several players, the combine changed the fortunes of their families with their performance. Some guys turned themselves from what amounted to a fourth or fifth round pick way up into the first or second round by working out in front of a plethora of scouts and cameras that recorded everything.
So while the College World Series is taking place, the buzz in the draft is not about those top players, like Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews, or Rhett Lowder, it’s about Eric Bitonti, Cole Carrigg, and George Klassen. It’s also about guys that I really like Cam. Johnson and Isaiah Drake, who are shooting up boards now because of their performance in the practice as well as the game.
After day two of the Combine, I went and looked at my 10 round mock draft from earlier this month and I thought there’s no way I’m getting all those guys in those spots because they’ve all moved up two or three rounds. Isaiah Drake is not going to be available in round six or seven anymore. The Cubs will be lucky to get him in round three. Cam Johnson from IMG Academy has worked his way up from the 40s to the first round with his performance this week because he dominated in the game.
With LSU and Wake Forest getting ready to go at it today, some of those players, like hitters Tre Johnson and Brock Wilken, could elevate their stock, but probably not as high as many other players from day one and day two of the combine.
2. The MLB Draft League
This league has been taking place for a few weeks now and one of my favorite Twitter accounts to follow is @draftleaguedata. One of the things they do is they put out data on a daily basis of how prospects do along with video.
The Cubs have taken several players from the draft league who did well, almost all of them on day two and three of the draft. But what we’re getting now is a lot of data and video on the guys that we never would’ve heard of before. Seeing Isaiah Drake who I took first in my 7 round mock is now getting some serious helium thanks to the combine AND playing in the Draft League.
Not every player in the draft league is eligible to be drafted this year. Several of them are from smaller schools and are sophomores trying to get noticed for next year. Many players are also now in their second year in the draft league, which gives teams even more data.
What the Draft League and the Combine provide is a chance to be seen against better or elite competition. The combine is supposed to be some of the best prospects and the Draft League is providing an opportunity for those who don’t get to play in the Cape or some other wooden bat league like the Northwoods League. It even gives kids in remote areas or small schools a chance to step up their game against more better players.
I’ve already started thinking about how this is going to shake down over the next two weeks when the draft takes place. Boards and mocks will change quite about the next two weeks. It will be chaotic if you have been following the draft all spring.
For now, I’m sticking with Brock Wilken as my top choice for the Cubs at 13. But it’s not a lock as it has been the last four months. I might be persuaded off of that choice. Cam Johnson looked pretty, pretty good. We’ll see how the rankings change as a result of the combine and what the mock drafts look like in the next two weeks.