The Cubs recently sent Kerry Wood to scout Tyler Kolek, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Texan with 100 mph heat at Shepherd High School.
“It was probably like watching himself in the mirror,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Friday at Wrigley Field.
Kolek is one of more than a dozen players the Cubs have on their radar for the No. 4 overall pick, the same spot where they drafted Wood out of Grand Prairie High School and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in 1995.
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Right-handed prep pitchers are historically viewed as the biggest risks in the draft, but a talented hometown kid like Kolek might not get past the Houston Astros at No. 1. The Houston Chronicle reported the Astros sent Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and manager Bo Porter to watch Kolek pitch on Thursday night.
In a year where there’s no slam-dunk pick at the top, the Cubs will be using two special assistants still learning the scouting game. Wood and Ted Lilly are taking scouting trips to see pitchers and will be sitting in the draft room next month.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that while this group is deep in pitchers, it’s not necessarily elite. The Cubs would ideally take a bat, but that organizational preference gets complicated when you see a thin class of college position players.
“There’s always secrets,” Epstein said, “who you like, who you don’t like of that group. Industry consensus is very rarely any one individual team’s consensus as well. Even of the top names – ask any given team, there are those that they like and those that they don’t like.”
Today’s hot name could wind up falling to the bottom half of the first round. After a slow start, North Carolina State University lefty Carlos Rodon is starting to live up to the preseason hype that predicted he’d go No. 1 overall. East Carolina University hasn’t been giving many details about Jeff Hoffman’s injured right arm.
So much will depend on what happens between now and June 5.
“For pitchers, it’s critically important,” Hoyer said, “because obviously you want to see them demonstrate health at the end of the year. One of the things that’s a challenge in the draft is it’s sort of a moment in time – how well a guy’s throwing the last four weeks of his junior season could have a big impact on where he goes in the draft.
“But you also try to take his college career and take his whole body of work into account. If you had a major-league draft and you only focused on a guy’s last four starts, you could probably make some pretty big mistakes.”