And With the Second Pick in the Draft...
I hope the Cubs end up getting Jonathan Gray.
Listen, there's very few drafts where the odds are greater than 80-90% that you're gonna land a true elite talent(A-Rod, Strasburg, Griffey Jr. were all no-brainers) and this seems to be one of those drafts where that elite talent isn't particularly obvious. So whomever the Cubs take with that #2 pick will come with all the hype of Mark Prior, but not nearly as much of the talent.
The big names in the draft that the Cubs seem to be concentrating on are RHP Jonathan Gray out of Oklahoma, RHP Mark Appel out of Stanford and 3B Kris Bryant(but probably an OF or 1B) out of San Diego. There's a bit of a buzz around Georgia high schoolers Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, but seems doubtful the Cubs will go that route.
Now the Astros with the first pick are likely going to take 1 of those 3 off the board and most likely one of the pitchers, leaving the Cubs with a coin flip decision. The power college arm or the power college bat. There's certainly good reason to be scared of any pitcher in the draft, arm injuries can derail a pitcher's career much quicker than any injuries will end a position player. But the history of college hitters taken with the first two picks in the draft isn't particularly eye popping either. So to keep this short and succinct...here's what each boils down to:
Gray - Big dude, expected to be able to eat innings with ease. A fastball that hits 100mph and sits in the upper 90's. Plus slider, that some believe could be a plus-plus slider with a little work. Change-up is average at best at this point. Biggest issue seems to be his control and being sure he stays in shape. Also, being a junior he can return to Oklahoma if he doesn't get the money he wants.
Rather Meaningless Stats: 9-2, 1.55 ERA, .181 Batting Average against, 127 K vs. 21 walks in 110 IP.
Appel - a lot more polish than Gray, can hit high 90's but sits around 94-95. A 11-5 curve that could be his out pitch in the majors and a change-up that's a work in progress, but farther along than Gray's. He apparently can also throw a cutter. Biggest issue is probably that Boras is his agent and could pull a Hochevar if they don't like the deal offered.
Rather Meaningless Stats: 10-4, 2.12 ERA, .203 Batting Average against, 130 K vs. 23 walks in 106.1 IP.
Bryant - 6-5" right-handed hitter with a big arm that many believe will land him in right field. He'll be drafted for his power, power that plays to all fields. He's improved his strike zone judgement, but hard to tell how much of that is fear vs. pitch recognition. And of course, anyone with that power will likely have a bit of swing and miss in his game. Also a college junior, so he has some leverage in negotiations.
Rather Meaningless Stats: .329/.493/.820 with 31 HR...66 BB vs. 44 K in 228 AB's.
As for why I'd take Gray, it just seems to have the biggest upside of the three. 100 mph fastballs usually have a high rate of reaching the majors, so the floor is pretty high as well. How well he does when he gets to the majors is anybody's guess, but it seems like at the very worst he could be a high end bullpen arm. For whatever reason, Appel makes me think of Hochevar, not really a true #1 pick, but there's no one better around so let's take him. I'm sure Bryant will have a perfectly fine career, but if he was an elite talent, he'd probably been chased after a lot harder after high school. Also, I'd feel better about him if he batted from the left side or had any real hope of sticking at 3b. In the end, the Cubs will get what the Astros don't want most likely and years from now...um....minutes after, we'll all be second guessing the pick.