That's right, I'm actually carrying through with my threat-slash-promise to start previewing the June draft in the middle of November. And for all you comic book fans out there, I'm doing it as a zero issue, origin story spectacular! Okay, spectacular might be putting it a little too strongly; it's probably going to be pretty similar to every other draft preview I do. But still, you'll thrill at the secret history of the 2014 draft. (You'll have to imagine your own Jack Kirby splash cover, unfortunately.)
First things first, though. I received an email a few days ago from a very nice man by the name of Robert Cochrane. It wasn't my first correspondence with Mr. Cochrane; he's the producer of a documentary film called "Boys of Summer" I covered for the RFT a couple years back. (No link, sorry; I can't find the article.) Cochrane and his father, who has Parkinson's Disease, visited all 30 MLB stadiums, documenting the whole experience to raise awareness about the disease.
That was back in 2004, and now Cochrane is attempting to put together another documentary nearly a decade on. He has a Kickstarter page going, and while I certainly would never tell you what to do with either your time or your money, I will say I think it's a worthy cause, and one that, due to a history of the disease in my own family, hits a little closer to home for me than perhaps it might for some others. Thus, I put the link and this slight bit of backstory here in case you might find it a worthy cause as well. I'm thinking Mr. Cochrance may have a bit of an uphill challenge in marketing to Cardinals fans, considering his allegiance is primarily to the Red Sox and he mentions the Cubs possibly breaking their own World Series curse in 2014....
All the same, take a look.
On to the draft previews. The reason I'm calling this a zero issue origin story of the 2014 draft is because all three players we're looking at today are players who are, in fact, redrafts. All three went in the 2011 draft, some earlier, some later, but all three were draft picks out of high school who decided, for one reason or another, to attend college rather than sign with a professional team. In two of the three cases, there is at least a connection to either these draft previews or the actual Cardinals draft itself.
And so in looking ahead to next year's draft, we also look back into the past, clearing away the fog of history in our exciting origin issue! Alright, metaphor sufficiently tortured. Let's on with it, shall we?
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
6'4", 215 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Drafted 21st overall in the 2011 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Beede chose Vandy over Canada, and while he hasn't exactly blown the doors off college baseball in his first two years, there's every reason to believe he could very well end up going significantly higher this time around than he did in '11.
Tyler Beede has all the ingredients necessary to be a frontline starting pitcher in the big leagues for a long time. In fact, if one happened to be interested in building some sort of prototype of a righthanded power pitcher, the starting point might very well look something like this. He's capable of throwing both four- and two-seam fastballs, with the four-seamer sitting in the mid-90s, topping out around 96 or 97, while the two-seamer features solid downward action in the 92-93 mph range. He's got a slightly lowish arm slot, which really adds some nasty movement at times to the sinker and makes it, in my estimation at least, the more attractive of his two fastballs.
Beyond the fastball, Beede has a pair of solid complementary pitches, either of which is good enough to get him where he wants to go. His changeup is his best secondary pitch -- and maybe his best pitch overall -- with hard fading action to the third-base side of the plate. Lefties flail at the pitch, righties swing right over the top of it; it's a real weapon. Considering the Cardinals' recent proclivity for seemingly prioritizing the changeup, I could easily see someone with a change the caliber of Beede's being verrry interesting to them.
The breaking ball, while not as advanced as the changeup, shows above-average movement at times, and when Beede can locate the pitch, it's a plus offering as well. I wouldn't call it an out pitch at this point, but it shows plenty of promise.
All that stuff, that's the good stuff about Tyler Beede. And with good stuff as good as all that, you might think there's absolutely no way the Cardinals are going to have a shot at drafting him. And, well, you would probably be right. The biggest problem I see with Beede, in terms of him perhaps becoming a Cardinal, is that there's very little chance he gets anywhere near the back half of the first round where the Redbirds will be picking.
Well, here's the thing. Tyler Beede isn't really, um, all that good. Or, at least, he hasn't been the kind of good you would expect a player with his stuff to be. Now, to be fair, he did go 14-1 with a 2.32 ERA this past season, so that really is quite good, but while he wasn't very hittable, he also posted a walk rate of 5.61 per 9. He struck out better than a batter per inning, but that rather unfortunate propensity toward bases on balls still left him with a K/BB under two.
It's the one great weakness in Tyler Beede's game, a pretty serious lack of command. When he's on, he's unbeatable. But his release point, and even his arm slot, varies from game to game and even inning to inning, and there's always a question of which Tyler Beede you're going to get. The stuff is so good he can overpower college hitters even when he's wild, but there are real questions about how well he's going to be able to translate his game to the pros. Of course, he could easily take a step forward in that regard as a college junior and cement himself as a top ten arm for the draft, but if he falters, or the command stays where it is, all bets are really kind of off.
Personally, Beede is a bit scary for me. The inconsistent delivery is a little worrisome, but my main concern is that no version of his delivery looks particularly good. I've seen virtually no high-speed video of him, so I can't make any definitive statements, but it looks to my eye as if his arm comes through very late, which I see as a huge red flag. One with big red lights on it that flash on and off. Don't get me wrong; if Beede was somehow still on the board when the Cardinals are on the clock, I don't think I could pass him up. But I have some mighty big reservations about the guy, and it all starts with the delivery.
On the other hand, the guy Beede most reminds me of when he's throwing the sinker well is Kevin Brown, and he turned out to be a pretty good pitcher, so...
