I listened to the baseball game yesterday, and it was, to put it lightly, heaven. Well, sort of, anyway. The beginning of spring training is always nice, to hear that pitchers and catcher have, in fact, reported and are doing well (or not, as the case may sadly be), but that first sound of baseball is something really special. You just can't replicate it any other way.
As for the performances early here in spring, it's exciting to see Allen Craig off to a strong start, with a couple hits and a couple RBI in yesterday's game. After enduring such a baffling season last year I'm hopeful we'll see the real Allen Craig take a big step forward with his bat this year. (I say baffling not because Craig didn't immediately hit. We see young players struggle initially all the time. It was the way he struggled that was so odd, with line drives aplenty and nothing to show for it. Then, of course, he hit the Anthony Reyes Memorial Memphis Shuttle and just never quite got untracked in St. Louis.)
On the other hand, Carpenter left the game and then Boggs left the game, so the pitching side wasn't exactly what we were all hoping for. At the rate of attrition this team is currently progressing they should be completely out of players by the 19th of March. However this unlucky season ends up playing out it's going to be nerve racking, I'm sure.
Another round of scouting reports on potential draftees awaits you after the jump.
The Cardinals have gained a bit of a reputation over the years for being very fond of right-handed college pitchers, particularly early in the draft. It's overstated occasionally by people frustrated by what they perceive as an overly conservative drafting philosophy (and I hold my hand high as a guilty party), but the tendency is still certainly there. Players like Adam Ottavino, Chris Lambert, David Kopp, and Seth Blair all fit the mold, both as college righties and the specific type of college right-hander the Cards seem to like. They like big guys with big arms whose results haven't quite matched their talents just yet. The odd duck demographic of the raw college right-hander, if you will.
I'm not focusing specifically on raw pitchers who throw with their right hands today; this morning I'm merely going after what I see as a very likely place to look for the Cardinals' draft pick this June. We have three pitchers, all right-handed, all from major college programs. Given the Cards' propensity for these guys in the past (though it has been a much less marked phenomenon in recent drafts), it certainly wouldn't be unthinkable for them to dip once again into a pool they know so well.
Oh, and one other bit of housekeeping notes with these draft reports: I try to focus only on players I think the Cardinals have a legitimate chance of drafting, given where they pick and what will be available. (Example: I'm doing college righties today, but I'm not covering Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt because, despite his lack of size, I don't think there's any chance he comes even close to the Cardinals' draft spot. If he makes it past pick seven I'll be shocked.) These things do tend to vary over the course of the spring, of course, as players see their personal stocks rising and falling. So a player I don't see as an option now could become one later, in which case I'll try to get them into a future preview. Just a note about my methodology for selecting who I do these reports on.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, University of Texas
6'6", 220 lbs
DOB: 18th December, 1989
Player Page (he reminds me a little of Tobey Maguire for some reason)
So, what's so great about this guy?
There's a really good chance Jungmann sort of violates my methods above, because unless something unforeseen happens I don't think there's any way he gets to the Cardinals. Keith Law has him rated the eleventh best prospect in the draft, and with the demographics teams tend to favour I think he could easily go in the top ten.
However, I'm covering Jungmann precisely because I'm not all that sold on him, and I wonder if it isn't possible there are others who aren't either. It's not the performance that worries me, and it isn't really the stuff. I do worry about his delivery, as he seems to be all arm, with very little body helping to drive his delivery. He also lands a bit closed, which probably isn't a huge deal but isn't ideal either.
Beyond the mechanics, though, Jungmann reminds me a bit of Greg Reynolds, the right-hander drafted by the Rockies out of Stanford in the first round of 2006. Both were guys known for their polish and performance, with good but not great stuff, coming out of big-time college programs in major conferences, who were supposed to be ready for pro ball almost immediately. Of course, none of those things are enough to actually draw a correlation between the players, but it's there in my head for some reason anyway, and I don't believe in holding back an opinion.
Aside from my half-baked concerns, there's plenty to like about Jungmann. He works consistently in the low-90s with his fastball and can touch 95, and he commands the pitch quite well. He has a strong slider that isn't always consistent but shows flashes of being a plus pitch. I've read his changeup could be a plus as well, but from what I've seen of the pitch (which is, admittedly, less than what most scouts have see, I'm sure), it's a little flat and telegraphed. Still, it could just be I have yet to see a really good one out of him. I will say he does a very good job keeping the ball down in the zone, rarely missing up where he's going to get beaten by the long ball.
Given his combination of polish, stuff, and frame, Jungmann looks like an excellent bet to go off the board early in June. He's just as safe as safe can be, at least as far as baseball draft picks go. He's not my personal cup of tea, but the consensus through most of baseball will make him very desirable.
Alex Meyer, RHP, University of Kentucky
6'9", 220 lbs
DOB: 3rd January, 1990
So, what's so great about this guy?
