With the second pick of the night and the 43rd overall, the Cubs have selected Pierce Johnson from Missouri State. He was Baseball America's highest rated draft prospect not yet drafted. Here's what they say about him.
Few colleges can match Missouri State's recent track record for producing pitchers. Since 2001, the Bears have had three hurlers drafted in the first or sandwich rounds and sent a total of seven to the big leagues. The next in line is Johnson, who started to come on at the end of his sophomore season a year ago and ranked sixth in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings (11.5) in mid-May. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder misses bats with a lively 92-93 mph fastball that reaches 96 mph and a hard three-quarters breaking ball. He'll mix in an 86-87 mph cutter a few times per game and has improved his feel for his changeup. While scouts have no quibbles with Johnson's stuff, they do have some concerns, most notably his health. He missed two starts this spring with a forearm strain, an issue that also cropped up in high school and during the fall of his freshman year. He wasn't as sharp in his first three starts after his layoff, which could drop him from the first round to the supplemental first. He also dislocated a knee while warming up in the bullpen last summer in the Cape Cod League, and missed much of his high school senior season after breaking his hand on a comebacker. Johnson has just decent control and command, though he has improved in both regards this year. He also can fall in love with his breaking ball a bit too much.
Stats on College Splits can be found here.
Struckout 119 in 99.2 innings and walked just 28. It's college, but those are pretty good numbers.
With the 56th pick the Cubs went with Paul Blackburn out of Oakley California.
Blackburn stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 180 pounds. He is a good athlete and shows a clean delivery that he repeats well. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and tops out at 94. Scouts can still project on Blackburn. His curveball and changeup show promise and he could eventually have three plus pitches. Because of his athleticism and smooth mechanics, scouts believe he will also eventually pitch with above-average control and command. He shows good feel and poise on the mound, too. Blackburn has consistently pitched well throughout the spring and is interested in professional baseball, so scouts don't believe he'll wind up at Arizona State, where he has committed.
The Cubs are done for the night and so am I.