clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2009 Draft Preview #6

New, 190 comments

Wow. Great win last night. It doesn't quite make up for a couple of those ugly collapses against the Cubbies, but it comes close. At the very least, last night was one of those games the Cardinals had no real business winning, but did anyway. Thus, some of the karmic balance is restored. The Cards should have won a couple that they lost in Chitown, now they win one they probably should have lost against the Metropolitans and their fancy new bullpen.

Of course, seeing the Mets' much-vaunted new setup guy give up the game last night could also be filed squarely under the karma heading in our big season notebooks; after seeing so much angst about the St. Louis bullpen in the early going, as well as plenty of moaning- and a fair bit of pissing- about the Cards' failure to bring in a proven commodity to shore up the 'pen, it seemed rather fitting that one such commodity was the one on the losing side of the ledger, while Jason Motte was on the winning side. (Wow. That is one long ass sentence. I have got to learn to use periods instead of just endless semicolons.)  This morning, I'm sure there's plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth up in the Big Apple, while we feel like we're sitting pretty with our cheap young fireballers. (And our somewhat reasonably priced veteran dude with the awful facial hair who is apparently now shutting the door on games.)

Of course, both sides are probably overreacting, to be completely honest. The Mets' bullpen is still wicked intimidating, and the Cardinal relief corps still has plenty of questions. Nonetheless, it's a good lesson to learn next time you want to fly off the handle on some anonymous message board somewhere: it's a long season. Things can look very, very different from one day to the next.

Speaking of interesting closing developments, Jess Todd has apparently been named the closer for the Memphis club. I'm still not a fan of moving the guy to relief, but it's also entirely possible we could see him contribute to the big club at some time this season. (And damn the talk of the 40 man roster. If he's part of the answer to making this team better, get him up here, and worry about the roster crunch later. Period.)

(Kind of) Cool little side note on this talk of Todd as a possible closer: quite some time back, over at the old Future Redbirds site, there was some discussion of Huston Street as a possible comp for Todd. I thought it was a really great comparison at the time, made by the always-excellent fewgoodcards, and I said so. However, I must ask that if you do follow the link above, you must ignore the second half of my comment. See, at that time, I advocated leaving Todd in relief, while I am now raging against moving him back to said role; thus, my greatest nightmare, of looking moderately wishy-washy in front of a group of unknown internet users, is coming true. However, I do stand by my observation at the time that I would like to see Todd finish his pitches better, rather than cutting his follow-through off. So there is that.

Anyhow, enough of such things. I have yet another group of scouting reports for you, all hot and fresh and ready to go. More after the jump.

Today we're going to be looking at a few of the top outfield prospects in this year's draft. Now, before you even say it, I know: why in the world would the Cardinals take an outfielder? They're swimming in flycatchers as it is.

Well, I'll tell you why. Because any one of these players has a chance to be special, and you don't pass up great talent just because it comes at a spot you're maybe already a little heavy on. Don't get me wrong, I would certainly prefer to see the Cardinals draft at positions of need (middle infield still sticks out), but call it the Matt LaPorta Theory of Drafting: you take the talent, and even if you end up unable to use it, you can turn that talent into something you do need.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to the players. We've got two college guys, both pretty close to being finished products, and one project. (But what a project he might be.)

Dustin Ackley, CF/1B, University of North Carolina

DOB:  26th February, 1988

6'1", 185 lbs.

Player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Dustin Ackley is, in all likelihood, the top overall position player in the draft this year. He combines excellent tools with a polished collegiate approach, making him both a relatively safe pick and one with a very good ceiling.

 First off, start with the bat, because that's what is going to get Ackley drafted, to be perfectly frank. Ackley is the top pure hitter in the draft this year, with outstanding bat speed and even better bat control. He keeps the bat in the zone a remarkably long time, giving him the ability to drive the ball to all fields effectively. Something I find particularly interesting: his hitting mechanics seem to be an odd mixture of Will Clark, Sean Casey, and Ichiro. I realise that those three things together make no sense whatsoever, but just look at the video, at his hands, the open stance, and the follow through, and I think you'll see what I'm talking about. He hits the ball extremely hard, though without a ton of loft, so his power totals may always be somewhat modest.

In addition to his bat, Ackley also has plus speed, both on the basepaths and in the field, with sufficient range to play a very good center field and record 19 steals last season.

Now for the not so good. The biggest question with Ackley is his arm strength. Frankly, it isn't good, and raises concerns with some scouts about his ability to play even center field long term. He's certainly not going to be a right fielder. Ackley actually had Tommy John surgery last summer, and as a result, has played almost exclusively at first base this spring, limiting the amount that scouts have been able to see him in his natural position of center field. It could depress his draft stock, though how much is certainly open for debate.

The other, somewhat more minor concern, is related to that lack of home run power I mentioned above. While Ackley hits the ball with authority, he also hits mostly line drives and doesn't elevate the ball a ton, making him more of a doubles pop type of guy than a real longball threat. He doesn't really profile very well at first base, and only moderately better in left field, due to that somewhat limited power ceiling. Now, personally, I think the idea of profiling a player's bat at a position is more than a little bit bullshit, but there is still a strong tendency in baseball circles, even somewhat enlightened ones, to do just that. In my opinion, you get the best players you can for each position, and to hell with a player fitting a certain type, so long as he can handle his spot on the defensive spectrum.

