Analyzing the Draft by division: NL Central
Breaking down the classes of the Cubs, Reds, Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals
*** MLBPipeline.com's experts will break down how each team fared in the recently concluded Draft, though we'll have to wait until the July 17 signing deadline to know exactly who will and won't turn pro. Here's our look at the National League Central: ***
It was another year, another top 10 pick and yes, another bat, for the Cubs. That's four straight seasons they've gone with a hitter, three of them being from the college ranks. Who can blame them, with 2013 selection Kris Bryant well on his way to stardom and 2014 first-rounder Kyle Schwarber about to get his feet wet in the Majors for a week as a designated hitter during Interleague play? Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ, who the Cubs selected at No. 9, was one of the best pure hitter in the college class this season.
After taking another polished college bat in Donnie Dewees in Round 2, the Cubs took some chances, then drafted creatively to potentially afford those risky picks. Bryan Hudson (committed to Missouri) in the third round and in particular D.J. Wilson (Vanderbilt commit) will likely require above-pick value to sign. To be able to make a run at them, the Cubs took five college seniors in rounds 6-10, which should give them some pool-money flexibility.
The Reds have shown that a team can be aggressive in the Draft beyond the top 10 rounds. While they got their man in high school catcher Tyler Stephenson at No. 11 overall and went after high-end high school talent like Antonio Santillan (2nd round), Miles Gordon (4th) and Ian Kahaola (5th), they went money-saving college seniors with pick No. 71 (Tanner Rainey), in Round 7 (Jordan Ramsey) and Round 9 (Sarkis Ohanion). Cincinnati also saved quite a bit of money in Round 10 with Zack Shields.
Whether those savings need to be used to sign some of the high schoolers mentioned above remain to be seen, but the Reds used some of the extra cash to sign their 11th-round pick. Brantley Bell is the son of bench coach Jay Bell and he signed for $400,000. Any amount above $100,000 in rounds 11-40 counts toward the Draft pool for the top 10 rounds.
A year ago, the Brewers were as aggressive as any team in baseball, drafting three high-ceiling high school players on the first night of the Draft, going well over pick value to sign the second and third players. This year, with scouting director Ray Montgomery having returned to Milwaukee to take over from his old boss, Bruce Seid, who died suddenly last year, there wasn't necessarily the same kind of high-risk, high-reward talent to be found when the Brewers picked.
They did, however, pick up two first-round talents by taking high school outfielder Trent Clark in the first round, then nabbing injured Virginia ace Nathan Kirby in the Competitive Balance Round A. Some thought Cody Ponce might sneak into the first round, but Milwaukee got him in the second. The one player who might fit in with what the Brewers did a year ago is Canadian standout Demi Orimoloye, an outfielder with a ton of tools who had an inconsistent spring.
The Pirates surprised some when they took Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman with their first pick at No. 19 overall. That may have been because of recent history -- Pittsburgh had taken a high school position player in the first round in each of the previous two Drafts (two in 2013) -- but looking a little deeper, it shouldn't have been that big of a shock. Under Neal Huntington, there have now been eight Drafts. The Pirates have gone the college route in five of them.
The Pirates were very college heavy this year, using all but one (Ke'Bryan Hayes) of their 11 picks in the first 10 rounds to go in that direction. That doesn't mean they didn't find good values or talent. Eight of those 11 picks were on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list heading into the Draft.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals may have the reputation of being a college-centric drafting team, and they certainly have had success with that at times with current big leaguers like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, but it would be wrong to paint them as so one-sided. The 2015 Draft is the third straight year the organization has taken a high schooler in the first round.
This time, they took two, and Nick Plummer is the first high school position player the Cardinals have made as a first-round selection since Pete Kozma in 2007 (Steve Bean was a supplemental first rounder in 2012). St. Louis took six prepsters in the first 10 rounds this year, including four of its first five (Florida's Harrison Bader, good value in the third round, is the exception) and one has to wonder if it will try to save money to make a serious run at 10th-rounder Kep Brown, whose stock (though he was ranked No. 73) was hard to figure because he missed the season with an Achilles tendon injury.