Last year’s MLB draft was only five rounds, this year’s MLB Draft was back up to 20 rounds. Not quite the 40 rounds were used to, but it felt a lot closer to normal. The Draft was also later this season as it took place during the MLB All-Star Break. The Cubs made some interesting selections, so let’s take a look at them.
Here’s a quick look at all of the Cubs 20 Picks before we dive into each prospect more.
Cubs 2021 Draft Picks
|Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State||1||21||6’3||220||21||L/L|
|James Triantos, 3B, James Madison HS (VA)||2||56||6’1||195||18||R/R|
|Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy (FL)||3||93||6’3||190||18||L/L|
|Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas||4||123||5’11||195||21||R/R|
|Liam Spence, SS, Tennessee||5||154||6’1||190||23||R/R|
|Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy||6||184||6’1||215||23||L/L|
|Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina||7||214||6’0||190||22||L/R|
|Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas||8||244||5’11||195||22||S/R|
|Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State||9||274||6’4||217||21||L/L|
|Peter Matt, OF, Duke||10||304||6’2||220||23||R/R|
|Gage Ziehl, RHP, Penfield HS (NY)||11||334||6’0||215||18||R/R|
|Teo Banks, OF, Permian HS (TX)||12||364||6’3||185||18||R/R|
|Erian Rodriguez, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (GA)||13||394||6’3||190||19||R/R|
|Frankie Scalzo, RHP, Grand Canyon||14||424||6’3||185||21||R/R|
|BJ Murray, 3B, Florida Atlantic||15||454||6’0||205||21||S/R|
|Zachary Leigh, RHP, Texas State||16||484||6’0||170||23||R/R|
|Christian Olivo, SS, Leadership Christian Academy (PR)||17||514||5’11||168||17||R/R|
|Dominic Hambley, RHP, Belmont Secondary School (BC)||18||544||6’2||230||18||R/R|
|Daniel Avitia, RHP, Alhambra HS (AZ)||19||574||6’3||180||18||R/R|
|Wilson Cunningham, LHP, Jserra Catholic (CA)||20||604||6’8||185||18||L/L|
Let’s look closer at the Top 10 picks the Cubs made this year.
Round 1: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
The Cubs took Wicks with their 1st pick in the 2021 Draft. While researching for the draft, I read on Fangraphs that Wicks was “too good a pitcher to drop out of the teens”, so for the Cubs to snag him at 21st overall could be a steal. Wicks has what multiple scouts have regarded as the best changeup in the draft. In the low-80s and with really good depth, he uses it in tandem with his fastball. That fastball sits 90-93 mph and has a riding action created by his high spin rates. His slider has improved to be solid and I’m sure the Cubs will look to develop it further given his spin rates. Wicks will throw the slider harder than usual at times, turning it into a cutter. He also has an upper-70’s curveball, but currently uses that the least of his pitches.
His delivery is effortless, he has the ability to work both sides of the plate and has shown little to no command issues. He’s a competitor on the mound always working to be at his best. Cubs fans should be excited about this guy going forward!
Round 2: James Triantos, 3B, James Madison HS (VA)
Triantos is a bit of a risky pick, especially in the second round, but it’s a risk that could bring high rewards. Some scouts have regarded his approach as “pre-determined” and think he’ll struggle with plate discipline. Other scouts love his bat and the surprising power he’s already demonstrated as a high schooler despite not being the biggest guy. He definitely won’t stay at his high school position of shortstop; he’s destined to move over to third. His arm will be just fine for a major league third baseman. Major upside comparisons for his ceiling I’ve heard are a less athletic Alex Bregman and David Wright.
