Chicago Cubs Draft Preview: 4 Pitchers on First Round Radar for Different Reasons
In a disappointing 2021 season for the Cubs, one positive remains the tangible results from the pitching infrastructure. After years of struggling to develop pitching, there is optimism rooted in the changes being made under VP of Pitching Craig Breslow. That said, it’s difficult to determine who the Cubs may target in this year’s draft.
We have seen them embrace higher velocity as is the trend across baseball, but we’ve also seen the organization go the less popular route of selecting pitchers with two-seam/sinker movement. The Cubs have accepted risk with pitchers who’ve had prior arm surgeries, but they’ve generally stayed away from high school pitchers early.
With all of that in mind, here are four pitchers who have been linked to the club in recent weeks and who could be on the board when the Cubs pick at No. 21.
Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina University
Report: The Cubs are not one of those teams that heavily emphasize age, but Williams is nearly 22, leading him to last further in the draft than his talent would dictate. He shows off a top-of-rotation profile on the mound led by a superb (easily plus) fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. Williams also showcases a dynamic curveball thrown in the upper 70s to low 80s.
His slider and changeup also add average options with the potential to improve with more repetitions. Fans of college baseball will note that he dominated in the NCAA Super Regionals. There has been chatter of concern over prior injuries, but a broken finger is hardly a long-term concern after 81+ dominant innings in 2021.
Michael McGreevy, RHP, University of California Santa Barbara
Report: McGreevy received a ton of buzz earlier this season, in large part due to his improved repertoire. However, command is still his specialty because he pounds the zone with a sinker that sits 92-95 mph. Sinker pitchers aren’t as in vogue as they once were, but organizations have to forecast baseball’s future ($) and pitchers of this ilk may be a way to handle a sticky-free world.
McGreevy also features a slider, curveball, and changeup as average or better pitches. Ultimately, the whole package is enticing to some teams who value a “command+” profile. McGreevy is a projectable guy at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds who carries a high floor with optimism to hit a mid-rotation starter ceiling.
Anthony Solometo, LHP, Bishop Eustace Prep (HS)
Report: Solometo hails from the Northeast, which is not a baseball hotbed, and he is best known for is arm action that can best be described as “funky.” Similar moves haven’t scared the Cubs away in recent years and the unique mechanics increase deception for hitters. Madison Bumgarner‘s funk hasn’t stopped him from compiling over 36 WAR and logging over 2000 innings between the regular and postseasons.
Those are lofty aspirations for Solometo, who is primarily a two-pitch pitcher with both a plus fastball and slider. He does show some aptitude for a changeup, but it lags behind his primary offerings.
The timing is rich and the MadBum comps are gonna be there…banging the drums for him in the early teens. #MLBDraft21 pic.twitter.com/Wmc6UKMYVR
— Sam Monroy (@sammonroy) July 6, 2021
Andrew Painter, RHP, Calvary Christian (HS)
Report: Painter came into the season as the top pitcher in the high school class a while he performed well this season, Jackson Jobe blew past everyone to establish himself as the top prep pitcher. Painter has an easy, clean delivery that makes it look like he is playing catch and he has five pitches (four-seam, two-seam, curveball, changeup, slider). His best pitch is his four-seam, which sits 92-95 mph with good spin and grades as above-average and flashes plus. His changeup is an effective weapon that presents a different look to hitters by being primarily a low-spin offering with solid action, though it is inconsistent and looks anything from a below-average to plus pitch.
Both of Painter’s breaking balls are average or better pitches. This season’s concern is that he has been hit harder than you’d imagine for someone with his stuff. Most teams feel that Painter offers mid-rotation upside, but organizations with robust pitching development infrastructures could reap the benefits of taking a player who already showcases impressive tools.
All four of these pitchers have been tied to the Cubs in various mocks, but for very different reasons. Both Solometo and Painter would represent a dramatic philosophical shift for an organization that last used a first-round pick on a high school pitcher in 2012. While college arms Williams and McGreevy don’t profile the same, the Cubs have found success with similar pitchers in recent years.
If the Cubs ultimately do land a pitcher in the first round, the selection should provide insight into their future draft strategy.