Today is one of the most exciting days for MLB prospect nerds around World…the start of the MLB Draft! This is going to be a very interesting year to pay closer attention to the draft as their is new CBA rules in place that impacts how teams approach their draft strategy. The key here is the hard slotting system for the combination of the first ten rounds and the penalties if teams go over that or don’t sign a player. I won’t get into the new CBA here as there are many sites that have great detail about it. I want to focus on our St. Louis Cardinal’s draft strategy and key individuals that we should be targeting with our early picks. Let’s jump right in…
The Cardinals had a nice run with Jeff Luhnow running the draft over the last number of years. Luhnow with the Astros now gets to have something he never had in his time in St. Louis: Making the #1 overall pick. All reports are indicating Mark Appel (RHP Stanford) are going to be the pick after a tug of war over him and Byron Buxton (OF GA HS) over the last few weeks. So this means the Cardinals have a new face running the draft and potentially a different strategy. Dan Krantrovitz is our new Director of Scouting. From all interviews with him and Mo that address the draft strategy it appears the overall framework of the strategy will be very similiar to what we had grown accustom to under Luhnow. The one difference is it appears we might be looking for more upside more often and slightly less emphasis on the “safe” college pick which happened at times. Obviously we will find out over the next few days and the CBA will impact how much we can do this. My take is we will see more HS players taken in the first few picks but plenty of slot or underslot college picks to compensate the hard slot system.
The 2012 MLB Draft is known to not have as much overall upside as years past and the college player pool is weak overall. There is plenty to like about the HS talent though many higher upside players could choose to go to college under the new CBA. So how should the Cardinals approach their early picks? To me there are 2 main strategies they could take and it might depend on who is there at #19. First strategy could be get a known higher price guy that is falling in the draft due to their price tag and get the super upside guy and then take a number of safer slot or underslot guys. So basically your putting a lot of your eggs in one basket. Second strategy is take a solid mix of HS and college picks that are close to slot signing that you feel will have the best value. My personal preference: I’m torn! I love the high upside guys and love trying to hit the homerun. But if the price is so high that you can’t get semi-agressive with any other pick then I think its a very high risk for your overall draft. For instance the Cards target budget for their first few picks is $1.9M, $1.775M and $1.43M respectively. If a player like Lucas Giolito is still available and wants a $3.5-4M pay day then that eats up the total of your first 2 picks or more. The Cards would then have to play catch up with a number of their other picks throughout the 1S, 2nd, 3rd and beyond rounds to get back to their hard slot numbers. That means a lot of college seniors that agree to well underslot signings with minimal upside. One thing I have heard over and over is the Cards will look to get a number of bats earlier in this draft…though take that with a grain of salt…if the right arms that they love are there I expect them to take BPA as long as the price tag isn’t outrageous. Let’s take a look at some players that make a lot of sense for our Cards with our 1st and 1S Rd picks:
Lucas Giolito (RHP – CA HS) – This is the definition of a high risk/high reward type of pick. Many considered Giolito a potentiall #1 overall pick before a strained UCL in his elbow shut him down. As of now no surgery is needed but anytime you have an elbow injury there seems to be a higher likelyhood that you will need TJ sooner than later. Why is Giolito so highly touted? Protypical size as 6’6″ Pre-injury he had a FB that sat in the mid-high 90s, signs of a plus-plus CB and a plus CH. That is RARE for a HS arm and is a given that he has Ace potential. The challenge is no one really knows what the medicals look like outside of the 30 teams and his doctors. He also has a rock solid committment to UCLA and will require a hefty $$ to sign him.
Marcus Stroman (RHP – Duke) – Whats to like? He has either the best or one of the best “stuff” of any pitcher in the draft. What’s the concern? He is 5’9″ and a 180 lbs or so…major concern in the industry that he will stick as a starter because of his size. For those who believe he will be a starter he is a Top 10 talent. He has a nasty FB/SL combination and also throws a CH and Cutter to go along with it. I personally am a believer in him as a starter.
