For all the turnover we saw in the organization this year, it’s hard to envision too many changes in their philosophy. Last year’s wall-to-wall success probably means we’ll see a smooth continuation of what has worked in the past. We’ve already seen it: success with Dominican prospects like Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez has led the Cardinals back to the well with another major signing in 17 year old pitcher Andres Serrano (as a note of warning, Andres Serrano is also the name of a famed corpse photographer. Google Image search at your own risk).
Of course, with so many picks, we should expect some variety at the top of the draft (maybe even a left handed pit–no, it’s too far-fetched to hope for) but predicting the draft is a crapshoot anyway and past tendencies are often the best predictors we have. More likely than not, this will mean more collegiate pure hitters, more groundballers and more raw, possibly multi-sport athletes from the draft this year.
With that in mind, here are a few guys who fit into the Cardinals mould.
Jameis Winston OF/RHP – Hueytown, GA
Jameis Winston is a blank slate. As one of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Winston is overflowing with athleticism but hasn’t focused entirely on baseball yet. He’s been looked at as a centerfielder, a shortstop, a pitcher… basically anything you can dream up. He’s got some good looking power potential with a lean frame and whippy swing that recalls Alfonzo Soriano. He’s raw, though, and might run into the same strike out troubles. Defensively, he’s pretty raw too but he has the speed to project him at some kind of premium position. As a pitcher, he’s less interesting as his fastball hasn’t broken the 90 MPH mark but his arm is strong enough to play any position he needs to.
He’s known more as a football prospect and has committed to FSU, meaning it will take a considerable investment to lure him away from becoming a big time college QB. The Cardinals have taken this risk before with Tyrell Jenkins who was all set to QB at Baylor. Last year’s second and third round picks, Charlie Tilson and CJ McElroy, are both raw athletes who played football as well. With their flexibility in quantity of picks and size of draft pool, the Cardinals are in a unique position to draft Winston, even if it means going a little cheaper elsewhere.
Hudson Randall RHP – Florida
The powerhouse Florida pitching staff features elite first round talents in Karsten Whitson and Brian Johnson but the pitcher at the front of that rotation is junior Hudson Randall. His fastball might max out around 91-92 but he’s got excellent command and generates plenty of groundballs. Sound familiar? Randall isn’t a first rounder and doesn’t have premium velocity but he does have a variety of secondary offerings with a slider, curve and changeup. He can locate all of it and everything moves. He often gets tagged with the pitching equivalent of grittiness: poise. He refuses to walk anyone (only 3 walks in 43 innings this year). His hero is Greg Maddux.
Nothing is more reliable in the draft than the Cardinals snagging a top college groundballer or two and if you happen to come across one of the (very few) public lists of top college groundball rates, you’re bound to find a Cards draftee or three on there. Needless to say, it would not surprise me at all if the Cardinals were very high on this guy. And, if so, I would have to agree with them. It seems to me that Randall is more likely to gain velocity than most wild flamethrowers are to gain control. He’s a lanky guy at 6’3, 180 pounds and could experience a Lance Lynn-like boost in fastball speed should he fill out a bit more. Even if he doesn’t, Hudson has a skill set that could be surprisingly successful, a la Boone Whiting. After all, he’s had huge success as the number one pitcher on the number one team in the country, ahead of his much more highly touted teammates. And his unsexiness means he could drop far enough to be a steal.
Stephen Piscotty 3B – Stanford
The current muck of third basemen in the Cardinals system that are major league ready or close might prevent this pick from happening but, otherwise, Stephen Piscotty has all the classic hallmarks. He’s the owner of the Sweetest Swing in the Wild West. A “pure hitter” not tainted by an excess or deficiency in power, Piscotty spent the summer winning the Cape Cod League batting title. His range at third is iffy but he has a shot to stick at the position (not that we’d need him to) with a strong arm that has been looked at from the mound as well.
Piscotty is the most familiar of Cardinals first round tropes, following the Wallace/Cox/Wong succession of guys who hit for average and can do it with wood bats. It’s easy to group them together but it’s not always fair to do so (see the reaction toward Kolten Wong when he was drafted). It’s important to look at the depth of their game to see how they might hack it in the pros. In Piscotty’s case, such a look is not too encouraging, especially in comparison with past Cardinals first rounders. Whereas looking at Wong’s stat sheet would have probably calmed everyone down, showing a patient hitter with a 103/63 BB/K ratio in his college career, Piscotty has walked about half that much over roughly the same amount of time. He also has never reached the power numbers of any of the others, slugging a mere .473 in his time at Stanford. He hasn’t even hit for average as well as the rest of them, hitting .338 compared to .392, .358 and .355. What Stephen does have going for him is the lowest strikeout rate among them at around 9.1%. But that’s not enough to recommend Piscotty, especially considering our current depth in his type of player.