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2017 MLB Draft: National League Central Division review

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Here’s a quick take on the National League Central draft classes for 2017

Baseball: Dream Series-Workouts
Hunter Greene
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with our 2017 MLB Draft coverage, here’s a quick look at the National League Central Division results. The standard caveat applies: it takes five or six years before we really know how good a class was or wasn’t, but at least we can get some idea of the strategies employed.

Chicago Cubs

1-27) Brendon Little, LHP, State Junior College of Florida
1-30) Alex Lange, RHP, Louisiana State University
2-67) Cory Abbott, RHP, Loyola Marymount
3-105) Keegan Thompson, RHP, Auburn
4-135) Erich Uelman, RHP, Cal Poly
5-165) Nelson Velazquez, OF, Carolina, Puerto Rico
6-195) Jeremy Estrada, RHP, Palm Desert, California

ANALYSIS: Heavy on pitching, which makes sense given system needs, with an emphasis on guys who can get to the majors quickly. Little has no shortage of upside but will need the most time, while strike-throwers Lange, Abbott, Thompson, and Uelman all have fine track records and won’t need much minor league polish. A switch to youth in rounds five and six provides some balance, though Estrada has signability risk as a UCLA recruit. College picks round out the rest of the draft, again with an emphasis on performance. SLEEPERS: 9th round OF Chris Carrier from the University of Memphis has intriguing power; 10th round RHP Brian Glowicki from Minnesota is a proven college closer and another possible rapid advancer. IMPRESSIONS: The Cubs know you don’t have to have a 99 MPH fastball to succeed in the majors and they added considerable depth and polish to the system with this group.

Cincinnati Reds

1-2) Hunter Greene, RHP, Sherman Oaks, California
1B-32) Jeter Downs, SS, Miami Gardens, Florida
2-38) Stuart Fairchild, OF, Wake Forest University
3-77) Jacob Heatherly, LHP, Cullman, Alabama
4-107) Cash Case, SS, Orlando, Florida
5-137) Mac Sceroler, RHP, Southeastern Louisiana University
6-167) Tyler Buffet, RHP, Oklahoma State University

ANALYSIS: Greene could be the face of the franchise going forward given his combination of enormous talent and superior makeup. Downs is a fine choice in the competitive balance round as a multi-tooled infielder, while Fairchild combines defense, speed, and improved power. Both Heatherly and Case are rather raw but both could have gone as high as the second round, while solid college arms in the fifth and sixth rounds provide some balance. SLEEPERS: Juco arms Jared Solomon (11th round, RHP, Lackawanna) and Ricky Karcher (13th round, RHP, Walters State) are raw but both can hit 93-95. IMPRESSION: It is a very impressive group for upside with just enough quick-dividend college guys to provide some balance. Greene’s a winner of course but Downs should not be overlooked.

Milwaukee Brewers

1-9) Keston Hiura, 2B, UC Irvine
1B-34) Tristen Lutz, OF, Arlington, Texas
2-46) Caden Lemons, RHP, Vestavia Hills, Alabama
3-84) K.J. Harrison, C, Oregon State University
4-114) Brendan Murphy, LHP, Mundelein, Illinois
5-144) Nick Egnatuk, 3B, Somerville, New Jersey
6-174) Devin Hairston, SS, University of Louisville

ANALYSIS: Hiura has a booming bat and could have gone in the top five were it not for his bum elbow. Even if he moves to the outfield his bat will play anywhere and won’t need long to develop once he’s healthy. Lutz is a classic right-field power guy, while Lemons and Murphy offer projection on the mound. Harrison was a first-round candidate until a spotty spring and looks like sound value in the third round. Egnatuk is rather raw but could also develop into a fine slugger, while Hairston offers defense and contact hitting. SLEEPERS: Ninth round 3B Dallas Carroll from Utah is a fifth year senior but knows how to get on base. IMPRESSIONS: Power bats and projectable arms are the themes here. The Brewers drafted a large number of high schoolers in the teens and it will be interesting to see how many sign.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1-12) Shane Baz, RHP, Tomball, Texas
2-42) Steven Jennings, RHP, Smithville, Tennessee
2-50) Calvin Mitchell, OF, San Diego, California
2B-72) Connor Uselton, OF, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
3-88) Dylan Busby, 3B, Florida State University
4-118) Jason Delay, C, Vanderbilt University
5-148) Deon Stafford, Jr, C, St. Joseph’s University
6-178) Cody Bolton, RHP, Tracy, California

ANALYSIS: Big upside at the top, with Baz and Jennings two of the most promising prep right-handers available. Both throw hard and the Pirates love developing these types of pitchers. Mitchell and Uselton are very promising prep bats, both getting first round consideration in the past months. This quartet will need time to develop but for physical impact it is a strong group. College picks then dominated, necessary to afford the top guys. Busby can hit, Delay can field, Stafford has shown flashes of both but is inconsistent. Bolton may not be signable but offers projection. SLEEPERS: Stafford counts as a sleeper. Jared Oliva (7th round, OF, Arizona) is a scout favorite due to his broad tools, while Beau Sulser (10th round, RHP, Dartmouth) has exceptional command of decent stuff. IMPRESSIONS: There’s a lot of risk here but the upside is potentially outstanding and the Pirates added some college leavening to the long-term impact preps at the top. I like this group.

St. Louis Cardinals

3-94) Scott Hurst, OF, Cal State Fullerton
4-124) Kramer Robertson, SS, Louisiana State University
5-154) Zack Kirtley, 2B, St. Mary’s
6-184) Zach Jackson, C, Winter Haven, Florida
7-214) Chase Pinder, OF, Clemson University
8-244) Wilberto Rivera, RHP, Florida, Puerto Rico

ANALYSIS: The Cardinals didn’t pick until the third round due to free agent signings and a tale of fraud and malfeasance in baseball scouting practices vis-à-vis the Astros spying scandal. They tried to make the best of it with Hurst, who has second round tools but an erratic track record, and the smooth contact hitting and defense of Robertson. Kirtley can hit and slots at second, while power-hitting Jackson and hard-throwing Rivera add some upside. Emphasis on college picks in later rounds brings in a nice bloodline guy in Pinder and a SLEEPER in Jake Walsh, 16th round RHP from Florida Southern with athleticism and solid stuff, among others. 15th rounder Terry Fuller, OF from Griffin, Georgia, is raw but has 70-grade power. IMPRESSIONS: Given the handicap of no early picks and a reduced bonus pool, the Cardinals did OK.