Alex Meyer is almost the exact opposite of Taylor Jungmann. Where Jungmann is polished and consistent, with stuff that isn't mind-blowing, Meyer is all stuff and very little actual success at this point. You want a comparison? How about a right-handed Randy Johnson? Meyer isn't a slinger, but other than that there are plenty of similarities.
Oh, and by the way, he goes by the name Bubba. So there's that.
Anyway, as to who Meyer is on the mound...
Meyer's calling card is his electric fastball, which has reached triple digits at times and sits quite comfortably in the mid-90s. He also features a nasty slider that eats up righties and lefties alike. Between his heater and breaking ball, Meyer may just have the best two-pitch combination of any pitcher in the draft this year. The problem is when you start looking a little past the one-two punch. His changeup is barely usable, largely due to neglect. He prefers to attack lefties with back-foot sliders and rarely gets beaten, but hitters with better plate discipline will force him to come up with some other way to combat them.
Control for Meyer has always been an issue. He was very raw when he was drafted out of high school, and he remains fairly raw now. I actually like his delivery pretty well (at least as well as you can without seeing detailed high-speed of it, anyway), but he doesn't repeat it consistently. His release point tends to wander as well, with his slider often taking a different route out of his hand than his fastball. I do love the extension he gets, ending up well down the slope of the mound. Coming from a guy who goes 6'9" he's releasing the ball awfully close to home plate.
Any team taking Meyer would be banking on their coaching staff in the minors being able to smooth out the edges and bring some consistency to his game. The payoff could potentially be huge, but the risk is just as big.
I will say this: Meyer fits that template we were talking about very, very well. In fact, just take the whole scouting report I just wrote and replace his name with, say, Adam Ottavino or Gary Daley. You don't really have to change a lot to make it work. Personally, I would feel better if we were talking about a potential supplemental or second-round pick rather than a first. Still, even if Meyer never quite puts it together in whole package sort of way, the quality of his fastball/slider combo could make him an intriguing fit for the bullpen. (Again, deja vu with Ottavino.)
Note- I looked back over my reports from 2008, when Meyer was drafted out of high school, and I don't think I did a proper write-up on him. However, he is the very first player I remember researching extensively to pop up in another draft. I then realised this is my fourth (!) year doing these reports, and immediately became very depressed for some reason.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
6'2", 185 lbs
DOB: 17th January, 1991
So, what's so great about this guy?
There's one name you're going to hear constantly bandied about when people are talking about Trevor Bauer, and that name is Tim Lincecum. There's good reason for that, as Bauer lists Lincecum as his own personal idol and has gone so far as to emulate Timmy's delivery.
Of course, it's one thing to try and emulate another pitcher's mechanics; it's another thing entirely when it actually works. That's what Bauer has managed to do so far. It's a little eerie, honestly. Bauer doesn't get quite as far out in front of the mound as Lincecum (his stride is probably 105% of his height rather than 115%), but other than that it's a virtual copy.
Bauer doesn't throw quite as hard as Lincecum did coming out of college; he ranges from 90-95 with his fastball but doesn't have that 97 in his back pocket. Bauer's fastball does have impressive sink when he wants it to, particularly at the lower end of his velocity range. He can ride it effectively up high as well, but unlike Lincecum Bauer's fastball is more effective when he works low in the zone.
Bauer complements his fastball with a tremendous curveball that rates as one of the better breaking pitches in the draft. It's not quite as good as Meyer's slider, but it's very, very close. It's currently Bauer's go-to pitch when he needs to get out of a jam, and he often throws the slower version as a changeup to lefties. Speaking of changeups, Bauer has one, and it's better than a lot of power pitchers at the draft stage of their careers, but it still needs work to become a major league quality pitch for him. Given the deceptive nature of his delivery, I would be willing to bet he could develop a very effective change of pace if he focused on it.
There's a slider as well, but it's nothing to write home about. Not to say Bauer couldn't make it into something useful; he simply hasn't needed to throw such a wide variety of pitches for most of his career. Of course, that's a standard sentiment for most draft pitchers.
I have to say, maybe it's just the fun of actually seeing another pitcher throw like Lincecum (and watching Bauer taking running warmup tosses from second base may be the greatest thing ever), but Bauer is easily my favourite of this group of pitchers, despite being rated lower than either Meyer or Jungmann by most draftniks. To date Bauer has been somewhat overshadowed by Gerritt Cole, his UCLA teammate and former first-round pick of the Yankees, but I think that's all going to change in the future. I would love to see the Cardinals get their hands on Trevor Bauer.
That's it for this week, folks. I'm now going to compose a playlist, then hit publish while hoping the Cardinals didn't somehow lose another foundation player for the season while I was typing this.
The Baron's Playlist for the 2nd of March, 2011
"Senorita" - Actress
"Discoko" - Falty DL
"Cook For You" - Howie B
"Urania" - Pan Sonic (or Panasonic if you're old-school)
"Gnit" - Autechre
"Outlands" - the Orb