Cubs Nation expects the organization to select the next Mark Prior or Kerry Wood with the second overall selection in the draft on Thursday. While it makes sense for pick a pitcher in an organization without many quality arms, other elements of the club are just as essential to fortify.
The two top arms in the draft belong to Mark Appel of Stanford and Jonathan Gray from the University of Oklahoma. Both right-handers have fastballs that register between 95-98 mph and also feature nasty breaking balls. The smart money has the Houston Astros, who pick first, taking one of the two and the Cubs going with the other power pitcher.
My take on the Cubs draft is a little different. Cubs president Theo Epstein will make the pick after weighing all the facts and figures. He will have pressure on him to take a stud starter, but the temptation to take a true power hitter in an era without big power guys may be too difficult to pass up.
The Cubs should take one of the two impact third baseman that figure to be top-10 picks.
University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant hit 31 home runs this season and appears to be under consideration by Houston as well.
"I believe that Kris Bryant may be the next Bob Horner or Mike Schmidt," said an American League talent evaluator. "He has real home run and extra-base potential as well as excellent plate discipline. He isn't a finished product at third base but he will be fine there with some hard work. The young man has a plus arm which is a big positive for a third baseman. To me he is the top player in the draft. The two top pitchers may be very good but this guy is the best tools guy coming out."
The other third baseman, Colin Moran out of the University of North Carolina, is projected by ESPN's Keith Law to go to the Astros with the first pick in his latest mock draft. Moran is the nephew of B.J. Surhoff, a former All Star and No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 draft. Moran projects as a more prototypical third baseman with less raw power than Bryant. Epstein and Co. have to like Moran's excellent plate discipline, also a strength for Bryant.
The Cubs could potentially have an All-Star infield of Bryant-Moran, Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo. That's a group that could be together for five to seven years and contribute 100 home runs and 400 RBIs a season.
Impact pitchers are tough to come by and the Cubs' need for power arms is apparent. That said, teams should never draft for need at the top of the draft. When you have a chance to take the best player, you do it.
If Houston passes on Bryant, the Cubs should make the move.