The 2018 MLB Draft is officially four weeks from today and exactly who will be there for the Cubs at No. 24 is becoming more and more unclear. The direction the Cubs go will be dictated not only by which player they want, but by what the teams ahead of them do. As such, the Cubs have a list of possible players to select from and what it would take to sign each one.
High School Arm – Even with their high-volume pitching strategy, the Cubs have not really gone big on selecting a lot of prep pitchers. There’s a lot of risk involved there and the organization has chosen to avoid that for the most part. That could change this year and one player they could target at 24 is Cole Wilcox, who is in the second tier of prep arms and could be a two or three depending on how he develops.
Depending on which evaluation site you go to, Ethan Hankins could also be available. A shoulder injury in February has caused him to drop from the top of the draft down toward the bottom of the first round. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff and might be worth taking in spite of the risk if the Cubs can clear his medicals.
High School Bat – At this stage of the first round, there should only be two top prep bats left. One is Tristan Casas, who could a powerful left-handed bat a la Anthony Rizzo in three or four years. The issue is that he is not an elite defender yet. Then again, you don’t find a lot of 6-4, 235 pound hitters who could be middle of the order mainstays once he reaches the majors in a few years.
— NationsBestSports (@nationsbestbb) March 3, 2018
College Bat – Most elite college bats have skyrocketed up to the top of the draft. In January, Wichita State’s Alec Bohm was my pick to take at No. 24. Bohm began to move up rapidly around the middle of March, but his teammate, outfielder Greyson Jenista, should be available. He figures to be among a few other power hitters who will more than likely still be there at 24, namely Seth Beer, Luken Baker, and Jeremy Eierman.
A year ago, all were projected to be in the top 10. Whether it’s USA Baseball performance, injuries, or lack of projection, however, they’ve all dropped. The Cubs would be hard-pressed to pass on any of the four mentioned above.
But if past experience means anything, the Cubs are going to go with a player on the rise and one they think they projects for bigger things in pro ball. Right now, that player is Trevor Larnach from Oregon State. A 6-4 left-handed-hitting outfielder, he has been tearing up the Pac 12 for an elite program and he still has room to add some weight and some power. Larnach has 12 homers and 46 RBI in 39 games.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 5, 2018
College Pitcher – There are a few elite college arms who will go near the top of the draft and there might be a couple worth taking in the 20’s. But the arm that I really like in that range is Logan Gilbert of Stetson.
Originally slated to be taken in the early teens to mid teens, Gilbert has fallen down with college bats on the rise. He consistently throws 95-96 and definitely has the arm to be a number three starter, the issue is whether his secondaries are going to be big enough. It’s all about whether he can develop with professional instruction to be the kind of top-of-the-rotation starter you’d like to see from a first pick.
My One Month to Go Prediction
Forced to make the call at this point, it would be Larnach, hands down. He’s got great size, he can still add a few pounds, he’s a good defender, and he’s athletic to go with a bat that’s on the rise.
I know Beer might be the dreamy target but I just don’t know if the Cubs are going to be able to pull the trigger on him. If Cubs scouts feel that Beer’s athletic enough to develop defensively, they could lean on minor league instruction to improve the glove and bank on getting a top-five bat at No. 24.
For now, though, Larnach would be my pick. I’m always revising that, though, and a lot can change in one month.