The draft is under two weeks away now and the Cardinals are blessed with a plethora of early picks. Specifically they’ll have three top 50 picks in the first round and the supplemental round: #25, #46 and #50.
The Cardinals are a difficult club to make draft predictions about for two reasons: 1) They generally pick late in the draft and 2) they run a tight ship. While it wasn’t a complete surprise given his talent level and the players still available, the Cardinals’ pick of Shelby Miller was an uncharacteristic selection of a fireballing high school arm. Prior to that they picked the best bat available to them in Brett Wallace, who was an uncharacteristic pick given his poor defense.
I’m disinclined to try and pigeonhole the Cardinals as having a prediliction for a type of player, but if you force me too there are a couple types of players that you should keep an eye on for draft day:
1) College Arms – Beyond a special first pick, the Cardinals tend to steer toward low ceiling, high floor arms. If they deviate from that, it’s with “raw” college arms that are new to starting pitching (Joe Kelly, Jess Todd) or whose stuff doesn’t quite match their results (Adam Ottavino) or injury risks (Scott Bittle).
2) Advanced Plate Approach – Brett Wallace isn’t the best example here since he was a well-known high profile first round bat. I’m more thinking about guys like Matt Carpenter, Jason Stidham and Shane Peterson. These players generally lack a single standout tool but their overall offensive package is very well-rounded.
3) Toolsy Outfielders – If there’s a place where it seems the Cardinals like tools, it’s in the outfield (and shortstop to a lesser extent). Colby Rasmus would be the original poster child but in more recent years, I’d point to guys like Virgil Hill, Michael Swinson and Jonathan Edwards.
Again, it’s exceedingly difficult to put the Cardinals on the straight and narrow. They’ve shown time and time again that they’re willing to trust their scouts and take the top player on their board. “Their” being the operative word. It’s become cliche to say that the team should simply draft the best player available. I largely agree with that, but I think the Cardinals have a organization that is unbalanced enough to place a slightly higher emphasis on some areas. This isn’t an advocacy for picking an outfielder who is only average over an incredible catcher. It’s a request to balance the assets of the farm system.
My advice for the first 5 rounds:
- Avoid pitchers – There’s too much volatility among pitchers even high in the draft. Additionally, the Cardinals have lot of potential starters in the organization right now. Not all of them will pan out but some of Ottavino, Lynn, Gorgen, Kopp, Hooker, Miller, Kelly, Schneider, Zawacki will. Play the horses you’ve got unless a real stud is available. They’ve got just as many live armed relievers.
- Avoid weak bat middle infielders – Pete Kozma and Ryan Jackson both should have the glove to stick at SS. Jackson’s defense is by far better but Kozma isn’t a schlub at shortstop. The problem is neither one looks to be any great shakes with the bat. We’ve seen that a Brendan Ryan type can be not only acceptable but advantageous. You don’t want your whole organization comprised of them though.
- Pick the best offense-oriented player you can with your top pick (within reason) – Quick, name the Cardinals top position player prospect. Notice that you’ve picked a well-rounded player but one without a standout skill? That’s because the organization doesn’t have much in the way of strong offensive players, toolsy top end players. This is partly by design but it’s also partly because they’ve had guys like Daryl Jones and Tommy Pham go belly up. If there’s one player that stand out to me, it’s the same one that stood out to the red baron: Austin Wilson, OF. He might make it to #25 and if so, I hope the Cardinals jump on him.
The reality is that you have to wait to see what is still on the board to decide how and who you’re going to pick. I think the decision calculus should be weighted toward offense and position players but that all goes out the window once you start talking about specific players available.