There’s only been one major signing over the past couple of days but the clock is ticking and we’re inside of a month until the clock ticks down midnight and the people start turning into college pumpkins. And there are some major names on the board that teams need to ink. So let’s take a look some of those names… after a quick take on the Cubs most recent signing.
The Cubs have been busy and getting a haul during the past couple of days. First signing RHP Paul Blackburn and now RHP Pierce Johnson. They inked Johnson to an $1.196mm deal. While they didn’t save anything on the slot they did ink a very good and established college arm. Here is Johnson’s pre-draft Instinct:
47. Pierce Johnson RHP Missouri State – The Missouri State Friday night starter is one of the NCAA leaders in strikeouts with 11.5 per 9 innings. His frame is 6’3″ and 180 lbs with little left for projection. But his fastball sits low 90s with a slurve and a cutter in the mid 80s.
Our Instinct – Johnson doesn’t have a typical inning eaters frame and his fastball isn’t elite level. He has 2 average pitches which border on above average. But he’s also a proven Friday night starter. So he could go just outside the 1st round and live up to that billing. I think he’s more of a back end of the rotation type so he falls some on my draft board.
As I mentioned there are still a lot of huge names that teams are trying to get signed. So let’s take a look at some of those first round talents that we had inside of our Top 25.
Our number one overall talent, Lucas Giolito fell to #16 to the Nationals. Giolito is repped by Scott Boras, so there is going to be no discounts going on here for Giolito. Right now, the Nats have just a touch over $3mm to offer Giolito without busting the slot and losing a 2013 first round draft pick. But maybe, just maybe, they think Giolito is worth losing that pick to sign the best talent available. Will they bust the slot? We think they should. Here’s the Giolito Instinct:
1.Lucas Giolito RHP Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. - Giolito sprained his elbow early in the season making his draft position a question mark. But he has a big frame at 6’6″ and 230 lbs, with a fastball that works 93-96 and touched 100 before he got hurt. His secondaries are both average and project to be above or better with his curve a probable plus offering. Mechanically it’s obvious his coaches were just riding his talent and not trying to correct him. But there are issues that are in need of correction, including tempo and timing. He’s a UCLA commit and if he falls in the draft there’s a good chance he honors that commitment.
Our Instinct - Before spraining his elbow early this season, Giolito was my #1 draft pick and although he won’t go #1 overall in this draft due to the uncertainty of the injury I’m going on record as stating he is still my top HS talent choice and I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him inside the 1st round with or without the need for Tommy John surgery. He’s a player that if he comes back healthy, can be molded into a front of the rotation Ace. Reports are coming back clean on his elbow, but there is no 100% certainty that he won’t require surgery. I would venture that surgery based on his age and upside. Like Bundy was in 2011, Giolito is our #1 selection.
The biggest name heading into the draft was Mark Appel out of Stanford. He was the surefire #1 pick to the Astros heading into draft day. Then he wasn’t. Carlos Correa was announced and Appel fell. His contract demands were too high for the Astros to bite and Appel fell to the Pirates at #8. Currently they have $3.8mm available to offer Appel. Though Appel, another Boras client was demanding $6mm+ according to reports. If he can get close to $4mm it would be wise for Appel to cash in and start his pro career. A tandem of Taillon, Cole and Appel would also be a nice prize for the Bucs.
4. Mark Appel RHP Stanford - Appel is an established college arm with Stanford and stints on Team USA. He was drafted in 2009 by the Tigers in the 15th round before choosing college, which has proven a wise choice. His fastball sits in the 93-95 range and he can get it to 96-98 although it tends to flatten out when he over-throws it. His slider is a strikeout pitch with excellent tilt. His changeup is currently average at best, but is a pitch he can upgrade.
Our Instinct - When his mechanics are in sync his fastball has tailing movement that will handcuff right-handers and move away from lefties. His slider compliments it well, but when the fastball starts to flatten out he loses the zone up and can be more hittable. If he can refine the change-up into a plus offering he has front of the rotation upside but currently may top out as a potential #2 with a back end of the rotation floor if healthy. He’s really been worked deep into games and moving into an every 5th day workload after logging a ton of college innings is sometimes a red flag. But he has high upside and is an advanced arm.
The Seattle Mariners selected Mike Zunino with the #3 overall pick. A touch higher that we had him, but a solid selection nonetheless. The selection of Zunino is clear indication that the Mariners don’t see Jesus Montero as their catcher of the future, despite his elite level projection with the bat. The M’s have about $4.1mm that they can throw at Zunino and that should be well above what it will take to ink him. If they can save $1.5mm+ they will likely shift the funds towards one Edwin Diaz, a fireballer RHP from PR. Right now they are upside down on the slot though. But first things first. Zunino and our Instinct:
5. Mike Zunino C Florida - Zunino is the top ranked catcher heading into the draft. He’s the squad leader for the Florida Gators and has hit better this season than he has in the past and he was already considered a 1st round talent. He has above average power and has hit for average despite a long swing. Defensively he’s a plus with the glove and has caught north of 30% of runners looking to steal a base.
Our Instinct - A team with a glaring need at catcher within the organization will reach for Zunino and they’ll get what they’re looking for. His ability to hit for a high average will be a stretch at the higher levels, but if his power translates to average or better he’ll be a valuable commodity based on his defense and make up. Almost a sure-fire full-time professional catcher. His power will define his upside.
The Orioles went with RHP Gausman out of LSU. He’s a close to ready college arm and the strategy here is that they are starting to compete and the elite arm in the system, Dylan Bundy, while young is moving fast. The Orioles envision Gausman and Bundy hitting the AL East around the same time. But first they need to sign Gausman. They have more than $4.6mm to do so and it shouldn’t take that much to ink the college righty. Here is the pre-draft Instinct:
7. Kevin Gausman RHP Louisiana State - Gausman is a big righty with a mid 90s fastball and a potential plus changeup. He throws a curveball and slider but hasn’t mastered either offering. He’s pushed his fastball to 99 this spring and despite not having a plus breaking ball he has made it to the top of the draft charts.
Our Instinct - Gausman’s mechanics aren’t traditional but are the reason his fastball and changeup work so well together. But the lack of a true breaking pitch makes his high-ranking questionable. He has the upside but will need time to develop and refine his delivery. He has mid rotation upside.
While the Cubs have been busy writing checks of the 7 figure variety the past couple of days, one has not been written to their first round pick Albert Almora. But despite inking Paul Blackburn and Pierce Johnson this week, the Cubs still have more than $4mm to give Almora. Good thing, because that’s probably a lowest dollar amount that he will take. But he’s worth going over slot to sign. Just not losing a 2013 1st rounder though.
8. Albert Almora OF Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla. - A Miami commit, Almora has one of the purest swings from the right side in the draft class. His defense is CF is outstanding and his arm will play there as he matures. Almora has solid average tools across the board and should add weight to his 6’2″ frame in time to add some average power.
Our Instinct - Almora is the easiest of the HS position crop to project with a solid overall game. His swing is conducive to contact and he already has the ability to work counts. As he adds power he should develop into an all around above average hitter with plus defense in CF despite not being a plus runner.
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