Derek Fisher, OF, University of Virginia
6'3", 210 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Derek Fisher is one of the all-time great clutch shooters in NBA history, that's what's so great about this guy. The fact he's trying to make a go of it in baseball after having such a storied and successful career in the basketball world is just amazing to me. So he gets points right there.
Actually, this particular Derek Fisher was one of my favourite players in the 2011 draft, a cold-weather outfield prospect who offered tools aplenty and was, in fact, my third round pick in my shadow draft that year. Unfortunately for Scouting Director Aaron, Fisher eschewed the pro life and headed for UVA, making me look doubly foolish for passing on Austin Hedges, the tough sign I didn't think I could get in the second round, and taking him, the tough sign I thought I could get, in the third. Oh, well. All that is a long-winded way of saying there's some history here of me liking Fisher, as well as just a shade of residual bitterness.
I try not to make player comps. They're lazy and not usually particularly useful. And every single time I talk about a guy, I make one. I wish I didn't, but my brain is very metaphorical. I describe things through analogies in pretty much all situations, and drawing comparisons between players is no different, unfortunately.
So Derek Fisher, in this exercise, is Jay Bruce. Similar physical makeup, both toolshed sort of players who looked like center fielders coming out of high school but ended up slowing down, filling out, and heading over to right in the end. Actually, Fisher is still playing center for Virginia as of now, but his defensive instincts aren't the best, and his speed isn't so good he simply run down anything hit in his general direction. Long term, Derek Fisher is likely a corner outfielder, and one with enough arm he should be slotted in right rather than left.
Coming out of high school, strikeouts were a big concern for Fisher, as he constantly had that 'talented but raw' tag slapped on him, but the past season he made some real strides in cutting down on the K's. He's got power, maybe not quite as much as Bruce, but at least in that neighbourhood. As a sophomore, Fisher produced 22 extra-base hits in just 245 plate appearances, and 28 bases on balls hints at a patient plate approach as well. (He was also hit by pitch twelve times, but I'm not sure how predictive that is of anything in the future.) He has power, still has above-average speed, and made big strides in his plate approach from his freshman to sophomore seasons. There's really not a whole hell of a lot not to like.
In 2013, Fisher posted an .888 OPS for the Cavaliers, then went out and hit .333 in the Cape Cod League, though with very little pop to speak of. A big spring should cement him as a first-round pick, and while he may not be quite the tools dynamo he was coming out of high school, he remains a premium athlete.
I will say this: his swing is not the best, at least in my opinion. He hits with a somewhat unusual timing mechanism, a step then almost a toe tap, that seems disjointed and out of time with the rest of his swing to me. If I had my druthers, I would try to get him to clean that up, but maybe it works for him. To me, it looks like some coach told him in the past to get his front foot down, and this weird hesitation is the end result. It just seems unnecessarily complicated.
Aramis Garcia, C, Florida International
6'2", 195 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Aramis Garcia is probably the least-known guy on this list today, but perhaps the best-known to the Cardinals themselves. After all, he was a Cardinal draft pick the first time around, taken in the same draft class as Adam Ehrlich, a catching prospect who did sign. Unlike Ehrlich, though, Garcia chose to attend college and try to raise his draft stock, which he has done, I would say.
Coming out of high school, Garcia was primarily known for having a big arm and big power. Two years into his college career, not much has really changed on that front. His best defensive tool is still a plus arm that allows him to post above-average pop times in spite of less than ideal footwork, and his best offensive tool is an ability to hit a baseball very, very far. This past season, he clubbed 11 home runs in 224 at-bats (in an almost perfectly neutral ballpark, by the way, in case you were wondering), and added 12 doubles as well. He has a strong, thick build that still manages to be more athletic than many other catchers, and could easily handle a bit more weight and strength, possibly translating into more consistent game-usable power.
At the plate, Garcia is an aggressive hitter, but one who makes plenty of contact, rather than being prone to swinging and missing. He struck out in just 15.9% of his plate appearances in 2013, very solid for a guy with his pop. He could stand to be significantly more patient, though, as he drew just 17 walks on the season. Increased selectivity could certainly help his power play up, as well.
Behind the plate, I think Garcia has the raw tools to be a solid catcher, but he remains somewhat of a work in progress. The arm strength is good enough to make up for some of his other shortcomings, but his receiving in general just needs work. Any catcher drafted into the Cardinal farm system likely has time to learn some of the finer points, though, as well as one of the best in the business to study, so I would certainly be intrigued to see what Garcia could become.
Garcia is easily the most volatile of the three players here today, at least in terms of his draft stock. Right now, I think he's probably a late second or early third round pick, but I think he could also be a player who gains substantial helium as he plays this spring. If he shows improvement in his catching fundamentals, it's hard to look past a player who offers his kind of offensive promise who can also stick behind the plate. The Cardinals liked what they saw from him coming out of high school; I can't imagine a catcher with 25 home run potential would be exactly anathema to the organisation now. Especially when the situation would seem so conducive to cultivating that talent into a complete package.
I like Aramis Garcia. I liked him when the Cards selected him out of high school, and was very disappointed when he passed on the pros to go to college. I still like him now, and would be plenty pleased if the Redbirds used one of those 4-in-the-first-84 picks to give him a second go-round.
One draft preview in the bag, everybody, a full eight months out from the draft. I might do one more of these before the new year, but I'm not sure. Regardless, I'm excited to get out to such an early start this time around, and hope to get even more players written up than ever before. These are some of my favourite posts to write each year; I hope you all get something useful/interesting/entertaining out of them.