The MLB draft is not the NFL draft. There aren’t stars and above average players throughout the draft and into the second round. In fact, it’s probably closer to the NBA draft, which is saying something since rosters are twice as big as NBA benches.
The NBA draft typically sees star players in the very top of the draft, like picks 1-3, and after that, yes teams are looking for stars, but more than anything you want contributors to your eight or nine man rotation. The MLB draft is similar. To expect the ninth pick to be a star is probably shooting too high. Rather than throw out examples, I’ll just let Kevin Goldstein lay out the data.
The Chicago Cubs have the sixth pick in the draft and are looking for a player they can put in the middle of their lineup or the top of the rotation, just like every other team. But to understand how difficult it can be to find that player, let’s take a look at the cubs last six first round picks.
2006: 13th Overall: Tyler Colvin – Outfielder, Clemson University
Colvin made a compelling case to be at the best player on this list in his rookie season, but has followed it up by continuing to strike out at an alarming rate while seeing his batting average plummet. Colvin swings and misses a lot and doesn’t make great contact often enough, making it look easy to get to an 0-2 count. When he does center one, it gets hit hard.
Colvin was traded in the offseason for Ian Stewart, so he didn’t have a lot of value, but Coors Field could be the best thing for Colvin. He should be an extra outfielder who provides power off the bench, which isn’t bad for a guy that was taken earlier than expected so the Cubs could throw more money at Jeff Samardzija.
2007: 3rd Overall: Josh Vitters – Third Baseman, Cypress High School
Vitters claim to fame is his swing, one scouts have called (and still do) one of the prettiest in baseball. But his swing is a double edged sword, as it allows him to make contact with pitches all around the plate. Vitters doesn’t strike out much, but he also doesn’t walk. He’s also not a guaranteed .300 hitter, but could develop into one should he start to put things together.
Vitters could be the second best player on this list, but is probably destined for third, as he will bring more value than a reliever and should play every day, either at third or left field. There’s still a lot to work with here, and a line similar to Adam Jones might not be that far off, but he probably won’t be much more than a 6 hole hitter.
2008: 19th Overall: Andrew Cashner – Right-handed Pitcher, Texas Christian University
Cashner is best known for hitting 100 mph on the gun and being the key piece in the Anthony Rizzo trade going to San Diego. Cashner made it to the majors quickly with great stuff, but hasn’t been able to control it (5 BB/9 in his career) and gives up far too many home runs (12 in 89.1 career innings) for a guy with the type of velocity and stuff that Cashner has.
His new home ballpark, the spacious Petco Park, will probably help him with the home runs and could also allow him to throw the ball over the plate more since he won’t give up the deep ball as much, but finding a spot in the rotation may be difficult for a player who scouts weren’t wild about in that role to begin with after dealing with shoulder issues all last year. Cashner could be a closer, but he’ll have to throw more strikes to do so.
2009: 31st Overall: Brett Jackson – Outfielder, University of California – Berkeley
Jackson is knocking on the door of the big leagues with a full range of above average tools that should allow him to play center field in the majors. He’ll hit for power, steal bases, and walk, but he’ll have to manage his strikeouts or risk being a serious batting average risk. He could be an All Star center fielder, which makes him the best player on this list, but he’ll more than likely never be an MVP candidate.
2010: 16th Overall: Hayden Simpson – Right-handed Pitcher, Southern Arkansas University
Simpson’s velocity took a dive, something that happens from time to time with pitchers after they are drafted. There’s no one reason why, and there’s certainly a small chance Simpson is hurt, but the Cubs wouldn’t let him keep throwing if he had an issue, and in fact may breathe a sigh of relief if he was hurt, as it would explain his problems in pro ball thus far.
Simpson started 4 games this year and has pitched out of the pen as well in High A Daytona, but things aren’t coming together for the 23-year-old, who has walked 29 batters in 35.2 innings, and has walked 67 batters in his professional career and struck out 71 in 114.2 innings. This is a bad mix, as being a 23-year-old at High A that seemingly can’t command his pitches is a sign to give up hope of ever pitching in the big leagues. It hasn’t been long, but it’s getting safer and safer to call Simpson a bust.
2011: 9th Overall: Javier Baez – Shortstop, Arlington Country Day School
Baez doesn’t even have 50 professional plate appearances, so there isn’t a lot to talk about with him. Baez is already flashing his power, but has struck out 14 times, not unusual for someone just entering pro ball. Most people in baseball think he’ll end up at third base, but Baez is a long way from being a big leaguer, and is being tested at A ball in Peoria this season.