2014 Draft Review Part Two: Me and My Shadow

Doug Pensinger

And so we come finally to the end of Draft Season, just in time for it to heat back up as the showcase circuit events start to take place.

Howdy, y'all. Are you ready to rock?

Anyway, I don't have the time for a long, interesting intro the way I normally do, so here's the scoop: This is the end, ladies and gentlemen. The last word on the 2014 draft, tens of thousands of words after I began way back in November.

Today I will put my reputation (read: nothing), on the line, and run my own draft, my shadow draft for the Cardinals, in which I will tell you all which players they should have taken, had they simply had the wisdom to listen to yours truly, the genius of the draft.

But Aaron!, I can hear you saying, you come off as a bumbling nincompoop at the best of times, a drooling mouth-breather at others! To which I say: that's exactly what I want everyone to believe. I've lulled you all into a false sense of security with my mush-brained public facade. To what end, I shall not say, but never doubt it is nefarious. Oh, yes, it is ever so nefarious, and you shall all rue the day. So go on. Start ruing! Rue more! Okay, enough with the ruing. You can rue more later, but do it quietly. I'm trying to write down all of my genius thoughts on the draft.

Before we get to this year's picks, let's review how I've done in the past, shall we?

My first year doing the whole shadow drafting schtick was back in the year of our lord eleven and two thousand. The picks:

Round 1: Henry Owens, LHP

Round 2: Charlie Tilson, OF

Round 3: Derek Fisher, OF

Round 4: Nick Delmonico, C/IF

Round 5: Chris Marlowe, RHP

So, how did I do? Well, actually, pretty well, if I do say so myself. Starting from the last pick, I missed completely on Marlowe; he's been in the Giants' system the last few years, bouncing between starting and relieving, and not doing either particularly well. At the time I had him marked as a power-armed reliever who could move quickly through a system and help the team soon. I was wrong. In being wrong, though, I learned the lesson that college closers, outside of a few truly elite guys, are generally players with such limited skillsets that it's not at all the sure thing it feels like to draft them.

Nick Delmonico, I was super proud of for a long time. He was a high school catcher at the time of the draft, but transitioned out from behind the plate in pro ball, playing some third, some second, and even a little in the outfield. He hit very well in the Baltimore farm system, and was traded from the Orioles to the Brewers last July for Francisco Rodriguez. (Yeah, remember how K-Rod wasn't a Brewer for like two months? Wasn't that weird?) Unfortunately, he hasn't hit at all since going to the Brewers, and missed a big chunk of spring training this year due to undisclosed personal issues. His walk rate this season is barely a third of what it was last year, and he hasn't shown nearly the power for Milwaukee as he did in the O's system. Something seems to have gone wrong with Delmonico. I have no idea what it is, and I'm still honestly pretty happy about the pick. Whatever personal demons he may have are really outside the purview of what I do here, you know?

Derek Fisher didn't sign in 2011, heading to Virginia and pissing me off. He was, however, a second-round draft pick this year, so his stock did rise. I'm still pissed I passed on Austin Hedges, thinking he was unsignable when he wasn't, and took Fisher, thinking he was signable when he wasn't.

Charlie Tilson was the pick the Cards made, and I went with it. He was good in his first taste of pro ball, then injured his shoulder and lost the entire 2012 season. He was pretty meh last season, started this year off the same, but has been brilliant of late. I'm hopeful he's taking a step forward, and not just riding a hot streak.

The first round is where it gets interesting. The Cardinals took Kolten Wong, and of course we all know how that's worked out. I, on the other hand, selected Henry Owens, a tall left-handed pitcher out of a California high school who ultimately went to the Red Sox. Owens has steadily built his stock, coming into the 2014 season a top-50 prospect, and has been dominant at times this year in Double-A. The walk rate is still a little high, but he's cut it by nearly a full walk per nine this year versus last. At this point, he's probably one of the top three left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, depending on what you like. The Cards got Wong to the majors faster, but honestly, I think I would prefer my pick for the long term.

