When June rolls around, the Cards will have the 20th overall selection, unless they don't. (The free agent compensation rules could still move things.) So what kind of player do you typically tend to get picking 20th?
Well, here's the bad news: you don't get many slam dunks at number 20. The Bryce Harpers and his ilk are long gone by that point. Of course, in the world of baseball drafting, 'slam dunk' is a very relative term, since the failure rate on even very high draft picks is pretty shocking. Still, the draft superstars, the kids with names that fans have been hearing about in the leadup to the event itself, those are typically confined to the top three to five picks. With the exception of the occasional Rick Porcello type, who falls due to some sort of contract demand -- or perhaps an injury situation -- the player you pick at 20 is going to have a wart or two.
Here's the good news, though: there's still a lot of quality on the board at 20. Players with plenty of potential, promise, and few present problems. You can like what you get at 20 with very few reservations.
The last few players selected 20th overall:
2012: Chris Stratton, RHP, San Francisco (Michael Wacha went one spot earlier)
2011: Tyler Anderson, LHP, Colorado Rockies (Taylor Guerriei, Kolten Wong, and Blake Swihart were all still on the board)
2010: Kolbrin Vitek, 2B, Boston (Christian Yelich was still on the board)
2009: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Toronto (Shelby Miller went one spot before, Jiovanni Mier one spot later. Mike Trout went 25th. Jesus, that's a good draft just right there, although Mier is still kind of an enigma.)
2008: Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia (Undersized but hard-throwing closer type; there's a reason you don't remember the name real well. Lonnie Chisenhall, Jake Odorizzi [my personal cheesecake from this draft], and Lance Lynn were all still on the board, though.)
2007: Chris Withrow, RHP, Dodgers (J.P. Arencibia went one spot later; Porcello and Ben Revere both went in the twenties)
2006: Chris Parmelee, OF, Minnesota Twins (Ian Kennedy went one spot later, Daniel Bard went 28th)
2005: Mark Pawelek, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Yikes. However, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cliff Pennington, Matt Garza, and one Colby Rasmus were all still on the board at the time.)
Okay, I'm just going to stop right there. I have to admit, in my head, I had a much higher opinion of this particular draft slot than it apparently deserved...
Just kidding. Well, sort of. Obviously, looking at the history of any given spot in the draft -- outside of those top five slots, I suppose -- is probably going to give us results somewhat like this: a whole bunch of names we kind of, sort of, know, a little bit, with a couple notable failures and maybe a success or two. It's just the nature of drafting.
What's more important than the actual slot is the neighbourhood in which one is drafting, which is why I tried to offer names that were close to the 20th spot for the years above. Think of it like the way they calculate defensive statistics nowadays, where you'll hear analysts talk about buckets. Imaginary buckets all over the field, allowing balls hit to a given area to be placed into a certain bucket and then categorised in terms of how often that bucket of balls has a play made. At any given point in the draft, you're generally looking at sort of a bucket of players. Players who should go around that spot, according to market rules and prevailing opinions. Sure, Albert Pujols was the best player taken in the 1999 draft. That does not mean he should have gone first overall. Given who he was at the time, he wasn't even in a bucket at all, much less the bucket that would have made sense early in the draft. Does that make sense?
When I'm doing these draft writeups, I always try to go for players I think are likely to at least be in the bucket the Cardinals may be picking from when they go on the board. I very rarely do guys pretty much guaranteed to go at the top, because generally speaking, we have no chance of seeing those guys picked by our team.
Speaking of buckets of players, that tall drink of water at the top of this post went 29th overall back in 2000; very much a player who was in the bucket for a pick in the 20 range. Just for your information and edification. He was highly regarded, and slapped with the projectable tag left and right because of his frame, but a risky draft demographic and miscellaneous concerns about the lack of a changeup and those sorts of things kept him on the board until the end of the first round. That's the kind of player we're looking at, usually; a wart or two, but not huge flaws. A risk/reward kind of guy, maybe, just because of the demographic, or a pitcher some think might end up in a bullpen because they've only ever seen evidence of two pitches. That sort of thing.
So what kind of player should we expect the Cardinals to pull come June with their first round pick? Well, I'll go out on a limb and say probably a pretty good one. Regardless of draft position, the history of the team doing the drafting is infinitely more important, and for the most part, I trust the Redbirds to make a good decision. Not quite as much as I trusted them when Jeff Luhnow was still here, of course, but I believe in their process, and their people. As much as I disliked certain aspects of the class of 2012 (mostly the Ramsey pick, which just doesn't make sense at all), the thought process behind most of the selections was very sound, I believe. (Particularly in hindsight, when we saw a lot of the weirdness the new rules created here and there.)
Next week I'm going to do the first right-handed college pitcher preview; I usually have to do at least two of those per year, simply because it's such a large demographic, not to mention one this particular team plumbs the depths of quite often. If anyone has any requests for the report after that, leave it in the comments and I'll certainly take it into account, whether it be for a certain category of player or just a name you would like to see covered. Individual players may take me a little longer to actually research, though, as I do do my own research aside from whatever there is out there from other sources.