Cubs 3rd-rounder McAvene set to go high tech

Club goes pitching-heavy in first 10 rounds; C Hearn a standout

June 5th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Michael McAvene has heard about the pitching lab that the Cubs have at their complex in Arizona. He knows how the team's arms -- both big leaguers and prospects -- have worked to refine biomechanics or design pitches inside the building filled with high-speed cameras and pitch-tracking technology.

And now that the Cubs made McAvene their third-round pick in the MLB Draft on Tuesday, the University of Louisville closer is excited about getting to work with the organization after his collegiate career ends. The hard-throwing righty has had a former Louisville pitcher and current Chicago farmhand, Riley Thompson, filling him in on life as a Cubs pitching prospect.

"Here at Louisville, we have Trackman, so we get to see that kind of data," McAvene said on Tuesday. "As far as working with Rapsodo and other things like that, I haven't had a chance to do it. However, I'm very, very, very interested in it and I do a lot of reading on it to try and understand more about it, because I think it can be really beneficial to me and just to pitching in general.

"Talking with Riley, that's one thing he told me about the Cubs' organization. And that's something that I'm really, really excited about getting into doing and experiencing and working with."

The selection of McAvene was one that came on a pitching-centeric approach to the first two days of the MLB Draft for the Cubs. Overall, seven of the team's picks in the first 10 rounds were pitchers, including five from the college ranks. On Monday, the Cubs opened their Draft by taking hard-throwing starting pitcher Ryan Jensen out of Fresno State University.

The Cubs' only player taken within the first two days who was not a pitcher or catcher was UCLA second baseman Chase Strumpf, who was picked in the second round on Monday night.

McAvene lost most of his freshman season and was limited to 10 innings as a sophomore due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Thompson -- another Tommy John recipient -- also provided an ear and insight throughout McAvene's rehab and return to the mound. This season, all the monotonous work behind the scenes paid off for McAvene, whose fastball sits around 92-95 mph, but has touched the upper 90s.

McAvene counters his high-velocity heater with a breaking ball "that combines slider power with curveball depth," per MLB Pipeline. Through 21 appearances this season, he has turned in a 2.67 ERA with 46 strikeouts against nine walks in 30 1/3 innings, limiting hitters to a .160 average along the way.

"I had known that the Cubs were really highly interested in me," McAvene said. "To know that that was the team that decided that they wanted to bring me into the organization is just an amazing feeling."

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on beginning at 11 a.m. CT. Here is a look at the rest of the Cubs' selections on Day 2.

Round 4: RHP Chris Clarke, University of Southern California

Clarke is listed at 6-foot-7 and 212 pounds, giving him an edge in the extension and perceived velocity department. The Cubs took another 6-foot-7 college arm back in 2016, when the team picked Dakota Mekkes out of Michigan State in the 10th round. Mekkes has piled up impressive numbers in a steady climb up the organizational ladder, heading to Spring Training with Chicago this year and opening at Triple-A.

In 27 games for the Trojans this season, Clarke spun a 1.03 ERA with 60 strikeouts vs. 18 walks in 52 1/3 innings, holding batters to a .170 average. He opened the season as USC's setup man before eventually assuming the closing duties. His fastball sits around 92-95 mph, and his curveball is a plus swing-and-miss pitch.

Round 5: RHP Josh Burgmann, University of Washington

For their third pick on Day 2, the Cubs collected another collegiate arm, though Burgmann is a starter.

Like McAvene and Clarke, Burgmann also has Tommy John surgery in the rear-view mirror. The right-hander underwent the procedure during his freshman year and then returned as a reliever in '18 (31 innings). This year, Burgmann made the successful transition back to a starting role amd showed off a fastball that could reach 95 mph, a swing-and-miss curve and a changeup.

In 14 starts for Washington, Burgmann posted a 3.99 ERA with 101 strikeouts against 22 walks in 79 innings. The pitcher was previously drafted by the Cardinals in the 30th round in 2016, but he opted not to sign in favor of pitching for Washington.

Round 6: C Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian School (Ala.)

This could wind up being the steal of the first two days for the Cubs.

Ranked as the 67th-best Draft-eligible prospect by MLB Pipeline, Hearn was still available at pick No. 192 for the Cubs. That could mean there are signability questions about the 18-year-old catcher, who is a commit to Mississippi State University. If Chicago can sign any of its first five picks under slot value, then the team could potentially reallocate funds here to entice Hearn to sign now.

Largely due to his raw power and strong arm, Hearn was rated as the top prep caching prospect by some teams, per MLB Pipeline. He hits from the left side and is a pull-oriented hitter with plus power that is intriguing. He has also been clocked at 1.9 seconds for pop time on throws to second.

Round 7: RHP Brad Deppermann, University of North Florida

Deppermann was unranked by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, but the Cubs saw fit to add the right-hander to this year's crop of drafted college arms. The 6-foot, 190-pound starter worked in 15 games this season for North Florida, spinning a 2.46 ERA with 108 strikeouts against 24 walks in 95 innings. Deppermann ended as North Florida's career leader in both innings (246) and strikeouts (240).

Round 8: LHP D.J. Herz, Terry Sanford High School (N.C).

Chicago dipped into the prep pitching pool for the first time with the selection of Herz, who is committed to North Carolina. Not only was Herz a standout pitcher, but he was the quarterback and played basketball for Sanford High. His fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s and he balances that with a slider. Per MLB Pipeline, Herz "generates a lot of ugly swings with the lateral break on his low-80s slider but has yet to exhibit much feel for a changeup."

Round 9: RHP Tyler Schlaffer, Homewood-Flossmoor High School (Ill.)

The Cubs picked up a local product in the ninth round, taking Schlaffer out of Homewood-Flossmoor, which is located roughly 30 miles south of Chicago. In 53 2/3 innings, the prep right-hander had a 2.22 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 28 walks. Schlaffer -- unranked by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America -- is currently committed to University of Illinois-Chicago.

Round 10: C Wyatt Hendrie, Antelope Valley College

Hendrie is listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, and the catcher has some athleticism to go along with advanced defensive skills. In 38 games for Antelope Valley, he had 22 extra-base hits (including 10 triples) and 14 stolen bases to go along with a robust .410/.479/.660 slash line. Offensively, Hendrie is more contact- than power-based due to a compact swing.