Overall, I fully expect Ackley to be long gone from the board by the time the Cardinals pick. However, given that his arm may very well push him to a decidedly non-premium position, and the fact that some teams may question his power given said positional limitations, Ackley could possibly find himself labeled a bit of a 'tweener. I'll say this: if he happens, by some great chance, to fall to the Cards, they need to pounce on him with absolutely no hesitation. He's just too damned good in too many ways to pass up.

Kentrail Davis, OF, University of Tennessee

DOB:  29th June, 1988

5'9", 200 lbs.

Player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Remember how last year we all joked about the old Billy Beane line, that the Cardinals certainly weren't looking to sell jeans? Well, Davis would fit right in with that draft philosophy, as the height/weight numbers aren't exactly what you might look for in a top-tier outfield prospect, but the production is oh so very real.

The first name you're going to read in a lot of scouting reports on Davis, as far as comparisons, is Kirby Puckett. And really, that's not a bad place to start, as both are short, stocky players with better speed than you would think looking at them and excellent contact ability at the plate, plus it keeps the colour boundaries intact when coming up with player comps. (Actually, seeing as how Davis is left-handed, Tony Gwynn might make a nice comparison too, but somehow, nobody likes to saddle a player with Tony Gwynn talk.)

The thing about Davis is that he doesn't really do anything unbelievably well, other than hit. He's a bit like Jon Jay in that way, in the sense that all of his tools grade out pretty well, but none of them just blow you away. His arm is probably his worst tool, as it may limit him to left field. (Sound familiar?) His power is average, maybe a tick above, but not anything out of this world. He runs well, but there's a lot of talk that his body is going to eventually turn him into just an average runner, again moving him over toward left field, rather than center, where he's played largely up until now. His plate discipline is less than stellar, and would likely need work for him to be an impact hitter at high levels. 

There are two real factors working against Davis; well, other than that feeling of being a little underwhelmed by his overall tool profile. The first is that, as a draft-eligible sophomore with Scott Boras as an agent, he has plenty of leverage and will likely look to get all he can out of it. The second, well, frankly, Kentrail Davis hasn't played very well this spring. Ordinarily, that would hurt a guy some, but you look at the overall body of work, as well as that future projection, and he still goes in the neighborhood of where he was projected all along, give or take a little bit. With Davis, though, those two factors could combine to push him way, way down, down to where there's almost no chance of the team that drafts him actually signing him. Call it Kyle Russell version 2.0.

I think Davis will likely be on the board when the Cardinals pick, but I don't necessarily know that I would advocate drafting him. He's a solid hitter, to be sure, but when you consider the ransom it would take to bring him into the fold, along with some legitimate concerns about his ultimate ceiling, I would probably pass. He's going to be a very good player, I believe, but he may not be the right player, if you know what I mean.

Donovan Tate, CF/RHP, Cartersville HS, Georgia

DOB: 27th September, 1990

6'2", 195 lbs.

So, what's so great about this guy?

You know how ever so often, in the NFL draft, teams will take a guy whose position is basically Athlete? Well, Tate is just that sort of guy, in either football or baseball. In fact, the question of whether he'll pursue a career on the diamond or the gridiron is one of the most interesting you're likely to hear as the draft approaches.

Tate is a project, make no mistake. Any team that could draft him and get him into the fold would be taking on a long-term commitment to developing this guy into the sort of player that could one day garner MVP votes on a yearly basis. His athleticism is off the charts, with  speed to burn, plenty of power potential in his frame, and an arm that has hit 95 mph off the mound in high school. You want a comp? I like Cameron Maybin, personally; Tate has that same overall package of tools that make Maybin such a dynamic talent. Tate can chase the ball down in the outfield, and obviously has the arm  to make any and all throws that may be needed. He's a prototypical center fielder, though he's shown the ability to play the corners as well.

As you might expect from a player still trying to decide if he even wants to play baseball full time, Tate is pretty raw in most facets of the game. His plate approach isn't awful, but he gets fooled easily by breaking stuff out of the zone and doesn't work counts all that well. On the basepaths, he makes far more outs than someone with his speed should, and his routes in center field are suspect. In short, he is, as I pointed out earlier, a definite project.

The Cardinals have shown a willingness to take this sort of player in the draft before, though not in the first round that I can think of. Daryl Jones is actually a pretty good example of that kind of risk, or maybe even Tommy Pham, considering the arm strength. Nonetheless, I think there's a good chance that some team will take Tate early in the first round if he seems to be leaning toward playing baseball, and the Cardinals would probably pass anyway. Tate is apparently visiting Michigan for their football program, so there's certainly question as to what sport he'll wish to pursue.

I have to say, if he does go with baseball, I think the Braves take him. They took a similar player in Jason Heyward just a couple of years ago, and they loooove to get their Georgia boys into the system. Of course, if he looks serious about baseball, he could also go off the board in the first four or five picks; he's that kind of talent. At the very least, Tate certainly presents an intriguing question for major league teams to mull over as the draft approaches.

**************************

As I said before, I can see someone  arguing against taking any of these players, based solely on positional need. (Specifically, the fact that we don't need what they play.) Nonetheless, I think that a guy like Tate would be a very interesting long-term project player, taken not on the hope of quickly developing, but instead being a true impact player somewhere down the line, and if Ackley falls all the way to the Cardinals somehow, I think they have have have to take him. Really, the only one of the three that I wouldn't be excited about would be Kentrail Davis, and I can even see some really good reasons to at least kick the tires on him.

I'll have a game thread up sometime around six pm. Until then, enjoy the day, everyone.