Round 3: Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy (FL)
Gray was a two-way prospect coming into the draft as both a pitcher and outfielder. The Cubs drafted him as a pitcher and it looks like that’s the way he’s going to be developed. As a pitcher, Gray is still pretty raw. He has struggled with command, but also had an arm issue that kept him out of most of this spring. The reason he’s a third round pick is that there are some really intriguing pitches that could show some big potential upside. His fastball sits 88-92 mph and tops out at 94. He has a low-80s slider and a mid-70’s curve, but they end up looking similar to each other too often. He needs to work on separation between those two if he’s going to keep both offerings. He’s flashed a good feel for a changeup, but he hasn’t thrown it much yet. If he can continue to work on those secondary pitches, there’s some good upside here. This pick was likely more based off of potential projection rather than where he’s at now.
Round 4: Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas
Could be a steal as the 123th overall pick, Franklin was ranked as the 52nd best prospect in the draft, so to get him here was a bit unexpected. Franklin hit .274 in 2021 and has shown both power and speed in his time at Arkansas. He had 13 homers and 54 RBI along with 11 stolen bases for a team that was ranked #1 in the country for most of the 2021 College Baseball season. There’s more swing and miss than you’d like to see, which might be the reason he fell to the 4th round.
Round 5: Liam Spence, SS, Tennessee
Spence was a great contact hitter in 2021 for the Volunteers. His patient, contact-focused approach led him to bat .336/.472/.459, lead the SEC in on-base percentage and rank fifth in College Baseball with 54 walks. There’s not much power and he’s older than most draftees at 23 years and three months, but he’s solid defensively at short and his on-base ability with plus speed make him a decent prospect here.
Round 6: Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy
A bit of a surprise pick here, but from a Division 2 school in Illinois, there was definitely something the Cubs liked in Martin. He was 9-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 2021. His walk numbers were higher than you’d like to see, but the reason the Cubs like Martin is his Curveball. His fastball sits 88-92, but the curveball is the pitch that has potential to move him up the organization. He likely slots into the bullpen with that two-pitch mix.
Round 7: Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina
Chavers hit 22 homers and stole 19 bases in his first two years as a Chanticleer and looked like a potential top two-round pick. But he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder at the end of 2019. He has solid all-around tools, a good approach and quick left-handed swing that generates solid power. He’s struggled against lefties in the past so there is a chance he may only be a platoon player. He has plus speed and his instincts should allow him to stay in centerfield as a pro. Some teams avoided him in the draft because of that recent surgery and the age (he’ll be 23 soon).
Round 8: Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas
I like this pick here in the 8th round. Opitz has great reviews as one of the best defensive catchers in college. Pitchers really like throwing to him and even if he never makes the big leagues, he should be a great for developing pitchers. His bat is his biggest weakness. He hit .257 with 2 home runs in 2021, but he did have 32 walks and only 33 strikeouts so that improved approach is promising. He is a good pick here and has a ceiling of an MLB backup.
Round 9: Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State
Watkins was part of the Beavers bullpen in 2021. He has a 90-92 mph fastball. With deception in his delivery and a good curveball, Watkins is worth a shot in the bullpen going forward. He had a 4.88 ERA in 31.1 innings this year, but what stood out to me was that he only allowed two extra-base hits in those 31.1 innings! He also had 38 strikeouts and just 15 walks. I like Watkins as a potential lefty bullpen option.
Round 10: Peter Matt, OF, Duke
Matt was drafted for his power tool. He’s a big righty who spent his first four years at Penn before spending his 5th year at Duke. He played primarily in right field and as a designated hitter for Duke. Matt hit .297 with 15 home runs (8th in ACC) and he led Duke in stolen bases with 15. He strikes out a bit too much and is not the best defender. It could be tough to find a spot for him in the field. The bat is what will keep him in the lineup.
I’m not going to go into any of the Cubs 11-20th round picks here. We’ll continue to follow them going forward and whether or not some of those high school picks even sign with the Cubs. But overall, I like the Cubs draft. I love the Jordan Wicks pick. The other picks are a combination of some high upside guys, some proven college guys, some potential bullpen pieces and some projects. I’d call it a successful 2021 draft.