I missed doing this in 2012, but returned to the fray last year, selecting another five rounds worth of players against our own beloved El Birdos. My picks:

Round 1: Phil Ervin, OF

Round 1, second pick: Rob Kaminsky, LHP

Round 2: Jon Denney, C

Round 3: Stephen Tarpley, LHP

Round 4: Zack Collins, C

Round 5: Bobby Wahl, RHP

So how did I do? Well, to be honest, it's too early to tell on most of these guys. Turns out draft classes apparently need more than one year to really turn into whatever it is they're going to be. Who knew?

However, in the interest of reviewing things which are very tough to review, I went with the Cardinals on Kaminsky, and I have no reason to change that now. But counting back, I thought Bobby Wahl was a steal at the time; a potential top two round talent who was still sitting there in the fifth. He started off well in pro ball last year after the draft, but has been just dreadful so far this season. He's been extremely homer prone so far in his pro career, and this year he's seen his strikeouts fall and his walks rise from his debut last season. I still like him, but it's not been great so far. The Cards' choice, on the other hand, is a young lefty by the name of Ian McKinney, who is really just starting out in pro ball. He's been solid to this point, but the sample is so small it's hard to say much of anything. It will be at least another year, I think, before we really know what the Cards have in this kid, but he looks better than my choice, anyway.

Fourth round, I took my gut-feel offensive player in Zack Collins, who didn't sign and headed off to Miami instead. He did win ACC Freshman of the Year, so...yeah. I feel awesome about my scouting of him. I don't feel nearly so good about not getting him signed, but that's just the way it is.

Third round, I took Stephen Tarpley, a hard-throwing junior college lefty, and he was brilliant in his debut last year. He's thrown all of 6.1 innings this year in short-season ball, so no conclusions yet. He's a huge talent, though, and I still feel very confident in the pick. The Cards picked Mike Mayers, aka Lance Lynn v.2.0, who's been solid enough to date.

The second round saw me take another of my absolute favourite players, Jon Denney, a high school catching prospect I think has a chance to be a real difference maker. Unfortunately, Denney seems to have run into some alcohol-related problems in his life, and he's currently trying to get things back on track. Between Denney and Delmonico, I feel like my organisation is heading toward whatever the baseball equivalent of the Raiders is. The Redbirds took Oscar Mercado, the hyper-athletic shortstop prospect who hasn't really hit a lick since...well, pretty much never. Still, I'm actually higher on Mercado now than I was at the time of the draft, and feel like the Cards probably got the best of me on this one, since my draftee decided to go all Keith Richards on me.

Today, Marco Gonzales will make his big league debut. You know who will not make his debut in the majors? My pick in the first round last year, Phil Ervin. Ervin is the outfield prospect who came out of Samford University and looked an awful lot like Tim Raines if you squinted just right. In his first taste of pro ball last summer, Ervin tore the cover off the ball to the tune of a 155 wRC+ in rookie ball and a 165 in low-A. This year...things have not been as promising. In fact, Ervin has been flat-out dreadful this season, seeing his walk rate drop by nearly half, his strikeout rate rise, and his power all but disappear. The one thing he has done well this season has been steal bases; he has 18 steals in just under 300 plate appearances for the year. What has gone wrong for Ervin this season I'm not entirely sure, but it's been brutal. I'm not giving up on him yet, though, obviously.

Gonzales, on the other hand, looked perfectly cromulent making his debut last year, and he's embiggened the hell out of himself this season. Like I said, he's pitching in Colorado today, and my guy isn't. You win this one, professional scouting knowledge. The Cards might have another steal in Marco; it certainly wouldn't shock me at this point if he was in the big leagues for good by this September.

And so we come now to this year. I'll try to get through these quickly, as I want to get this up on time. I felt it was important to go over my own record in these things, though; without some kind of accountability, you a) can say whatever the hell you want without repercussions, and b) don't have any metric for gauging whether or not you know what the hell you're talking about. I'm relatively pleased with my record to date; I feel like I hit the big time with Owens, Derek Fisher has developed into a very highly thought of player (even if my imaginary front office couldn't actually get a contract done with him), Zack Collins looks to be boosting his draft stock already, and I still believe in the high-ceiling talent I came away with last year. The two players struggling with off-field issues are tough to take, but that is, unfortunately, the sort of thing I'm just not really in a position to be able to gauge ahead of time.

