If last year's draft taught Cub fans anything, it's the current front office values pitching, catching, and hitters who show good patience at the plate. Look for more of the same this year.
Appel is the more polished of the two right-handers after returning for his senior season when he couldn't come to terms with Pittsburgh after being selected eighth last year. According to reports, Gray failed a MLB drug test for Adderall but many experts feel this will have no affect on his draft status.
Here's what Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel had to say about the 21-year-old pitchers:
Mark Appel—"The 6'5 righty flashes three knockout pitches (93-96 mph fastball that hits 98, slider, changeup) that all rate at least a 60 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and flash 70 at their best. Appel made the adjustment this season to be more aggressive and has drawn the gaudy strikeout numbers his plus stuff didn't draw last season. He lacks the top shelf athleticism to have the command and consistency to project as a true ace, but he's clearly my top prospect and a potential frontline starter in short order."
Jonathan Gray— "The husky 6'4 righty took a big step forward this season, most notably with his velocity, going from sitting in the low to mid 90's in 2012 and early this season to not throwing any fastballs under 95 mph in full 100 pitch outings and hitting 100 mph often. He backs up his 80 fastball with a plus slider and solid changeup that's above average at times. Gray's arm action, delivery and command could are all a notch behind Appel and Gray's value is heavily tied to his velocity, which may wane in the coming years with two fewer days rest in between starts in pro ball."
The second round pick is up in the air. Members of the Cubs front office said this week they'd spent more time on their second pick than they have on the first round selection. Unless there's a bat that falls into their lap, like Notre Dame's third baseman Eric Jagielo, look for the Cubs to go pitching. With $1.3 million slot money available, the Cubs should be able to lure any high school arm they desire away from a college commitment.
While prep hurlers Kohl Stewart (St. Pius, Texas), Trey Ball (New Castle Chrysler, Ind.), Phil Bickford (Oaks Christian, Calif.), Rob Kaminsky (St. Joseph, New Jersey), Hunter Harvey (Bandys, North Carolina), and Ian Clarkin (Madison, Calif.) are likely to be off the board, Matt Krook (St. Ignatius, Calif.), Kyle Serrano (Farragut, Tenn.), Connor Jones (Great Bridge, Vir.), Hunter Green (Warren East, Kent.), or Devin Williams (Hazlewood West, Missouri) may end up a Cub before the day is done. The Cubs may not go far from their AA Tennessee Smokies home as area product Will Crowe (Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) is also considered one of the top high school pitching prospects.
They could decide to take a college arm since Cubs Director of Player Development/Scouting Jason McLeod said he's spent a lot of Friday nights this spring watching baseball. Braden Shipley (Nevada), Alex Gonzalez (Oral Roberts), Sean Manaea (Indiana State), Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), Marco Gonzalez (Gonzaga), probably won't make it to #41. Chris Anderson (Jacksonville), Jonathon Crawford (Florida), Alex Balog (San Francisco) and Andrew Thurman (UC-Irvine) are likely candidates if available but the Cubs may be selecting from Jason Hursh (Oklahoma State), Aaron Blair (Marshall), Cody Reed (NW Mississippi CC), Ryan Eades (LSU), Andrew Mitchell (TCU), or Bobby Wahl (Mississippi).