Hype Williams directs a new documentary on the St. Louis Cardinals' 2010 season. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Another game, another night of the Cardinals' vaunted offense making a pitcher with mediocre stuff and worse results look like a potential ace in the making. All just part of the great mystery the 2010 edition of the Cardinals has become. To wit: what does it mean when I can comfortably say I feel far, far more confident in the ability of a pitcher with less than 100 total innings in the major leagues and still less than two years removed from elbow reconstruction to throw up a line of zeroes than I do the capability of an offense featuring both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday to score more than three runs on any given night?
John Lannan came into last night's game with an ERA of 6.51 in 37.1 innings; he managed to drop that number a full half run over the course of the evening. He also came in sporting a K/BB of 13/22 (and no, I didn't switch those by mistake), and struck out only two Cardinal hitters, but that was still good enough for a 2/1 ratio on the night. It was only the second outing in 2010 for Lannan in which he allowed fewer hits than innnings pitched.
In other words, the Cards once again looked less than stellar at the plate.
Oh, well. I still believe this team is better offensively than they've looked. Don't get me wrong; that belief is getting harder and harder to hold on to with each passing game featuring a lineup playing the majority of the night on autopilot, but I'll make it work. I believed in Santa Claus until I was 20, and only then because my mother decided, following a pregnancy scare with my then-girlfriend, that I should know the truth before I irreparably scarred my own children with promises of gifts that would never come.
Draft stuff after the jump. So pack it up and pack it in, seeing as how I'm ready to begin.
Up until now, I've focused on the players in the draft themselves, writing reports only from the perspective of evaluating the players. Today, though, I wanted to look a little bit at the strategy of the picks the Cardinals will have, and what players might best fit into those spots. I'm going to do only the first three rounds, because a) those are the protected picks the Cards have, meaning there's an extra element in thinking about the picks, and b) because beyond about round three I don't know enough about the draft class as a whole to confidently discuss many of the players who should still be available and would actually fit in a given range. I can toss out individual names of players I find interesting, but I just don't have enough context.
Anyway, the picks will, of course, hinge largely on my own preferences and biases, but I am going to make a concerted effort to think through the picks from the perspective of the Cardinals.
The Cards will pick at #25 in the first round, #46 and 50 in the supplemental first round, #75 overall in the second round, and #106 in the third. Three picks out of the top 50 isn't a huge haul by any means, but it's certainly enough extra picks to hopefully bring in a nice load of talent to help bolster what is, at the moment, a rather thin system.
First off, we need to consider the Cardinals' needs in this draft. Now, I'm not really a big fan of drafting by need in the MLB draft; the players take far too long to develop for a team to key in on one position. That's how you end up reaching for a player based on where he stands on the field. (Pete Kozma, anyone?) Still, it's instructive to look where a system is weak, as teams often use position as a tie-breaker at the very least. As I see it, the Cards' current farm system needs are as follows:
- Right Field
- Starting pitching (especially of the impact variety)
- Middle Infield
- Left-handed pitching, of any variety
Now, obviously, this isn't a complete list. After all, you can pretty much always find room to cram in a bit more talent at any given position, regardless of how much you may already have. Still, these are the areas I think the Cardinals should focus on if at all possible. Right field is a problem long-term, as the Cards have very few players who project out to be major leaguers in right, much less possible impact players. Starting pitching could really be on every team's list, every single year; but I think it's a legitimate area of emphasis for the Cards. They have Shelby Miller and a couple of intriguing arms at Quad Cities, and a few innings-eater types in the upper minors, but nothing that's lighting the world on fire in the near future. Middle infield has to be a point of emphasis, both just in general but also specifically at the moment for a team who has seen how quickly things can go south if you aren't solid up the middle of the diamond. The system is still thin on lefties, though there have been a few intriguing sinister arms brought in the last couple years.
Round One, #25 Overall
Personally, I tend to be of the mind you draft the best player available in the first round, almost regardless of what position he plays. Even in an organisation with first base so thoroughly occupied for the foreseeable future, we've seen Brett Wallace have solid value based on his hitting ability. What I'm trying to say is even if the player doesn't have a clear road to the majors in your own system, the value of a pick in the first round is too high to go with a positional pick if there's a clearly better player available.
There's an additional issue to be considered here, and that's the issue of signability; specifically, players with talent above the 25th pick but who may fall due to perceived difficulty in signing.
It's really unclear who exactly will be available here to begin with, but there are plenty of good options. Given the players I think are likely to still be on the board for the Cards, Austin Wilson would be my first choice. He fits both the Cards' needs, in that he projects as a right fielder down the line, and passes the 'best player available' test, as if Wilson is still sitting there at 25 he's almost guaranteed to be the most talented player left on the board.
The other two players I would most hope for at this spot are Kevin Gausman and Matt Harvey. Both are right-handed pitchers; Gausman is a high-schooler from Colorado and Harvey is coming out of the University of North Carolina. Both are extremely talented; either one could very well project at the top of a major league rotation one day. Given the choice between them, I like Gausman a little better, That's strictly a matter of personal preference, however. Both are brilliantly talented, and I would be thrilled to get either one.