Anyway, on to the 2014 draft. I'm going ten rounds deep this year, as I feel I've got a better grasp on things than ever before. The notes on some of these guys will be limited, but I'll try to at least explain my line of reasoning.

Round 1, Pick 27

Actual Pick: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State

Shadow Pick: Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (FL)

Why I differed: The Cardinals picked a very good, very intriguing young pitcher in Weaver, who looks an awful lot like the Cards' last two first-rounders: polished college arms with plus changeups. My objection to Weaver was never the talent, which I think is very good, but to the arm action, which I feel is very risky and puts him at elevated risk for arm issues in the future.

So, instead, scouting director Aaron, still fuming over both of his favourite players at this spot (Kodi Medeiros and Michael Chavis), already being off the board, went with his second-favourite pitcher, Foster Griffin, a high school lefty with a big, lanky frame and a fantastic delivery I absolutely love. He already hits 94 at times, has a big, nasty curveball that could use some tightening up, and a surprisingly functional changeup for a high school pitcher. I'm going with Griffin because I think he could be something special, and I feel much more confident in his long-term health than I do many of the other pitchers in this draft.

Here's my writeup of Griffin. He ended up going one spot after this, to the hated Kansas City Royals, who signed him to a slightly-over-slot bonus of $1.9 million. So I might be a tiny bit over slot.

Supplemental Round, Pick 34

Actual Pick: Jack Flaherty, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

Shadow Pick: Mike Papi, 1B/OF, Virginia

Why I differed: The Cardinals actually went for the type of player I usually mark out for here, taking a huge ceiling tough sign guy in Flaherty. On the other hand, I went for the safer route with a college bat. But not just any college bat, mind you; I think there's tons of potential for Mike Papi he has yet to tap into, and he's already pretty damned good at this point. Plus-plus plate disipline, plus contact skills, and enough functional strength he should hit for plenty of power down the road, though for now he has yet to consistently tap into that power.

My personal scouting report on Papi.

Papi has yet to sign, as Virginia is still playing in the College World Series. He won't be a tough sign, though, and should come in right at slot or a tad under. I feel like between my first two picks I'm right on track, slot-wise.

Round 2, Pick 68

Actual Pick: Ronnie Williams, RHP, American Senior High School (FL)

Shadow Pick: Same

Ronnie Williams has a special arm, and I'm incredibly excited to have him in both the real and imaginary farm systems for El Birdos.

Competitive Balance Round, Pick 71

Actual Pick: Andrew Morales, RHP, UC Irvine

Shadow Pick: Milton Ramos, SS, American Heritage HS (FL)

Why I differed: The Cardinals, needing to make sure they freed up some bonus pool money to reel in Jack Flaherty, went for a college senior here who could make a big difference against the bonus cap. The fact Morales has a real chance to do something in pro ball is absolute gravy.

I myself had no similar concerns about the bonus situation, as Williams signed for slot, and my first two picks basically averaged out to slot between them. So I decided to go for a little tougher sign here in order to bring in some upside. I considered Gareth Morgan, the monster home-run hitter from a Canadian high school, but in the end decided to go with a premium up the middle athlete in Ramos, who may have a glove even better than that of Nick Gordon in this class, though he's still much more raw.

I expect this to be an above-slot signing, but not a bank-breaker. In the real world, Ramos went to the Marlin not long after this pick.

Round 3, Pick 104

Actual Pick: Trevor Megill, RHP, Loyola Marymount

Shadow Pick: Carson Sands, LHP, North Florida Christian HS

Why I Differed: This is the most frustrating pick of thee Cards' draft, for me, as Megill decided not to sign and, instead, returned to school for his senior season. A Tommy John survivor, Megill has size and solid stuff, but I wasn't a huge fan of the pick, even before he decided against signing.

On the other hand, I took a player who's likely to be a slightly tough sign, also, in Carson Sands, a hard-throwing lefty who had a ton of helium this spring. Sands has a plus curve in addition to a low-90s fastball. I like his delivery, and I love the ceiling. He's going to take over slot, so hopefully I can save a little money later on.

