Last Thursday, in the 2014 MLB draft, the Cubs selected 40 high school and college players to join their organization, but only a handful will ever make an impact at the major league level. In all likelihood, it will be the top five selections in this year’s draft who we will see playing in the big leagues at some point in the future. According to Bleacher Report, players drafted in the 6th round or later only have a 20% chance, at best, of making to the major leagues and with each round the chances get smaller and smaller. With that being said, lets choose to focus on the Cubs draft picks from the first five rounds; starting with Justin Steele (5th round) and Carson Sands (4th Round). Follow along this week for the remainder of Cubs top five picks.
Justin Steele (5th round, 139 overall) – LHP, 6’1”, 180 lbs – George County HS (MS)
Justin Steele was an interesting pick for the Cubs in the 5th round. As a high schooler, he will have a much longer road to the big leagues and his success will ultimately depend a lot on his mental make up. Steele is looking at five or more years in the minor leagues until he is “major league ready” and how he develops mentally and physically will determine if he is ready to make the jump. But based on just what we see out of him, I’m not terribly high on Justin Steele. He has a fastball that is consistently 91-92, but has experienced a dip of more than five miles-per-hour in the past due fatigue, overuse and other reasons. He features a loopy curveball and a below average change up that he tips with noticeably slower arm action. Steele’s strength is his loose arm, which means that his arm accelerates very smoothly up to his release point. Steele has been knocked for being undersized, but I don’t buy into the theory that all pitchers need to be 6’5” monsters. What concerns me is his weight transfer and follow-through. In both of these areas Steele loses velocity due to leaks in his mechanics. Also Steele seems to rush through his delivery which doesn’t allow him to balance and then drive all of his weight forward; again he is leaving velocity on the table. The good news, though, is that these mechanical issues are all very fixable.
Projection: Steele projects to be a back of the rotation starter or a lefty specialist out of the ‘pen due to his lack control and lack of quality secondary pitches. I would say Steele makes it as high as AA. I think that being straight out of high school, especially as a pitcher, leaves too many questions and unknowns in his path to the big leagues but the Cubs’ need for pitching and the fact that he is left handed may allow him to go higher than his skills or results dictate.
Carson Sands (4th round, 109 overall) – LHP, 6’3”, 205 lbs – North Florida Christian HS (FL)
Carson Sands was the first high schooler taken by the Cubs and I commend the organization for waiting until the 4th round to take a high school player. For me, Sands is an intriguing prospect because the numbers and results are there but I am not crazy about his mechanics. Scouting reports of Sands say that he features 90-92 mile-per-hour fastball, as well as a solid curveball and changeup. Sands also has exceptional control of all three of his pitches. Sands worked hard this past off-season to add weight and it paid off as he saw a jump in his velocity and a bigger frame made him more attractive to scouts. But watching him throw is a bit puzzling. First, he strides closed which forces him to have to over compensate with the rest of his delivery so that he can get back on a straight line (Jarred Weaver is a good example of this). Because Sands strides closed he has a tendency to pull out early with his lead arm, thus losing a touch of velocity as well as potentially adding undue stress on his elbow. But what is puzzling is that most pitchers who do this struggle with consistency in their velocity and control (particularly on off speed pitches) but Sands does not. And where his control is not affected by his mechanics, I say let him go. He has good rhythm, particularly out of the stretch, and I like what I see.
Projection: Sands may fit best as a lefthander out of the Cubs bullpen somewhere down the line. He works hard in the weight room, which is a good indicator of his work ethic and dedication, and his ability to throw effectively from the stretch favors a bullpen role. Also pitchers who are his size tend to have more successful careers pitching out of the ‘pen. I expect Sands to be a major league reliever with a career ERA around 3.20.
Come back tomorrow to see scouting reports and projections for the Cubs second and third round picks, Jake Stinnett and Mark Zagunis.
Tags: 4th round, 5th round, Baseball, Carson Sands, Chicago, Chicago Cubs, Cubs, Justin Steele, lefthander, MLB, mlb draft, projection