In the end, I believe Wilson has a pretty good chance of still being around with teams scared off by his Stanford commitment and perceived price tag. If he is, I think he has to be the pick.
Pick: Austin Wilson, OF
Going in to the supplemental first round, I think it's important to be aware that at least one of the two picks will likely have to be a bit of a budget picks. I know that isn't a particularly sexy thing to think about, or to have to deal with, but them's the facts.
That, of course, means the Cards will be looking to save a little money with at least one of their supplemental picks, which points toward a college pitcher being taken with one of the two, and quite possibly an arm that profiles better in relief than starting. I know there are plenty out there who find it very frustrating to watch the Cards draft boringish right-handed college pitchers round after round, and I tend to agree. The Cardinals have, in the past, been one of the most risk-averse of teams in the draft, and it's annoying. Most of the Cards' major misstepps, in recent seasons at least, have come when they went with a supposedly 'safer' player over the one who they seemed to really want.
Still, in this case, I'm okay with one of the two supplemental picks being a college reliever/ college arm who probably ends up in the bullpen anyway.
I will say I'm hoping to avoid going cheap here. Somehow I get the feeling there will be at least one relatively expensive upside guy still sitting around here, and I would love to take him first. James Paxton could very well be that guy, considering his Scott Boras affiliation and the fact teams haven't really seen him pitch much this season. Paxton is really my dream scenario, though, and I expect him to be gone, but recently. So instead I'll go with another college arm, one I think could be had fairly reasonably. The other option, and one I would take if available, would be Jedd Gyorko out of West Virginia. I think he's already gone, though. So I'll take an arm I loved at the beginning of the season that has fallen some this spring while struggling with command.
Pick: Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State
Now here I definitely have to save a bit of cash, so here I'll go with another college arm, probably a relief one. Chad Bettis, Addison Reed, Asher Wojciewski, and Chance Ruffin represent the most likely suspects. Bettis has the best arm of the four and could very well be gone already. Reed is a back-and-forth convert guy, in college no less. Asher has a big arm already that could play even bigger once he moves to shorter stints. I would be happy with either Wojciewski or Ruffin (who I like more than most), and I'll go with the one I like better.
Pick: Chance Ruffin, RHP, Texas
Round Two, #75 overall
In this round, I'm going to go back to the well of signability and go after a guy who's slipping as teams pass on his price tag or a college commitment. There are plenty of guys who fit this bill; Zach Alvord is one of my favourites of this type. I believe in the bat, I like the athleticism, and I love the second base projection. Middle of the diamond hitting potential is big-time valuable, and I'm going to bet on it. Problem is, he probably won't still be here next time I pick, and he isn't going to be cheap. Oh, well.
Pick: Zach Alvord, SS/2B
Round Three, #106 overall
This is the final protected pick for the Cardinals, meaning none of the picks after this one will carry over into next year's draft if they fail to come to terms with the player. Thus, with my final protected pick, I want to take another tough sign, knowing if I can't get him into pro ball I'll have another shot at the pick. A draft-eligible sophomore, a prep product with a strong college commitment, or just a high-schooler with bigger bonus demands, that's the sort of player I'll be targeting here.
One name that stands out to me here is Taijuan Walker, a right-handed pitcher out of Yucaipa High School in California. Walker has very good stuff, with a fastball up to 93 and a plus curve at times. He's very raw, though, and hasn't had a great spring, so I could easily see him still on the board at this point. If he is, he's just the sort of player I'm looking for.
Pick: Taijuan Walker, RHP, Yucaipa High School
Now, from this point on, I just go with whatever player I like at any given spot in the draft, trying to accentuate those positions of need if at all possible. I like Nick Tepesch possibly in the fourth round, seeing as how his performance never has come around. I still believe he'll benefit from a change to wooden bats and proper coaching could make all the difference in the world. (That's not to say the coaches at Missouri aren't doing a good job; only that they don't seem to have been able to figure out how best to help Tepesch get more out of his arm.)
So that's my strategy. It's probably a bit on the aggressive side for what the Cardinals will do, but I don't think it's completely out of line. They've publicly spoken of the need to spend in this draft, what with the extra picks, and I honestly believe they've learned their lesson from some of their misses in recent years. I tried to take some risks with my protected picks, seeing as how any failure to sign a player doesn't carry as much of a penalty in the first three rounds it would later. (The mistake the Cards made with Kyle Russell a few years back, if you'll remember.)
What sort of strategy would you like to see the Cardinals pursue on draft day? Safer or riskier? Tools or production? Signable players or shoot for the moon? Discuss.
The Baron's Playlist for the 19th of May, 2010
"Feelin' Good" - Nina Simone
"Artificial Flowers" - Bobby Darin
"Love Me or Leave Me" - Lena Horne
"Comin' Home Baby" - Mel Torme
"Heaven and Hell" - Black Sabbath