Cubs Emphasize College Hitters on Day 2 of Draft

Last year’s draft saw the Cubs take a few risks on pitchers in particular by prioritizing data and peripheral metrics over actual box score numbers, at least to the extent they could, and we’re seeing another version of that trend so far through the first 10 rounds. While it doesn’t appear as though the team has strayed too far from the suggested slot values to this point, they are still targeting loud tools that may have a little more polish at the same time.

Here’s our look at the first two picks.

That would seem to fit with the organization’s competitive timeline, though no team really expects players from rounds 3-10 to be coming up and making an impact in just a year or two. Let’s take a look at their eight picks from Monday, a group that includes four college position players.

Rd 3: Josh Rivera, SS, Florida
Their second college shortstop out of the first three picks, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rivera grew into a lot more power this past season. He batted .348 with 19 home runs, 10 doubles, 72 RBI, and 18 stolen bases in 70 games to help lead the Gators to a College World Series appearance. He probably doesn’t stick at short, certainly not if he makes it to Chicago in the next few seasons, but could definitely stay in the dirt somewhere.

Rd 4: Will Sanders, RHP, South Carolina
Like second pick Jaxon Wiggins, Sanders is a guy who may have fallen a bit due to injuries and whose ERA alone isn’t super impressive. The 6-foot-6 righty was only able to throw 62.2 innings this season before a foot injury shelved him, and his 5.46 ERA in that time will most definitely have otherwise uninformed observers scratching their heads. Sanders struck out 77 in that time, however, and had 222 punchouts to just 68 walks over 205.1 collegiate innings. Capable of touching 96 with the fastball and boasting a change, curve, and slider, the Cubs believe he can really blossom with professional instruction.

Rd 5: Michael Carico, C, Davidson
This lefty-batting catcher dealt with a broken left wrist early in the season that hampered his production, but still ended up slashing .350/.514/.688 with seven home runs. The Cubs expect Carico to stick behind the plate, where hit power profile figures to be a big plus. He won’t turn 21 until September, so he’s still got plenty of time to hone his skills.

Rd 6: Alfonsin Rosario, OF, P27 Baseball Academy
The first prep player the Cubs selected is the younger brother of Padres prospect Eguy Rosario, an infielder who is currently ranked No. 8 in the San Diego system and is working his way back from an ankle injury. You’d never pick the two as siblings based on their stature, however, as Eguy goes 5-foot-9 and maybe 160ish while Alfonsin is 6-foot-6 and around 210 pounds. The kid is very raw, but he has huge power with a big arm and plenty of speed.

Ed. note: Rosario is apparently only 6-foot-2, which is still much bigger than his brother even if it’s not close to what more than one outlet has shared. MLB’s info also has him at 215 pounds, so he’s a stout fella.

Rd 7: Yahil Melendez, SS, B-You Academy (Puerto Rico)
The youngest player drafted by the Cubs so far, Melendez won’t turn 18 until September. Selected more for his defensive ability — the Cubs think he can stick in the middle infield — there’s still more than enough potential for him to develop power from a 6-foot-3 frame that’s only carrying 165 pounds. He’s a contact hitter from the left side and is committed to Rice, so he could command a little over his slot value.

Rd 8: Brett Bateman, OF, Minnesota
This is a pick where it seems like the Cubs went safe and may be trying to save a little money, as Bateman is a glove-first outfielder who hits for contact rather than power. VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz called him “kind of a hard-nosed, gritty, gutty player,” so he seems like the gym rat type who will be a fun guy to watch in the minors.

Rd 9: Jonathon Long, 1B, Long Beach State
Kind of a complementary pick to Bateman, Long is a power-first slugger who’s probably limited to first base and maybe a corner outfield spot if necessary. Though he’s only 6-foot and 210 pounds, Long banged 26 homers and 32 doubles while playing in a very pitcher-friendly park.

Rd 10: Luis Martinez-Gomez, RHP, Temple College
This one is maybe a bit of a reach, as Martinez-Gomez is much more about projection than production. The Cubs almost certainly have some intriguing information on his pitch data, and I’d guess having a split-change didn’t hurt. The splitter seems to be rising in popularity, particularly as a way to neutralize platoons, so Martinez-Gomez already having that is nice. He has touched 97 with the fastball and can probably push his baseline velo up significantly in time.

Nothing about what the Cubs have done so far really stands out to me, unless you consider that they seem to be pretty much painting by numbers. That’s a change from the pre-Kantrovitz era in which they went really pitcher-heavy with a focus on safety over projection, but it’s also a shift from what we’ve seen more recently. Take last year, for instance, when they selected 16 pitchers in 20 rounds.

You get the sense that Kantrovitz has a real long-term plan in place and that he’s layering these picks, both within each draft and year-over-year, to balance the needs of the system. I’m very interested to see how things come together with rounds 11-20 on Tuesday.

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