A recent rumor floating around the upcoming 2014 MLB Draft is that the Chicago Cubs, who hold the No. 4 overall pick, may be thinking about selecting college catcher Max Pentecost and signing him to a below-slot deal in order to spread the extra money out throughout the draft.
This is a strategy that has been employed with successful results by the Houston Astros in the past, and with three clear-cut top talents in the draft, the Cubs may be left scrambling with the fourth pick.
As it stands, prep pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, along with college lefty Carlos Rodon, are the top three talents available. With the fourth pick, there is not a clear-cut fourth-best pitcher available now that Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde both require Tommy John surgery.
Prep shortstop Nick Gordon is a high-upside option at No. 4, as is catcher Alex Jackson who is regarded as the best hitter in the draft. However, questions as to whether or not Jackson can stick at catcher, and concerns over Gordon’s hit-tool have clouded the picture.
Teams are given a pool of money depending on where they finish in the standings, and are encouraged to sign players in each round for a specific slot value. While it’s discouraged, teams can go over slot if they choose, with penalties depending on what percent teams spend over slot. With extra money to spend in the draft, the Cubs could go after higher-upside pitchers in rounds 2-5 by signing them to over-slot deals.
This draft is loaded with high-upside arms who will not be selected in the first round, and the Cubs’ strategy recently has been to load up on pitchers in volume due to the rate of attrition at that position.
With uncertainty at pick No. 4, the Cubs would be wise to select Pentecost who has a much higher floor than high school bats Gordon and Jackson. Pentecost is a first-round talent, but he is not seen as a top-five pick, which is why the Cubs could sign him for less than slot value. Pentecost is seen as an offensive MLB catcher with a sound approach at the plate and a quick line-drive swing that does not yet generate a lot of power, but led to a line of .426/.479/.634 this season.
To top it off, Pentecost has speed and is quick behind the plate with a strong arm.
While Welington Castillo is a building block on the major league team, the Cubs have a dearth of catching prospects in the organization. Castillo is also 27 years old and in his prime as a pro. In a few years, the aging curve is likely going to catch up with him, and ideally the Cubs would have Pentecost ready to take over as the starter when Castillo begins his decline.
In the upcoming MLB Draft on June 5, 2014 the ideal scenario for the Cubs will be if one of the three teams ahead of them select a hitter, allowing one of the top three pitching prospects to fall to pick No. 4. If this happens, the Cubs will more than likely select whichever pitcher falls, however that should not be a foregone conclusion.
The best option for the Cubs may be to take the safe player in Pentecost, who not only fills a need, but would allow the team to sign higher upside pitchers in the ensuing rounds.