The draft is now a little over a week old. Players are beginning to sign. Baseball America is diligently tracking the reported signings here. The Cardinals have wasted little time putting ink to paper signing all but one of their picks from the first 10 rounds.
It was an interesting draft with the Cardinals clearly heading out to get a bevy of left handed pitchers. That has lead some internet analyst to pillory the selections as drafting more on organizational need than taking the best player available. It's an understandable sentiment and it may be warranted. Drafts are fickle things in that you're acquiring a host of fickle assets. These prospects are young, raw and untested at the professional level. All anyone has, MLB teams included, are varying degrees of best guesses. To that end, here's reasons why you will love the draft or hate the draft.
Love the Draft
1. Marco Gonzales might be the first player from this draft to the majors.
The Cardinals selected a very polished left hander from Gonzaga as their number 1 overall pick. He's on the smaller side for a major league pitcher at 6' 1" and 185lbs. His fastball sits right around that 90mph mark. The reason he'll be ready for the majors so quickly is two fold: 1) he's got very good command and 2) he has 3-4 workable pitches including a plus-plus change, cutter and curveball. If you want to look at the Cardinals track record in developing pitchers in recent seasons, they've had a lot of success developing cutters among their players. If the Cardinals can develop that pitch beyond expectations, this could be a fast moving pick who exceeds the conventional wisdom of expectations.
2. Rob Kaminsky is left handed and throws in the mid 90s.
The talk about Kaminsky, a high schooler from New Jersey, is always about his size. At 5' 11", he's always going to ping a scout's notice for his smaller build. He'll also ping a scout's radar for throwing in the mid-90s as a left hander. The Cardinals have another "undersized" pitcher in the minor leagues right now. For years, Carlos Martinez has been pegged as a future reliever. He continues to start in the minor leagues despite those insistent projections. Martinez has also proven that he can be a groundball pitcher despite his short stature. All these things can be applied to Kaminsky as well (though he lacks Martinez upper 90s fastball). Put it this way, if Kaminsky were 6' 3", he'd have been a top 15 pick.
3. The Cardinals took some top flight defensive shortstops.
Oscar Mercado (Round 2) and Chris Rivera (Round 7) are both considered glove-first shortstops with questionable bats. The Cardinals thought very highly of Mercado and gave him a significantly overslot bonus to come on board. Rivera fell deeper in the draft than he was expected to allowing the Cardinals to get a late round value pick. There was a lot of pre-draft chatter that both these players would go on to college but the Cardinals have already managed to secure their signings. The question now is whether the Cardinals can get either player into the realm of respectable with their hitting. Neither projects as a offensive power house and both have had varying levels of success with the bat at times. These are both picks that look for the long term and will need quite a few seasons in the minors. The defense should play at the highest levels so if one of their bats develops, the Cardinals will have a major league shortstop on their hands.
4. Malik Collymore is a physical specimen.
I'm always hesitant to give a full throated endorsement of a later round pick. There's a reason that Collymore wasn't drafted until the 10th round. That said, he is a heck of an athlete. The Cardinals drafted him as a shortstop but that's almost certainly not where he winds up long term. If his defense turns out to be better than expected, he might stick at second base or centerfield. Otherwise, he could make an appearance in the corner outfield positions. Collymore's swing isn't refined and his game as a whole needs coaching but picking up an athlete of this caliber in the later rounds is always exciting. If things go perfectly -- and that's a huge if -- he's a power hitter for a corner outfield spot with the potential for some big power numbers.
Hate the Draft
If there's one word that sums up why anyone would hate this draft, it's the word pitchability. Besides being nauseatingly overused, the word could apply to a bevy of Cardinal picks as code for questionable stuff. Marco Gonazles, Mike Mayers, Ian McKinney, Jimmy Reed and Nick Petree are all guys who get that tag applied. Baseball America called Petree a "college Greg Maddux" and they weren't referring to young Greg Maddux velocity. Take Marco Gonzales for instance. He's been tagged as a fast mover but with little long term projection. That also translates into the fact that Gonzales has little margin for error in his path to the big leagues. This is the kind of draft that can look like a wasteland in 3-4 years if all of these pitchers prove that pitchability doesn't make up for pure stuff.
2. Where are the bats?
The Cardinals didn't select much in the way of offense. The "best" offensive selection came in the way of Mason Katz from Louisiana State. (Katz remains unsigned.) He doesn't have a defensive position, is under 6' tall and there are questions about whether his swing will keep up with major league fastballs. And that's the best bat the Cardinals drafted in the 2013 draft. There's almost no offense to be found in this draft at first blush and the Cardinals have selected a handful of defensive players who need major fixes to their swings.
How many pitchers the Cardinals get out of this draft into the major leagues is probably the metric that will define this draft's success. If Mercado or Rivera or Collymore develop into something more, that would be a welcome surprise but it is pretty clear the Cardinals were looking to restock a farm system with pitchers and lefthanders at that. The Cardinals have gotten tons of credit for developing the current crop of pitchers and that's mostly deserved. It's both too easy and too convenient to assume the recent success is all of a causal sort and not just a lucky stretch. The Cardinals' development system is clearly good but they've also had some excellent raw material to work worth.
This draft doesn't excite me in terms of it's superstar potential. I like Gonzales to move quickly and I think he surprises with just how good he turns out to be -- the Cardinals really are well equipped to boost this kind of pitcher much like they did Lance Lynn. I like Kaminsky as an upside play as you don't often get that kind of velocity from a lefty. Collymore has the highest potential to me as a position player but is a real long shot. Mercado and Rivera look like guys who frustrate at the plate for a long time. These are the hardest kind of players for fans to get a feel for in the minors because a) minor league defense is a tricky thing and b) the threshold for offense is so low at the shortstop position.
Overall, the Cardinals probably do reasonably well from this draft but it doesn't feel like a draft that we talk about in awe over the coming years. Time will tell.