Everyone knows the Cubs will have the number two pick in the draft but what we do not know is who they will nab with that pick. A lot of that depends on the Astros but many scouts and media outlets are expecting Houston to take 3rd baseman Colin Moran.
This will leave the Cubs with a variety of options obviously but only 3 players really make sense for the Cubs at #2. Lets take a look at all three-
Mark Appel: He has all the make-up to be a number one pitcher on any staff. He struck out 130 batters and walked 23 in 106 innings pitched this season. His fastball is consistently in the mid 90s but can crank it to 98 when he needs to. His secondary pitchers have upside but he needs to master command of those pitches. Most scouts agree he is the best player in the draft with a ceiling as a #1 pitcher and the floor of a middle of the rotation type pitcher. The one thing Appel has that others in the draft do not is the acceleration factor. He is expected to be more polished making it very possible to arrive in the majors sometime in 2014.
Kris Bryant: Grade 80 power, that is Kris Bryant and many scouts think he could still add muscle to that tall skinny frame. Scouts have discussed his floor and ceiling extensively which both are pretty amazing. They think at the lowest end Bryant will hit .270 with 25 HR in the majors. His ceiling is worthy for a 1st overall pick so if the Cubs get him with their pick you cannot fault them which is a .315+ average with 40+ homers. Although Bryant has a bat he is not likely to stay at 3rd which could scare off some teams including the Cubs but many scouts think he could be not as good but close to Bryce Harper good defensively in a corner OF spot. He is the most MLB ready bat in the draft and could see the majors at the beginning of 2015.
Jonathan Gray: The guy has actually a higher upside that Appel but brings more risk. The other thing he has on Appel is his fastball can be cranked up to triple digits and his slider is thought to be Major League ready. Gray is more raw so he will need more seasoning and also will need to develop his change-up and needs help with his overall command. There is also the issue of the banned substance that he tested positive for in a pre-draft drug screening. The banned substance he did not have a prescription for and thus adds some character issues that could hurt his draft stock. Regardless, Gray's upside is Justin Verlander plain and simple. Gray could reach the majors in 2014 but 2015 looks more likely.
Who Is It: Both my pick for the first round and who I think the Cubs will go with is Mark Appel. There is no sure thing in the draft but Appel is as sure as you can get. The Cubs cannot afford to miss on Appel if he is there at #2 so the Cubs will take him and likely see him pitching at Wrigley in 2014. Adding Appel to an already surprising strong rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, and possibly Matt Garza could make the Cubs a force when facing them in a series. The Cubs need pitching and they cannot go wrong selecting the best player in the draft.
Side Note: If the Astros select Mark Appel first overall then I think the Cubs should take Kris Bryant with the 2nd overall pick. Both Gray and Bryant are both gambles but Bryant has an impact middle of the order bat to put with the Cubs already young core of Castro and Rizzo. Add that to uber prospects Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora; you have something really special.
In the End: If the Cubs do select one of the 3 I listed I do not see how someone can be upset. All three players have their positives and negatives but all have a justifiable reason to be draft 2nd overall by the Cubs.