This is Joe Kelly. He wears goofy reliever goggles and throws really hard. I love Joe Kelly.
Halloo, ladies and jellyspoons!
I will not be around on the Wednesday of the morning of Wednesday, so I'm writing this on the morning of the Tuesday foolsday lacka lacka brewsday and bruiseday too. So many things may have happnened since this time I do not know wherefore to begin, but I shall do so anyhow. Last Wednesday I wrote of a catcher with a bat, and our catcher with a bat was officially inked to a deal as inky and permanent as neck ink I think but don't blink or else it's gone. This Wednesday I bring you a bevy of righties, all collegiate and wise, and perhaps the elusive righthanded tractor fish will reverse positions and suddenly sign with magic powers working to pull the Mississippi mud from his muddy Mississippi boots. But nay, perhaps not friends it will never be, only in July a Ranger reunion or hired gun to the other league we go. Evenso I write of these pitchers these hurlers these inning unfurlers who all come dextrous and near ready, taken from the box the value is lost leave them mint in box 'til you have to break that seal. The sad sad duty of the sad sad moody draft report writer to draft report write writing one of the dextrose throwing men will gone long be by Cardinal picking, but still reporting is worth your time and his. Gausman the name, too early he goes, a favourite from the past and only we knows how we got here from there these draft report years, to look back and forth and question. And also to answer. But only to question still.
Reports after the jump.
Today we have a trio of right-handed pitchers from the college ranks, a decidedly unsexy draft demographic unless you happen to be picking at the very tiptop of the tiptop round. College righties are so often the Adam Ottavinos or the Taylor Jungmanns, and rarely the Tim Lincecums. If you're in the top ten it's different, but the Cardinals so rarely are.
Anyhow, I have two pitchers today I think the Cardinals might very well be taking a look at, and one who will be long gone before they draft. So why am I covering him, you ask? Ah, you just wait, Dear Readers, and you shall be seeing.
Before we get to that, though, I would like to point you toward one of the first proper mock drafts of the year, done by John Sickels and Matt Garrioch over at Minor League Ball. I love the work Sickels does (he and Keith Law are probably my two favourite prospect mavens), and Garrioch has brought some very good stuff to the table since joining the site following the demise of MLBBonusBaby. That being said, while I generally like the direction this particular mock draft went, I have to throw up my hands in confusion at the Cards' two picks.
They have the Cardinals using both of their first round draft picks, 19 and 23, on college third basemen. The thought process eludes me, and if the real Cardinals actually were to use both of their first round selections to shore up one of their deeper positions in the minor leagues I just might set fire to myself on the sidewalk outside Busch Stadium as a show of protest. The pick of Joey Gallo actually makes some sense, as he boasts the kind of bat the Cards are lacking in their system, but I still just can't picture anything remotely like this happening. Regardless, it's a solid mock aside from that, and an excellent read.
Note: in said mock draft, both Stryker Trahan and Hunter Virant are still available when the Cards go on the clock even at 23. If such is the case, I would literally ruin an extra-large stack of towels to see both of them added.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State University
6'4", 185 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
There is zero chance the Cardinals will be calling Kevin Gausman's name in June. Zero. Nil. Nada. Zilch. El Zilcho. So why would I use up precious column space talking about him? Because Gausman just happened to be my favourite pitcher back in the 2010 draft, and it isn't often I actually get the chance to cover a player twice. It's interesting, to me at least, to look at a guy a second time, a couple of years down the road, and see what I might have gotten right or gotten wrong when I was dreamcasting the first time around.
Coming out of high school, Gausman was a bundle of projection, a tall, lanky righthander who had just begun to grow into his velocity and still had a ton of filling out to do. Here's my report on him from back then; I liked the velocity, the two versions of the fastball, the frame, and the athleticism. What I didn't like was a motion which looked slower and more deliberate than it had the year before, and there were questions about his inconsistent velocity from start to start.
At the time, Gausman was working in the low 90s, running his four-seamer up to 96 here and there, but it wasn't consistent every time out. His mechanics wandered from time to time and his command wandered with it. All in all, he showed all the signs of a high school pitcher experiencing some growing pains. Those inconsistencies put enough doubt in teams' minds to push him down all the way to the sixth round, where the LA Dodgers popped him. Rather than sign and enter pro ball, Gausman chose LSU. It looks like it was a pretty good decision.
