Cubs packed with even more pitching on Day 2

Birdsell, Frisch high-upside picks in Rounds 5-6; A McGwire in a Chicago uniform?

July 18th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Not long after the completion of Day 2 in the MLB Draft on Monday, Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz was trying to catch his breath. But only for a moment, because there was still a lot of planning to do in the hours leading up to the final selections of this year’s event.

“I think it’s a combination of excitement,” Kantrovitz said. “And then also, you can sense that the end of Day 2, it’s kind of midway through a marathon. There’s still a lot more work to do for us tonight and tomorrow. Ten more rounds and hopefully 10 more exciting players.”

The Cubs have made their picks in the first 10 rounds of the Draft, with 10 more on deck on Day 3 on Tuesday (streaming live on Here are some takeaways two days into the team’s Draft results:

1. It’s an arms race in Chicago
The Cubs followed last year’s first-round selection of lefty Jordan Wicks (No. 21 overall) by picking Cade Horton (No. 7) out of Oklahoma this year. That was only the start of Chicago’s focus on acquiring pitching from this summer’s Draft pool.

Including Horton and second-rounder Jackson Ferris (IMG Academy in Florida) -- both picked on Day 1 on Sunday night -- the Cubs added nine pitchers with their first 10 selections. Six were from the collegiate ranks, giving Chicago a group of arms with the potential to rise quickly up its organizational ladder.

“Our plan going into it was to probably skew a bit towards the side of taking probably more pitchers than position players,” Kantrovitz said. “But we didn’t plan, going into it, to take all but one. You’ve got to balance that out from a need standpoint.”

In the fourth round, the Cubs took an intriguing two-way Passaic Tech (N.J.) prep star in Nazier Mule (No. 113 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 250 Draft prospect list). Per reports, Mule reached double digits on his fastball, while also posting 100-plus mph exit velocities as a hitter. The Cubs primarily view him as a pitcher, given the potential on display already with his heater, slider and changeup.

“I think you want to keep your options open there,” Kantrovitz said. “But our focus is initially going to be to evaluate him on the mound and see where that takes us. But he’s a pretty dynamic talent and I don’t think anybody would be averse to being open-minded on some kind of two-way role, either.”

Texas Tech righty Brandon Birdsell (Round 5), Oregon State righty Will Frisch (Round 6), Grand Canyon University righty Nick Hull (Round 7), prep righty Mason McGwire (Round 8 out of Capistrano Valley HS in California), Arkansas righty Connor Noland (Round 9) and Wingate University righty Bordy McCullough (Round 10) were the other arms added.

The one true bat the Cubs picked was Christopher Paciolla, a shortstop out of Temecula Valley High School (Calif.). Ranked at No. 166 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 250 Draft prospects list, Paciolla hit .390 with a 1.228 OPS in 29 games this season. The 6-foot-2 infielder hits from the right side, boasts plus contact ability, and he might project long-term as a third baseman.

“He’s kind of a complete all-around player,” said Kantrovitz, who raved about Paciolla’s positional versatility on the infield. “Offensively, he’s just got a nice, simple contact stroke with some occasional pop. We think once he fills out, he’s going to probably develop even more pop.”

2. Injury history? Not a problem
A week ago, while discussing the 2022 MLB Draft in the dugout at Wrigley Field, Kantrovitz made it clear that pitchers who were coming back from injuries would not be ruled out by the Cubs.

“If we ended up ruling out that entire class of players,” Kantrovitz said, “we'd be missing out on some pretty good ones.”

Chicago backed that up throughout Days 1-2 of the Draft.

Most notably, first-round selection Horton, who returned from Tommy John surgery this spring. By the end of the season -- during which Horton started as an infielder, shifted to a bullpen role and then built up as a starter in time for an incredible postseason run -- the Cubs saw indicators of an elite arm.

“His performance throughout the year continuously improved,” Kantrovitz said, “which was consistent with the timeline of somebody coming back from Tommy John surgery.”

On the Draft’s second day, Chicago’s picks of Birdsell and Frisch continued to show the club’s risk-reward approach. Birdsell was healthy this season, but he dealt with a rotator cuff issue in 2021 and he had Tommy John surgery in high school. Frisch, meanwhile, missed the ’22 season while rehabbing from elbow surgery after posting a 2.42 ERA in 27 games (seven starts) across ‘20-21.

“We’ve seen him quite a bit,” Kantrovitz said. “And feel comfortable with standing pat on our positive projection of what he may be. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders. … He’s ready to go, just from a pro mentality standpoint.”

Birdsell did not sign after being previously drafted by the Astros (39th round, 2018) and Twins (11th round, '21) and then he earned Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors this season. He had 106 strikeouts, 29 walks and a 2.75 ERA in 85 innings with an arsenal “worthy of the top three rounds,” per MLB Pipeline’s scouting report.

“He’s got nasty stuff across the board,” Kantrovitz said.

3. A McGwire is set to don a Cubs cap
The home run race between Cubs great Sammy Sosa and Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire in 1998 was one of the great events in baseball history. Twenty-four years later, Chicago will have the chance to welcome one of McGwire’s sons into their farm system.

In the eighth round of the MLB Draft, the Cubs selected right-hander Mason McGwire out of Capistrano Valley High School (Calif.). McGwire is an 18-year-old pitcher who boasts a fastball with solid potential and a splitter that has opened eyes.

“Mason’s obviously grown up around the game,” Kantrovitz said. “But we evaluated him independent of his upbringing. He’s somebody that stood out to us over the summer with a long, lean projectable frame, a starter’s delivery, a fastball that we’ve seen tickle 93-94 [mph]. And what stands out to us is he’s got a developing split. That’s a pitch that you don’t really see too often at the amateur level and he’s got a pretty good feel for it.”

McGwire’s older brother, Max, played infield for Oklahoma this season and Mason was also a commit to the Sooners’ program. Oklahoma head coach Skip Johnson raved about the McGwires and Mason’s potential.

“They’re incredible,” Johnson said. “You couldn’t ask for better people than them. Mason’s going to be special. He backspins the baseball. You’re looking at an easy, easy arm. He’s got the demeanor and the poise to pitch, too. That’s why we were so excited about him.”