Round 4, Pick 135

Actual Pick: Austin Gomber, LHP, Florida Atlantic

Shadow Pick: Jacob Nix, RHP, Los Alamitos HS (CA)

Why I Differed: The Cardinals again went with a below-slot signing, although that's not a knock on Gomber. He's a typical crafty lefthander, with three average pitches and a good feel for pitching. I went high ceiling again, taking one of my pitching crushes in the hopes of buying him away from UCLA. Nix is big (6'4"), and throws hard (has touched 97 at showcases), and has what I think is a very sound delivery. I love Nix, who went to the Astros in the fifth round, and I think he has a chance to be special.

Round 5, Pick 165

Actual Pick: Darren Seferina, SS/2B, Miami Dave CC

Shadow Pick: Skyler Ewing, C/1B, Rice University

Why I Differed: The Cards went with an up the middle athlete with iffy offense; I went with a major college talent who has the opportunity to play catcher at the next level, though I'm a little doubtful that's his long-term position. Ewing has plus raw power, and that's one separating tool that, for me, prompted this pick here.

Round 6, Pick 195

Actual Pick: Andrew Sohn, SS, Western Michigan

Shadow Pick: Reed Reilly, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Why I Differed: To me, Sohn looks like organisational filler, with no real defining tools. This pick on my board was all about saving money, so I went with a senior college reliever with a three-pitch mix who can throw into the low-90s. He's saving me a pretty penny, and I really like the arm, too.

Round 7, Pick 225

Actual Pick: Brian O'Keefe, C, Saint Joseph's

Shadow Pick: Brandon Kelliher, RHP, Lake Stevens HS (WA)

Why I Differed: I like the pick of Brian O'Keefe. I really do. But I went a different way, taking an undersized high school righty with crazy stuff in the person of the 5'11" Kelliher. He works in the low-90s with a plus curveball and excellent athleticism that really appeals to me.

Round 8, Pick 255

Actual Pick: Nick Thompson, OF, William and Mary

Shadow Pick: Andrew Rohrback, RHP, Cal State - Long Beach

Why I Differed: Rohrback is a converted infielder who became a hard-throwing pitcher for Cal State with mid-90s velocity and plus athleticism. There's some Joe Kelly in Rohrback, so I'm betting on the potential.

Round 9, Pick 285

Actual Pick: Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, Embry Riddle College

Shadow Pick: Luke Eubank, RHP, Oxnard College

Why I differed: Poncedeleon certainly has an odd backstory, not to mention some real promising stuff. I went with one of my biggest gut-feel guys in this draft, though, with the sinkerballer from California, Luke Eubank. Eubank wasn't taken until the seventeenth round, to the Indians, I believe. He could be a tough sign, but this is a kid I really believe in, so I'm going with him.I wrote him up here.

Round 10, Pick 315

Actual Pick: Danny Diekroger, 3B, Stanford

Shadow Pick: David Berg, RHP, UCLA

Why I Differed: I'm not a fan of the Diekroger pick, to tell you the truth. I just don't feel he does any one thing so well as to give him a marked advantage in any way, while also possessing some pretty serious flaws.

In my version of the draft, I need to make sure I save a little more money, come in under budget, so as I can go ahead and draft Justin Bellinger and Carl Chester in the 11th-13th round area and hopefully actually sign them. So, I'm taking my favourite sidearmer in the whole damned draft, and I feel fantastic about doing so. Berg has been brilliant throughout his career, and I think he could be the first player in the 2014 draft to reach the big leagues, if things break fright for him. Sure, it might not be the highest ceiling or the sexiest draft demographic, but I've got a feeling Berg could make some GM (by which I mean me), look very smart very soon.

The sidearmed scouting report on Berg. And that, my friends, is it. The 2014 draft is now officially in my rear-view mirror. Feel free to criticise me and my picks all you lie; the best reason to do something like this is just in hopes of stimulating conversations.I'll be back next week with something completely different (probably; I have no idea what that would be just yet), and hoping this West Coast swing didn't prove the death of our boys in red.

Goodbye, everybody. Have a nice Wednesday.

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