Since 2010, Gausman's fastball has added another tick or two, topping out in the high-90s and sitting in the 94-95 range much more consistently. His slider has tightened as well, becoming an occasional plus offering, but the pitch still comes and goes on him at times. His changeup still lags behind his other pitches, though he has certainly made progress. Personally, I've seen a couple of changeups from him watching his games that are just devastating. The pitch is not at all consistent yet, but I believe it could be a real weapon for him down the road. The movement is there, but he needs to do a better job of selling the arm speed.
The delivery is faster and more athletic than in 2010, and I like it a lot. He's not quite as smooth as earlier in his high school career, but that's not a terrible thing. I love how well he gets on to his back side and then drives hard toward the plate. I like the arm action as well, though the amount of high-speed footage I've seen of him is very limited and I reserve the right to change my opinion later.
Gausman has the big velocity, the one plus complementary pitch, and the ideal frame to go high in the draft. He's at least in the mix for the first overall spot, though that's far from a sure thing right now. The Cardinals have no shot at him, leaving me to dream on what could have been had they spent an early pick back in 2010.
Actually, though, that's not entirely true. I said above the Cards have no chance of drafting Gausman, but that's a superficial assessment. In fact, Gausman could present one of the more interesting test cases this year as to how the new CBA is going to affect teams' drafting habits. The reason? Gausman is a draft-eligible sophomore, putting him squarely in one of the highest-leverage draft demographics possible. Under the old system, some team unafraid of spending would pop him and buy him out of his final two years of collegiate ball.
Now, though, the calculus has shifted. Gausman still has all the leverage, and will likely still be looking for the biggest payday possible, but the limited pool of funds teams have for signing their picks could wreak havoc with their strategies. Gausman absolutely has top five talent, but whether a team will spend the pick on him and then adjust their other signing bonuses to make room or pass him by and take a player they can get in the system closer to slot is really anyone's guess.
I still can't imagine any way the Cardinals have a shot at Gausman; he's just too good to still be on the board at 19. But we saw Zack Cox fall much further than anyone thought possible as a draft-eligible sophomore, and that was when teams could still spend whatever they wanted. What will happen with a player of this calibre with all that leverage and a system that forces teams to stick to a budget could be one of the most fascinating litmus tests of the draft.
He was one of my favourite pitchers back in 2010, and he's one of my favourites now. Love this guy.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke University
5'9", 185 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Stroman has a premium arm, and may possess the single best breaking ball -- maybe the single best pitch period -- in the entire draft this year. He throws plenty hard, working in the 93-96 range with plus movement on his heater, but it's the slider that will get Stroman drafted early come June, and the slider that could make him a dominant reliever even at the big league level.
Stroman has been used as both a starter and reliever in college, but almost everyone agrees he's a reliever at the next level. As we so often hear, the twin demons of small stature and delivery effort are to blame, though I'm skeptical either of those things matter as much as we're led to believe. Still, considering Stroman is shorter than I am and puts me in mind a bit of Troy Percival when he throws, I'm willing to concede his future is almost assuredly in the bullpen. He doesn't have quite the high-end heat of Percival, but his breaking might be even better.
Side note: Stroman struck out 17 and walked zero in seven innings his last time out. Not saying that changes the future projections of him as a reliever any, but if you want a demonstration of high-end talent you can't do much better than that.
The slider comes in somewhere in the mid-80s, and features absolutely devilish bite. It's particularly effective against right-handed hitters, who often have just no chance whatsoever against Stroman. He works from a lower arm slot, leading some to worry about vulnerability to lefties, but I think the quality of his stuff is good enough to match up against hitters from either side.
