Will Christian Friedrich be the Cardinals first round pick?
From everything we have heard (and from past experience), it looks like the Cardinals are looking for a college pitcher at 13. The four big names that have been thrown around as the elite group of college hurlers are Brian Matusz of San Diego, Mizzou’s Aaron Crow, Tulane’s Shooter Hunt, and Christian Friedrich from Eastern Kentucky. Fresno State’s Tanner Scheppers would have been right in the middle of this group (and probably 3rd on the list) a couple of weeks ago, but he has since gone down with a stress fracture in his shoulder leaving his draft status very uncertain. The next group of college pitchers probably consists of a pair of hard throwing college relievers who could be converted back into starters. These are TCU’s fast rising Andrew Cashner and Arizona fire baller Ryan Perry. The Cardinals also showed last year that they aren’t afraid to go against third party rankings and take someone they like even if it is seen as a major overdraft. The guy that you need to look at for that kind of scenario is Michigan two-way star Zach Putnam.
The Cardinals probably are wanting one of those top four pitchers, but with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Texas, and Oakland all possibly looking for a college pitcher its possible they could all be gone. Even if the Cardinals have a shot, they most likely won’t have to make a decision between two of them.
Of this list, the only guy that has no chance of reaching the Cardinals is Brian Matusz. The lefty has established himself as the draft’s top pitcher and will hear his name called first on draft day. With the first three teams seemingly locked in on bats, Matusz could be headed to the Orioles at 4. The next best pitcher on the list is Aaron Crow, but there are starting to be some rumblings that he could fall to the Cardinals. His believed association with Scott Boras, and some questions about his delivery could cause teams to go for the slightly cheaper options. I still don’t believe the 2nd best pitcher in the draft falls to 13, but what do I know?
The best chance to land one of these four is likely either Hunt or Friedrich. Hunt has a great arm, but his control has been all over the place this spring. He is not one of my favorite prospects because the Cardinals don’t have a great track record with these kind of picks, but if he can get it straightened out you are looking at a future number 2 starter. Friedrich is probably the best pitcher the Cardinals have a good shot at selecting. His walk numbers aren’t great, but they are a lot better than Hunt. He also features a devastating curve to complement a solid average fastball and two other pitches that could be average in the future. The only thing standing between the Cardinals and Friedrich could be Oakland at 12.
If those four are gone, I hope the Cardinals will go for a bat like Brett Wallace or take a chance on a local high schooler like Jake Odorizzi, but I think it is possible they still will have a college pitcher at the top of their board. I am having a hard time figuring out just who that will be, but I think it will come from this group of three pitchers. Andrew Cashner has come out of nowhere to become a sure fire first round pick. It all happened after he moved to the bullpen and started unleashing high-90′s fastballs. Even though he is a closer now, he has had some 3 and 4 inning appearances and fared very well. He has a big, durable 6’5″ frame and a clean delivery which could lead to a move back to the rotation in pro ball. Perry is athletic and super projectable at 6’4″ 200 lbs. He also has arguably the best stuff in the draft with a fastball that he can dial up to 98 and a slider and change that have also been plus at times. Despite his stuff he has never been great in the rotation, but he has been dynamite in some longer bullpen appearances. He is also fairly new to pitching having never pitched in high school, so his best days are likely ahead of him. The last of this trio is on this list simply because he fits the Cardinals’ profile perfectly, and they may not want to risk waiting until 39 to grab him if their top options are off the board. Zach Putnam is the best sinker ball pitcher in the draft and has been a top prospect since high school. He is built like a rock and should be able to be a solid innings eater at the next level. He features up to 5 pitches, but his bread and butter is his low-90′s sinker and nasty splitter.