Cubs Target High-Risk, High-Reward Players in Day 2 of MLB Draft

The Cubs had a very clear strategy for Day 2 of the MLB Draft, and it mimicked what we saw on Day 1 when they took righty Cade Horton in the first round and lefty Jackson Ferris in the second round. After grabbing a hitter in the third round, the front office followed with eight consecutive right-handed pitchers. In addition to the pitching focus, there was a very clear emphasis on high-risk, high-reward players, whether they came from the prep or collegiate ranks.

Let’s get into the details of each pick

3rd Round – Christopher Paciolla | SS, Temecula Valley HS (CA)

While it’s true that you can never have too many shortstops, don’t get used to Paciolla staying on the position. His big body projects for plenty more muscle and he was drafted because he has upside as a hitter. His ability to make contact is already there, which is a bit reminiscent of James Triantos in the second round of last year’s draft. While the contact rate might not be as elite as Triantos, Paciolla is projected to hit for more power as he matures and makes the move over to third base.

4th Round – Nazier Mule | RHP, Passaic County Technical Institute HS (NJ)

It is interesting that Mule was announced as a pitcher because he was actually one of the best two-way players in the country out of high school this year. Real quick on his bat first: he posted terrific exit velo numbers despite (or because of) a swing that would need to be reworked pretty significantly while playing good defense at shortstop thanks to his impressive athleticism.

On the mound, Mule touches triple-digits on the gun and is often viewed as a thrower rather than a pitcher. Scouts did note that he was throwing more sliders and changeups than would be expected from a high schooler who sits in the mid-90s, but he will still need to improve the shape, consistency, and command of all three pitches. When all is said and done, Mule might have the most upside of anyone in this draft for the Cubs.

5th Round – Brandon Birdsell | RHP, Texas Tech University

You’d be content if I told you the Cubs were able to snag the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year all the way down in the 5th round, right? In doing so, they got a guy who features two really solid pitches and a long winding road. As a result of dealing with injuries throughout his college career, including a rotator cuff injury a year ago, he uses a re-worked delivery that is almost so simple that it throws batters off their game. And while it might look like he is playing an easy game of catch, the 95-96 mph heat he sustains late in games is anything but easy for the opposition to handle. There is plenty of upside here, especially for a senior that will likely sign under-slot.

6th Round – Will Frisch | RHP, Oregon State University

The front office continued the risk-reward trend by selecting Frisch in the sixth. The righty pitched out of the Beavers bullpen in each of his first two seasons in Corvallis and the plan was to move him to the rotation in the 2022 season before he went down with Tommy John surgery. He was projected in the second or third round before the season and if he can regain the mid-90s heat and plus changeup he featured before surgery, he can be a steal here.

7th Round – Nick Hull | RHP, Grand Canyon University

He might not have the mustache of last year’s GCU selection, Frankie Scalzo, but he’s got a high-spin slider and that is right up the Cubs’ alley. That 3000+ RPM pitch will likely be featured out of the bullpen, a role that he held for most of his college career until this most recent grad season. The Cubs will need to save some money here at the back end of the Day Two picks after going overslot early in the draft, and a super senior is a good way to do that.

8th Round – Mason McGwire | RHP, Capistrano Valley HS (CA)

We’ve got a true projection pick here, people, and it just happens to be a name that you are all too familiar with. Mason is the son of, you guessed it, Mark McGwire. And while Mason was born five years after the famous home run chase of 1998, he will surely get plenty of questions about it as he rises up through the system.

But back to that projection! He features a very effortless delivery and a trio of pitches that still need to be fixed up in the lab to maximize the bite on each of them. This reminds me of the Koen Moreno selection in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.

9th Round – Connor Noland | RHP, University of Arkansas

More money saving happening late in the day with the selection of Noland, a redshirt junior from one of the SEC’s best programs. The righty was the Razorbacks’ workhorse as their Friday starter and pitched as you would expect from a wily, nearly 23-year-old. His stuff isn’t going to blow you away, whether it’s his offspeed or a low-90s fastball, but the hope is that his stuff can tick up a bit either with the help of the pitching infrastructure or a move to the bullpen.

10th Round – Brody McCullough | RHP, Wingate University

In my favorite news of the day, the Cubs took another D2 guy. He struck out a ton of batters throughout his collegiate career, including 42% in this most recent season and 39% in the Cape Cod League. That performance at the Cape is what really solidified him as a Day 2 selection and he will likely be utilized as a reliever after splitting time between the rotation and bullpen in school. His pitch mix includes a low-90s fastball to go along with a slider and changeup.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a breakdown of rounds 11-20.

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