There is almost nothing in baseball quite like the college postseason. The atmosphere is electric. The players are fired up. And during Regionals, Super Regionals, and especially the College World Series, the matchups are hard to beat. I had the privilege of covering both the B1G Championship and the College World Series giving live-looks to players who could be targets for the Chicago Cubs this July. I’ll have a companion piece featuring 2024 and 2025 eligible players later in the summer. Let’s dive into names you may hear called early in this year’s MLB Draft.

Matt Shaw, Maryland, SS

The Maryland shortstop is one of the most accomplished college hitters in the draft class and one currently manning a premium position. It’s easy to see why he projects to be taken in the first round rather easily this summer and why mock drafts have connected Matt Shaw to the Cubs for sometime now. Let’s discuss what he does well.

Shaw is athletic. He has a powerful righthanded swing that generates plus exit velocity. He keeps his strikeouts to a manageable level and draws walks.

On the flip side, he’s not a shortstop. For many prospects, that’s okay; it’s an easy slide over to second or third base. I’ve seen a good deal of industry chatter about Shaw projecting that he makes that positional switch. He has the bat, easily, to play at either position and he is athletic. I believe a team may need to overhaul his throwing motion if he is going to successfully make the switch to another position on the dirt. Both second and third base require fielders to make throws from multiple angles and watching Shaw it is all from an over the top motion.

I’ve likened Shaw to Ian Happ from the right side and I’m sticking with that. Matt Shaw is a very good player. He absolutely deserves to go in the top half of the first round and he has the profile to be an above-average MLB regular. I just have a sense it’ll be as a left fielder. I could absolutely be wrong here. It’s just a projection. But could he be on the Cubs’ radar? Absolutely. It’s a safe profile from a player who hit for both contact (80%) and power (90th EV ~ 107mph) this season. He chases at roughly an average rate.

Mitch Jebb, Michigan State, SS

I intentionally lined up Shaw and Jebb together as they were the shortstops who faced off against each other in game 3 of the B1G tourney. Jebb’s hitting setup isn’t the prettiest lefthanded swing you’ll see, but weird can work. Similar to Kevin Parada last year, Jebb will lay his bat down his back with trailing elbow dropped and leading elbow (right) raised to near eye level. As the pitch comes in, Jebb will rock back, bring his elbows back into closer to a more normal hitting alignment. His motion is smooth though I noticed he dove out to the ball a couple times.

Defensively, Jeb showed he could begin his pro career as a shortstop. Jebb ranged to both sides and showed he could throw on the run and from multiple angles during warmups.

Ultimately, Jebb’s hitting motions might scare off a few scouts, but he’s hit everywhere. From a pure hit-tool perspective, it’s plus. The power is a significant question mark. He may not get beyond 10 home runs in a season. But there is a role for Mitch Jebb at the next level and it could be a sizable one. I came away impressed watching Jebb and I wouldn’t doubt him in the pros.

Brock Vradenburg, Michigan State 1B

“BV” is a huge, imposing player. He stands 6’7” and looks even bigger when he meets the pitcher on the mound. For such a huge profile, one would think that he swings and misses, but his ability to control the zone impressed me. He had a very good B1G tournament with a .455/.571/.545 slash line. He struck out once in 13 plate appearances. Vradenburg was an agile runner for his size and looked average at first base. Vradenburg is the ultimate throwback. He’ll launch to his pull side and shoot the ball the other way down the line. He’s not getting enough love in publications, but I hope changes come July. This. This is the profile of a player that succeeds. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him in a few seasons knocking on the door to the big leagues led by a patient approach, good contact, and developing power.

Brayden Taylor, 3B, Texas Christian University

Brayden Taylor almost had a legendary moment in Omaha with a nearly game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth against Florida. While that ball ended up caught at the wall it was crushed 110 mph off the bat and ended up going 400+ feet. Taylor displays an incredibly patient approach. Reminiscent of the rest of his 2023 season, pitchers hammered close pitches outside and he wouldn’t bite. His 2023 season’s chase rate was 16%, one of the lowest in the class and his work in the College World Series displayed the same skills. Taylor is going to rack up a good amount of WAR in his big-league time. I am skeptical he spends the majority of his pro career at third base, though I believe he deserves a legitimate shot to start there as a professional. Defensively, Taylor is technically sound at the hot corner. He’s not overly twitchy, but showed good footwork and a solid arm. Overall it’s a patient, solid-contact, above-average power profile in a player who should stick at third base for several seasons. He profiles as an average to above-average MLB player.

Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee

Had Chase Dollander been draft eligible in 2022, it’s hard to imagine he would have gone lower than fourth overall. However, command issues popped up in 2023 and now he represents one of the bigger question marks in this class. Dollander sat 95-98 mph with good vertical movement (ride) up in the zone. His fastball command was spotty, but there was enough movement on the pitch that he had every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, his once plus slider betrayed him nearly the whole outing. He yanked most of his sliders and they were non-competitive pitches. Within a couple batters, Stanford quickly adjusted as hitters saw spin and just took the pitch, waiting for Dollander to leave a fastball over the plate. Dollander regrouped in the second and landed two sliders close enough to the edge of the plate to induce swing and miss. But the command failed him in the third and his day was done early in the fourth. He showed multiple swing and miss changeups that Tennessee should have called for more often. Dollander has above-average starting potential, but a team needs to be confident they can address mechanical issues to allow him to use his best pitches.

Josh Rivera, SS, Florida

Rivera looked fantastic against TCU at the College World Series. He’s a true shortstop with range to both his left and right. He made strong and accurate throws and showed an “expansive toolbox” regarding his infield technique. Rivera also showed power, real game-changing power. It is difficult to hit a home run in Omaha and he hit two entering the CWS Finals. He drove the ball on multiple occasions and made multiple impressive plays in the field. As Florida punched their tickets to the CWS Finals, Josh Rivera was a huge reason for it.

Rivera poses an interesting case come July. He’ll be nearly 23 years old already and he doesn’t have an extensive background of success. His prior OPS were .713, and .780 in his full college seasons of 2021 and 2022. He also didn’t hit well on the Cape Cod League last summer. But his 2023 season was an incredible breakout. Even beyond production (.361/.461/.647, 19 home runs, 45/28 BB:K), he hit for contact (80%) and kept chase under control (22%). And you can’t overlook the shortstop defense. I came away extremely impressed about Rivera.

Next step the MLB Draft

The MLB Draft is fast approaching. Look out for more detailed analysis, mock drafts, and draft strategies the Chicago Cubs could employ next month.