There's much debate over who the Chicago Cubs should draft with the second overall pick on Thursday evening. With top third base prospects available as well as two high-caliber pitchers, our baseball beat reporters, Jesse Rogers and Bruce Levine, debate it out. Hitter or pitcher? They discuss:
JR: Bruce, in your blog post, you say the Cubs should take one of the power-hitting third baseman in Kris Bryant or Colin Moran. I disagree with that notion. Like everyone, they need pitching, and by all accounts there are two at the top of the draft and then the rest. The Cubs shouldn't pass on Mark Appel of Stanford or Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma in favor of any hitter. It would be one thing if there were five to six pitchers whom talent evaluators could not agree on, but these two stand out. The Cubs have taken their share of position players with top picks recently, in addition to signing Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. It's time to focus on a starter who can complement the arms they have. You can never have enough -- and with Appel or Gray you're getting a good one. I prefer Appel.
BL: Jesse, the Cubs are doing just fine with the starting pitchers (other than Edwin Jackson) they have in the rotation right now. I agree with you that pitching is the team's No. 1 need. It's not like they can't take any pitching in the rest of the draft or sign international pitchers. Keep in mind that big-time power hitters are going to be at a premium with more stringent drug policies in the game. Who says Appel or Gray are the next Nolan Ryan? These two pitchers happen to be at the top of what may be a questionable group of potential impact pitchers this year. Bryant has power that will be hard to find in the next decade. Home run hitters who have outstanding plate discipline are a rare commodity. You can't pass on the next Mike Schmidt.
JR: I'll use the same logic about Bryant. How do we know he's the next Schmidt? He's doing it in college just as Appel and Gray are. They are all risks but for every hitting prospect a team has they should have two pitchers of the same caliber. With power numbers decreasing, pitching is at even more of a premium. Even the Detroit Tigers, with sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, are doing it with pitching more than anything else. And although the Cubs are competing this season with their rotation, it means nothing for next year and beyond. Adding more competition at the top end can only be a good thing.
BL: Jesse, your logic says take a pitcher and that will be the cure for the Cubs future. In my baseball world you take the top impact player available. That is especially true when you are two to four years away from your plan to compete for the playoffs every season. Let's take a look at the last time the Cubs drafted as high as No. 2. They selected Southern California's Mark Prior, the best pitcher on paper in the 2001 draft. That pick looked brilliant until he flamed out in just three seasons. Guess who the Cubs passed on? A third baseman (at the time) named Mark Teixeira, who was selected fourth by the Texas Rangers. There is no sure-fire method to becoming the next great developmental organization. One truth is evident: The Cubs need a lot of help in all areas. Choosing one area over the other may not be a bad choice right now. That is especially true when they need help at many key positions.