I present Stroman here as both a potential fast-moving relief pick and an interesting combination to someone like Gausman. If Gausman or one of the high-upside high schoolers like Trahan were to be available at 19, it would probably behoove the Cardinals to take that shot. The larger signing bonus, though, would likely require them to take a slot player (or even one who might sign for slightly less), with their next pick or two. As a college reliever, Stroman would be a very economical choice to take at 23, and perhaps one other budget pick in the supplemental round would likely clear enough budget for the Redbirds to take a couple chances. I have to admit, as much as I hate the new draft bonus rules and think they're going to hurt the game long-term, it does add a new element of strategy that's somewhat interesting to consider.
Bottom line, I like Stroman. I think he has the stuff and the acumen to close in the big leagues, with two true swing-and-miss offerings and an aggressive mentality on the mound, and he could move through a minor league system very quickly. With so many extra picks, the Cardinals are going to be in a position to take some risks, but those risks may also carry with them some elevated price tags which could necessitate a budget-friendly pick or two. Stroman just might fit that end of the bill, as well.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
6'6", 200 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Remember up earlier, when I said that thing about college right-handers being kind of the plain best friend of the drafting demographics? Well, I present to you as Exhibit, um, whatever letter you like, Michael Wacha.
Wacha is exactly the kind of unexciting yet oh-so-valuable player that fans hate to see their teams select. It's not because he's bad, or because there's anything wrong with the strategy. It's just not...sexy. He kind of is what he's going to be, at least mostly, and finished products leave so little room for dreaming.
For the record, though, none of those things should keep you from liking Michael Wacha. He's cut somewhat from the Lance Lyn cloth; not physically, necessarily, but in terms of stuff. He works in the low-90s with his fastball, topping out at about 94, and does a nice job keeping the ball down. A solid slider that he likes to throw early in the count when hitters are sitting dead red. A changeup that I really like, with nice sink and fade and really good arm speed. There are outings when Wacha will throw 90% fastball/changeup, with just a handful of sliders thrown in to keep hitters honest.
Wacha's best attributes are the ones that make him so boring, to be honest. He's big and durable, he keeps the ball in the park, and he doesn't walk many. He throws plenty hard to get the job done, and I like his delivery. He does rebound a bit at the end; I would probably try to get him to finish lower, to flatten his back so to speak. Beyond that, though, I like what I see of him mechanically.
Wacha's makeup is a plus as well. He's pitched on the biggest stages college baseball has to offer, and has comported himself well by all accounts. Cool and collected on the mound. Intelligent in his approach. Makes the adjustments he needs to make to be successful. In short, he's got the intangibles to complement his tangibles.
The questions about Wacha are all in regards to his ultimate ceiling. Low-90s fastball, decent breaking ball, plus change, good command. It all adds up to a player who should be successful in pro ball, but just how good can he be? He strikes out a decent number of hitters, but he's still below one strikeout per inning in college, which isn't particularly impressive. His excellent K:BB numbers argue the other direction, though.
Probably the best thing for Wacha, if one wanted him to take the next step, would be to come up with a true swing-and-miss pitch. Of course, that's easier said than done, but a team with an enterprising coach somewhere along the way might be able to try replacing his slider with a curve, or else attempt to add a splitter or something along those lines. Perhaps you catch lightning in a bottle and he turns into Dan Haren. Most likely, though, Wacha is what he is. He's going to settle in the middle of a rotation, give you plenty of good innings, and provide the team that picks him with a ton of very boring excess value. It isn't exciting, but you can build one hell of an organisation with smart, solid draft picks like Michael Wacha.
Wacha's ceiling isn't the highest, but he has a very good chance to be a solid contributor down the road to a big league rotation, I believe. You could do a whole lot worse. And that's assuming he's even still on the board; he's crept into the middle of the first round in some discussions, which means boring or not we may never even get the chance to draft him.
Ah, another wordy chapter written in the draft story for 2012. I hope everyone enjoys reading these as much as I enjoy putting them together. At the very least maybe you'll know the names we hear on draft day enough to impress your friends.
See you all again next Wednesday.
"Maniac Melody" - Howie B.
"To My Head" - Mayonnaise
"Avalance! Oh, Avalanche!" - Gregory and the Hawk
"Over and Over" - Gregory and the Hawk
"Beach Sluts" - Howler
"Back of Your Neck" - Howler
"Stardust" - Artie Shaw
"Nightmare" - Artie Shaw