2021 MLB Draft Recap: Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have had a mixed bag of success with their recent drafts. They have mixed in successful first-round picks – Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez – with selections that have delivered little or nothing to the big-league club. In terms of the type of players they like to choose, they had a run of six straight college players until last year’s choice of high school shortstop Ed Howard. This year they mixed in a variety of college and high schoolers as well as a fairly even distribution of position players and pitchers.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Draft Recaps.

Draft Selections

Round 1, Pick 21: Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State University

Wicks is a well-regarded left-hander who doesn’t blow the scouts away like some of his counterparts that were drafted higher. But he is seen as a safe pick who will make his way to the majors fairly quickly and settle into the middle to back end of the Cubs’ rotation. In 34 starts over his Kansas State career, Wicks had a 3.24 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He struck out a little more than a batter per inning and walked fewer than three batters per nine innings. Wicks relies mostly on a mix of fastballs and changeups and it’s generally considered that he will stay as a starting pitcher.

Round 2, Pick 56: James Triantos, 3B, Madison HS, Vienna, VA

Triantos offers all-around skills but none that stand out in an exceptional way. He has decent size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), hits right-handed, and could move to third. He is a contact hitter who the Cubs are hoping can develop power. While he played shortstop in high school, Chicago expects to move him to third base. He does possess above-average speed and arm strength.

Round 3, Pick 93: Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL

Gray originally went to high school in the Chicago suburbs before transferring to IMG for his senior season. He was a two-way prep player but the Cubs are expected to use him only as a pitcher to start his minor league career. Gray throws fairly hard from the left-hand side but needs to work to improve his command on his off-speed pitches.

Round 4, Pick 123: Christian Franklin, OF, University of Arkansas

Baseball America valued Franklin much higher than his draft slot as they ranked him as the 57th overall draft prospect. Franklin offers good overall skills – possessing power, the ability to take a walk, and quality defense. The knock on the Razorback is his propensity to strike out, a trait he will have to improve upon as he moves to the professional level.

Round 5, Pick 154: Liam Spence, SS, University of Tennessee

Spence is a high contact hitter, walking more often than striking out in his two years in the highly competitive SEC conference. He doesn’t hit for much power but he does get on base and offers strong defensive play at shortstop. Spence is a bit old for a college player (already 23) but is advanced as an all-around player. He doesn’t offer an incredible ceiling but is a safe pick in the fifth round.

6th Round (No. 184 Overall): Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy University

7th Round (No. 214 Overall): Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina University

8th Round (No. 244 Overall): Casey Opitz, C, University of Arkansas

9th Round (No. 274 Overall): Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State University

10th Round (No. 304 Overall): Peter Matt, OF, Duke University

11th Round (No. 334 Overall): Gage Ziehl, RHP, Pennfield HS, Pennfield, NY

12th Round (No. 364 Overall): Teo Banks, OF, Permian HS, Odessa, TX

13th Round (No. 394 Overall): Erian Rodriguez, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, GA

14th Round (No. 424 Overall): Frankie Scalzo, RHP, Grand Canyon University

15th Round (No. 454 Overall): BJ Murray, 3B, Florida Atlantic University

16th Round (No. 484 Overall): Zac Leigh, RHP, Texas State University

17th Round (No. 514 Overall): Christian Olivo, SS, Leadership Christian Academy, Guaynabo, PR

18th Round (No. 544 Overall): Dominic Hambley, RHP, Belmont SS, Langford, BC

19th Round (No. 574 Overall): Daniel Avitia, RHP, Alhambra HS, Phoenix, AZ

20th Round (No. 604 Overall): Wilson Cunningham, LHP, JSerra Catholic HS, San Capistrano, CA

Best Pick

Round 4, Pick 123: Christian Franklin, OF, University of Arkansas

The Cubs went with safe, high floor players with several of their top picks. Franklin, on the other hand, offers upside, albeit along with some risk. He fits the bill as the best pick based on Baseball America’s ranking of him as the 57th best prospect in the draft. Getting him at the 123rd pick is a nice value. The Arkansas outfielder offers an exciting mix of skill and excelled at the top level of college baseball as he played in the SEC. The risk is his strikeout rate. Professional pitchers will take advantage of this unless Franklin makes some adjustments in his swing. To mitigate his swing-and-miss tendencies, Franklin will take a walk, boosts strong power, and plays a solid centerfield.

Worst Pick

Round 9, Pick 274: Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State

If you’re going to take a reliever in the draft, it better be one who has a nasty repertoire or incredible statistics. Watkins doesn’t check either of those boxes. His ERA was close to 5.00 for the 2021 season and he walks too many hitters. Sure, you’re not going to usually find a star in the 9th round, but the Cubs could have done a lot better than this with their pick.

Draft Grade: C+

Chicago’s draft doesn’t stand out in any respect. There doesn’t seem to be many (any?) potential impact players from the twenty players picked. For a team that is on the verge of a full rebuild, the better path would have been to take uber-athletic high schoolers. Several of their current minor league prospects fit that bill and that approach would have been a better alternative than the safe route that took in this draft.

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