We are taking a break from our regularly scheduled minor league programming to focus on the big news of the next three days: the 2012 MLB Rule 4 Draft. Last night, the MLB held the first round and supplemental first round (aka the “sandwich round”) of the draft. The Cubs had three picks last night: the 6th, 43rd and 56th picks in the draft.


Pick No. 6: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy Charter School, FL: Almora, 18, is a nice combination of high floor and high ceiling. He does not have the ceiling of either number 1 pick Carlos Correa and number 2 pick Byron Buxton, but where both of those players are pretty raw, Almora is very advanced for an 18 year old high school draftee. He is the sort of guy who could easily be a 60-65 across the board sort of player on the 20-80 scouting scale. Almora is also reported to have outstanding make up and be a natural leader. There has been some chatter that Cub fans hope he will be our Jacoby Ellsbury. However, Almora is never going to have the type of speed Ellsbury does. While, I generally dislike comps, if I was forced to do one there is another Theo Epstein Boston draftee that comes to mind: Dustin Pedroia. While they play different positions, Almora is the same type of get every ounce out of his talent type of guy.


Pick No. 43: Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State University: Had Johnson not dealt with a forearm strain this season, he almost certainly would not have been available with this pick. Any pre-draft injury history is, of course, at least a bit of a concern, but when healthy Johnson features a low to mid-90s fastball, a power curveball and a solid change up. The Cubs’ brain trust has said they want to add arms with electric stuff, and Johnson fits that bill. He very well could be the best pitching prospect in the Cubs’ system on the day he signs, although that is as much a result of the prior regimes failure to pick legitimate starting pitchers. 

Pick No. 56: Paul Blackburn, RHP, Heritage High School, CA: In a lot of ways, Blackburn sounds like a younger version of Pierce Johnson. Baseball America has him with a fastball at 90-92 that flashes 94, while Keith Law saw him in the 89-91 range. He has a lean frame that can fill out, and many would not be surprised to see him add a couple more mph to the fastball. Like Johnson, he throws a curveball and a change up. The curve flashes as a plus pitch now, although the change up is inconsistent. If he can build the change into an average pitch, he will look to be a solid middle to back end of the rotation option. However, there are rumors that Blackburn, an Arizona State commit, could favor going to college. As such, he could be something of a tough sign.

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Noah Eisner is a Chicago attorney living in the western suburbs with his wife and son (and impending daughter). When he isn’t practicing law or entertaining a toddler, Noah follows Cubs baseball with a focus on the farm system and sabermetric analysis. His Cubs-related ramblings can be followed on Twitter @Noah_Eisner.