With the College World Series just a month away and the draft before even that, draft boards are starting to solidify, at least in the college ranks. College prospects don’t fluctuate as rapidly as high school prospects in the estimation of scouts but there are still definite emerging trends this year among collegiate players in the Cardinals’ range. Here are a few such players:
Chris Stratton RHP – Mississippi State
The dominant conference in college baseball is the SEC, Chris Stratton is neck and neck with potential #1 overall pick Kevin Gausman for the SEC strikeout title (Gausman has 112 to Stratton’s 107). Coming off of two seasons of identical mediocrity, Stratton’s emergence this season from reliever to Friday starter has been one of the better stories in college ball. This change has been generally credited to the development of his slider, a wipe out pitch that he can throw for strikes. He is also lauded for his general shift in demeanor, becoming a fierce competitor on the mound. His fastball works in the low 90s and he’s got a fairly well-developed change also. There is some natural skepticism over his small sample size of success, having worked from the bullpen for the first month of the season, but Chris has caught up to the rest of the conference in a hurry and there’s no denying the quality of his competition. He’s projected to be a first round pick at this point, somewhere around the vicinity of the Cards’ first selection and he would not be a reach at all at 19 or 23.
Andrew Heaney LHP – Oklahoma State University
Another rather intriguing option for the Cardinals in the first round is lefty Andrew Heaney, who has also greatly improved his stock with his dominance in the Big 12. He is the owner of an astonishing 120-19 K/BB ratio and does it all with a screwball as his main weapon. He throws the screwball a lot, especially to righties, working off of a 89-91 fastball. He’s also got a less advanced change.
Andrew is a fairly thin guy without much in the way of projection but has a good feel for pitching with strong command, unafraid of attacking hitters inside. Mechanically, he could use some help as there is some funkiness in his stride. He seems to stop short and sacrifices leverage from his lower half. He does, however, repeat his motion well and hides his delivery effectively. Heaney is considered the best college lefty in the draft but his upside is mid-rotation-ish. His performance definitely puts him in the first round range, perhaps even before the Cardinals can pick. However, he might need more development time than desired from a mid-rotation first rounder.
Deven Marrero SS – Arizona State
It’s hard to say how much, if any, Deven Marrero has actually fallen on draft boards for his forgettable hitting performance this season. He’s cut down on the strikeouts a touch this year (he has had a reputation for being a bit of a hacker) but his .261/.320/.404 line is still his worst yet in his college career. The guy makes his name on defense. He’s not a burner on the basepaths but has excellent range and quick reactions, with a plus arm to back it up. Naturally, for a true shortstop, there are plenty of apologists for light-hitting. They can’t completely apologize for his perceived lack of effort this season but the crop for college middle infielders is frankly terrible this year, and Marrero is still placed firmly at the top. Scarcity will probably make him go before the Cards’ turn comes up, perhaps as soon as #8 to Pittsburgh.
Patrick Wisdom 3B – St. Mary’s
Coming off a strong 2011 season, Patrick Wisdom had a fair amount of buzz for his power and his ability to stick at third. His potential issues were in his pitch recognition/approach. He has fallen prey to these concerns so far in 2012, hitting only .244/.375/.424. On the one hand, that average, along with his strikeout issues, make it easy to be skeptical of his ability to make contact with major league pitches. On the other hand, he is taking more walks than he has in the past. Wisdom is probably not a first rounder right now but if we snapped him up in a supplemental round I think we could see good value. He’s a big guy with plenty of pop to his pull side and surprising agility. It amounts to a good deal of upside if he puts it all together.