Chris Stratton (RHP – Miss St) – He has a good (not great) frame for a pitcher and has been known as a gamer. His stuff is not top tier but he is smart and uses his above avg stuff well. He has 3 above avg pitches but none considered an out pitch against pro hitters. Probably a #3 ceiling.
Addison Russell (SS/3B – FL HS) – Coming into the year many scouts saw a guy that had little chance to stick at SS but had a very nice looking bat that would play at 3B if needed. Russell put in a TON of work in the offseason and shed 20+ lbs and looked in much better overall shape. Now scouts are leaning more toward he has a good chance to stick at SS. He has been a bit inconsistent this year at times showing Top 10 bat potential and other times more of a 2nd or 3rd Rdr. He has tinkered a bit with his stance/approach but overall his bat speed is very good and has plenty of raw power. Probably will never hit for a great avg but shoudl develop the power.
Richie Shaffer (3B – Clemson) – One of the few college bats that are attractive in this class. His recent performance in the ACC Tourney in front of a ton of scouting eyes was extremely disappointing and in turn pushing him off some teams short lists. Overall he has the ability to hit for avg and power and hits to all fields which is a great sign for a young player. There are some that question if he can stick at 3B but he certainly has the arm strength for it.
Styker Trahan (C – LA HS) – Cards fans have heard his name associated with the Cards for some time. He is a C that some question whether he will stick. His receiving skills are further behind than scouts anticipated this year. But his bat has the chance to be special. Some have tried to put the comparison on him and Will Myers (Royals) but not sure at this stage I am ready to say his bat will be quite that special…but not too far off. He could move to RF and his bat would certainly play there. But with Molina locked up we have the luxury of slowly bringing him on as a C if we choose.
Gavin Cecchini (SS – LA HS) – A no doubt SS long term that has the potential to swing the bat well. Those are fairly rare in any draft class. Probably is reports on his bat potential are all over the place. Some feel he has a ceiling of an all-star and he will hit plenty with some pop. Some feel he might be better suited as a utility guys…and others are somewhere in between. To me a little iffy on the bat to feel confident to take in the 1st Rd.
Corey Seager (3B – NC HS) – Currently playing SS but everyone sees a 3B in pro ball. He has the ideal size and arm and his bat has power to all fields. For a HS hitter this is a solid package.
Ty Hensley (RHP – OK HS) – Plus FB and CB though his command is not consistent. He has a CH but like most power HS arms he rarely needs to use it. Has TOR potential with some question marks especially with command. Worthy of a 1st Rd pick though.
Due to time constaints I will list a few others that are intriguing with no description.
- Joey Gallo (3B/RHP – NV HS)
- Matt Smoral (LHP – OH HS)
- Stephen Piscotty (3B – Stanford)
- Lucas Sims (RHP – GA HS)
- Barrett Barnes (OF – TX Tech)
- Hunter Virant (LHP – CA HS) – Many questions about signability
- Clint Coulter (C – WA HS)
- Wyatt Mathisen (C – TX HS)
- Victor Roache (OF – GA Southern) – Injury has his stock down a bit…could be a nice 1S value pick
- Carson Fulmer (RHP – FL HS) – Late word that Cards on high on him…probably a 1S type pick
- Nick Williams (OF – TX HS) Value has dropped and signability is a concern – 1S pick
- Travis Jankowski (OF – Stony Brook) – Seems like a Cards type of pick – 1S pick
- Pierce Johnson (RHP – Missouri St) – Local kid would be a solid 1S pick
There are others that have some attraction but this is a nice list to consider in the 1st and 1S Rd. My ideal scenario is going after 2 of Russell, Stroman, Hensely, Sims, Trahan and Seager in the 1st Rd and then a combination of Roache, Virant (if they feel he is signable), Barnes, Smoral, Jankowski, Williams or Johnson in the 1S Rd. This would give a nice well rounded draft with upside and solid players that have a chance to get to the bigs and should allow us to stay within the hard slot.