As the Chicago Cubs selected C/OF Kyle Schwarber No. 4 overall in the MLB Draft with the assumption that he would take an under-slot deal, the focus in round two was expected to be on high upside high school pitchers. Instead, the Cubs drafted college senior Jake Stinnett, a right-handed pitcher.
While Stinnett may have been a target of the Cubs all along, he was likely a fallback option after two high-upside arms went off the board at the end of the first round. First, the Boston Red Sox selected hard-throwing righty Michael Kopech with pick No. 33 and then the St. Louis Cardinals followed suit by selecting a typical Cardinals pitcher in 6-foot-4 righty Jack Flaherty.
Both players are deemed tough signs, but that is exactly why the Cubs were expected to draft one of the two in the second round in order to use some of the savings in their draft pool from the Schwarber pick. The Cubs will likely save at least $1.5 million from their first-round slot value of $4.6 million when they sign Schwarber.
When that money is combined with the slot value for the No. 45 pick of $1.25 million, the Cubs may have had enough to sway either high school pitcher away from a college commitment.
Instead, the Cubs chose another player who should be an easy sign — and sign below slot — in 6-foot-4, 215-pound Stinnett. Stinnett is relatively new to pitching, having begun his college career at Maryland as a third baseman. Stinnett touched 93 mph on his fastball as Maryland’s closer in 2013, compiling a 2.83 ERA.
This season though, Stinnett elevated his stuff to another level, sitting at 92-95 and touching 97 with his fastball while also throwing a downward breaking slider, showing strong command of both pitches. Stinnett rounds out his repertoire with a changeup but he doesn’t have great feel for the pitch at this point.
Typically, college players will enter the draft during their junior year while they still have leverage to go back to school for one more year. College seniors are regarded as easy signs because they have no leverage in negotiations other than to go play independent ball. Stinnett, though, is not your typical college senior due to his late transition to pitching and the improvement in his stuff over the past season.
While Stinnett is a legitimate prospect, he is a disappointment when considering the Cubs were hoping for a potential top of the rotation high school arm in round two. The upside of this pick, however, is that Stinnett will likely sign under slot and he should be able to move quickly through the system given his age.
The Cubs have taken an unconventional route with their first two picks in the 2014 MLB Draft, but it will all be worth it if the team can convince high school fire-baller J.B. Bukauskas to forgo his commitment to North Carolina. Bukauskas is currently the top ranked player available, but do to extreme signability concerns, he will likely not be selected until the 10th round, the portion of the draft that does not assign slot values to each pick.
What we can take from the early portion of the draft is that the Cubs have drafted seemingly safe college players who should be able to contribute much sooner than riskier, high-upside high school players. While Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would likely love to draft a few of the high-upside players and use their savings to sign at least one of them, whatever ensues for the rest of the draft, Cubs fans will simply have to trust in a front office that has shown a long track record of success in drafting and developing players.