And with the fourth pick in the 2014 Rule 4 draft the Chicago Cubs select............not sure, don't worry, either do the Cubs.
For starters, the Cubs can't control the picks of Houston, Florida or the White Sox. They can prepare for all possible scenarios, rank their board, and sit and wait. What they do know is three players that they spent a ton of time on will not be available.
The consensus of the "industry" is college left-hander Carlos Rodon along with high school arms Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken are the top three players in the draft. After that, there's is no consensus—and no guarantee the three hurlers will be the top three picks.
So let's take a look at the options for the Cubs.
One of the three arms falls to the Cubs, they draft him, and everyone is happy for about a week, and then the fans want to know when he's getting to Wrigley. There's a good chance this happens if the Cubs have the arms ranked as the Top 3.
Let's say the industry is right, like they were last year with the top three picks, and Rondon, Kolek and Aiken are off the board, or the Cubs don' think they're worthy of the # 4 pick if any remain.
If this is the case, the Cubs can take their choice of the best position player for the second year in a row, draft one of the top remaining college or high school arms, or under-slot a player and add more impact talent later in the draft. Lets start with the last option first.
Go under slot with the first pick
The Cubs have the 4th pick, but aren't 4th in draft dollars to spend ($8,352,200) as the Astros ($13.3), Marlins (12.7 M), White Sox (9.5), Blue Jays (9.4), and Royals (8.6) have a bigger bankroll, the last two on the list because of compensation picks. The Marlins had over $14 million but traded their competitive balance pick (#39) to the Pirates for pitcher Bryan Morris.
The latest rumor has the Cubs taking Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost with the fourth pick, saving money under the slot, and adding more talent later. The Royals did this last year taking Hunter Dozier with the 8th pick and then signing LHP Sean Manaea, a college junior who fell in the draft due to injury. Two years ago, the Astros took Carlos Correa with the top pick and used the extra money to ink RHP Lance McCuellers and 3B Rio Ruiz.
The under slot ploy is risky but its a great way to leverage the system to add extra high-ceiling talent. Many of the players you get in the later picks are still on the board for a variety of reasons, and most of those reasons not good ones. With the inability to add top end talent on the international market this summer, the Cubs may use the under-slot ploy to stockpile players. If they do go this route, this bring several players into the discussion.
Take the top position player for the second straight year
After striking it rich with Kris Bryant last year, this is a popular choice among the throng of Cub fans on social media as they feel its a safer pick than a pitcher. The front office has proven in the past they value position players at the top of the draft over pitchers, selecting Albert Almora and Bryant. However, unlike last year, there is no clear cut consensus as C/OF Alex Jackson has been considered the best power hitter in the draft while SS Nick Gordon has drawn the most attention in recent weeks—both high school bats.
Outfielders Brad Zimmer, San Francisco, and Michael Conforto, Oregon State, are considered the top college hitters but neither is worthy of the fourth pick. However, both are candidates to be taken and signed under-slot. North Carolina SS Trea Turner was once considered the top position player but fell with concerns over his bat.
Draft a Pitcher
If this were the NFL where most of the time you draft based on need instead of the best available player, then the Cubs would take a pitcher......and why not, there's a pile of good arms in this draft, many at the top of the board.
No matter if they take one with the 4th pick or not, you can expect the Cubs to load up on arms in the draft for the third straight year. The selected nine pitchers in the first 10 rounds in 2012 (two supplemental picks) and then added seven more last year.
Two college arms connected to the Cubs are Aaron Nola, a polished right-hander from LSU, and Evansville's Kyle Freeland, a left-hander with a good fastball and a plus slider. Chicago was a possible landing spot for RHP Jeff Hoffman but Tommy John surgery ended that. Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede has also been mentioned due to his connection with Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson, Vanderbilt's former pitching coach. TCU's Brandon Finnegan and Hartford's Sean Newcomb could be considered but most likely if they decide to under-slot. South Carolina high schooler Grant Holmes, a Florida commit, is the top high school arm not named Kolek or Aiken.
The Cubs also have the 45th pick, the fourth pick in the second round. The new CBA has greatly reduced the number of compensation picks (about 20), thus making a team's second round more valuable. Daniel Vogelbach, the Cubs second rounder in '12 was the 68th pick (8th in 2nd round) and Duane Underwood was the 67th selected in '12 (7th in 2nd round) Last year, Rob Zastryzny was the 41st player selected.
So what does this all mean. It means after the first three picks the Cubs could do just about anything expect trade the pick and move down in the draft. So you shouldn't be surprised, no matter who they take. Hopefully, who ever they draft in the first two rounds, they can sign quickly and get them down to Mesa to begin their pro careers.
Make sure you check out the player pages as Kiley McDaniel has scouting reports, videos, rankings, and everything you need to know about this year's draft class He's personally scouted most of the top 100 prospects and provides great insight to the draft process.