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2010 Draft Preview pt. 4 - Swinging for the Fences

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I'm going to try and keep this brief (or, at least, as brief as I can), because the game is an early one and I would like to get this thing up at a decent hour. That's what she said. There's no time! We are at threat level midnight! 

Anyway, I'm going to cover three players today, all high schoolers, who fall squarely into that high-risk, high-reward draft demographic we always hear so much about. All three have outstanding tools of some sort that give them potentially high ceilings, but they also have a very, very long way to go and a ton of obstacles to try and avoid on the way. With the Cardinals having several early picks in this year's draft, they may be in a better position to take a risk and absorb the blow if said risk flames out. Then again, they went aggressive taking Shelby Miller with their first round selection last year; I'm not sure if that will have any effect one way or the other on this year's iteration. Time will tell, of course. 

I honestly don't have any stories or odd musings or wistful melancholy anythings to share with you this morning. Strange, I know, but this is where we find ourselves. The bullshit well has not run dry, however; I want to be perfectly clear on that. But today, I'm just going to go ahead and move right into the meat of the post because, in the words of Jarvis Cocker, I can't even think of anything clever to say. So let's all make like Kriss Kross and just jump. (And yes, I am very proud of putting those two references together. Thank you for asking.)

Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake High School (California)

6'4", 200 lbs.

DOB: 7th February, 1992

So, what's so special about this guy?

If you were to draw up what an ideal right fielder would look like, the end product might very well look suspiciously like Wilson. He's got huge raw power, an outstanding arm, and plenty of speed to handle any outfield position. As of right now, he's fast enough to play center, but there's some thought he'll probably slow down as he ages and matures. Even so, he has well-above average range for a corner outfield spot. 

There are some concerns Wilson may struggle to hit for a high average, as his contact skills and plate discipline both need work. He's prone to chasing pitches out of the zone, leading to elevated strikeout totals. Still, those sorts of issues are usually to be expected in prep players, and Wilson certainly has the makeup and work ethic to make improvements. He draws rave reviews for the intangible parts of his game as well as his measurable skills.

I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules of player comps and use both of the Cards' main options for right field this season as comparisons for Wilson. His overall tool profile resembles both Ryan Ludwick and Joe Mather, as he's a tall, athletic outfielder who can play center but is best suited for right. I know, I know. He's black, so I should be digging up Daryl Strawberry or one of those guys instead, but I prefer the comps to our own current players. Particular in Mather's case, I think the two of them match up remarkably well. Physically they're very similar, both have swings prone to getting too long. I will say I doubt Wilson causes nearly as many cases of the vapours as Mather, but then again, who does? Wilson is a remarkably similar player to Mather, except in terms of when each one really blossomed. Mather, of course, is well known as having bloomed very late, but Wilson is already very much there. And let's face it: there's a big difference between being Joe Mather at 27 and nearly the same guy at 17. I do believe Mather probably induces significantly more cases of the vapours, though. 

The question of whether Wilson will be available when the Cardinals pick is a complicated one. By talent he's probably a mid-first round guy, but in a draft so heavy with pitching and college talent it's possible he could fall. Certainly stranger things have happened when talking about high school players, as many teams shy away from the greater risk profile of prepsters. If Wilson does fall into the Cards' range, he would be an outstanding pick, I think.

Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito High School

6'3", 185 lbs.

DOB: 6th July, 1992

So, what's so great about this guy?

It isn't often you see a player play a middle infield position who can also crank the ball like nobody's business. That's just what you have in Machado, though, who is capable of putting up excellent power numbers from the middle of the diamond.

Machado is capable of literally doing it all, both at the plate and in the field, and will likely hear his name called early on draft day because of it. He's got all five tools working, with plenty of arm and range to field the most demanding position on the diamond. There is some concern he may need to move to third base as he slows down, but I've literally never read a shortstop's scouting report that didn't include the words 'move' , 'third base', 'second base', and 'down the road' all fitted together in some combination. Personally, I tend to ignore it. 

Machado is built much along the lines of many of the other big, physical shortstops we see in the game at present. He has an outstanding arm and solid-average range, making him a safe bet to maintain his defense as he moves up the ladder. I like his swing, as well, as Machado takes a big, healthy swing that enables him to produce hard contact consistently.

Machado is another one who should probably be off the board by the time the Cardinals pick, but he also just happens to remind me of Harold Martinez, the athletic shorstop/third baseman from a couple years ago who ended up going to Miami. Coming into the spring, Martinez was seen as one of the top position players in the entire 2008 draft, but he never really got untracked that spring and fell far enough he ended up attending scool. It's certainly ont out  of the quetion to think Machado could end up slipping as well, partiularly if he gets off to a slow start. 

The Verdict on Machado? If he's there, he's another outstanding sort of player the Cardinals might do well to consider selecting with their first pick. 

Griffin Murphy, LHP, Redlands East Valley High School (California)

6'3", 200 lbs.

DOB: 7th June, 1992

So, what's so great about this guy?

Every year there's a guy who goes from borderline early-round talent to big-time draft pick based on what he does on the showcase circuit, and it looks as if Griffin Murphy may very well be that guy this year. He had been a lanky lefthander with so-so velocity and an interesting curveball up until this spring, when suddenly he jumped up in one of the scouting bureau showcases.

Whereas previously Griffin's fastball had been in the mid- to upper-80s, decent territory for a lefty with a good breaker, this spring his fastball jumped up a couple significant tics. He sat at 90, 91 and hit 93 several times. His curveball, previously soft and loopy (though effective), was much tighter and harder, and he even showed the potential for a solid changeup. He had clearly filled out some, and he seemed to have improved his delivery, smoothing out some of the rough edges and becoming more efficient. 

The problem, of course, is kids like this don't always hold on to any gains they may make in the maturation process. While the scouts were salivating in February, it's impossible to say Murphy can do it on a regular, every day basis. Still, a lefty with three better than average offerings is a very exciting commodity, to say the least. Murphy has a great pitcher's frame as well, tall and strong with broad shoulders and long arms. He could easily take another 15-20 pounds, and could cement the strength gains he seems to have made. Then again, he could also be a showcase circuit wonder and fizzle out when real games are being played.  

Of all the players on this list, Murphy is the most likely of the three to be available when the Cards pick. Personally, I think he could potentially have a very high ceiling, based not only what he is now but how much further he could  improve. I'm not a huge fan of his delivery, which seems to have a lot of flailing about in it and just feels inefficient still. I wonder if refining his mechanics could both maintain the velocity and sharpness gains and help him do both more easily. He still needs to work on his command, as it's a bit below average at the moment. 

Murphy is in transition, it seems, going from a lefty with okay stuff and decent command to a pitcher with legitimate plus stuff. His control and command haven't made the leap his stuff has yet, which could lead to teams having a tough time knowing where to draft him. If he can manage to harness his new turbocharged repertoire before the draft, Murphy will fly up boards all over the place. If he can't, he'll still be drafted fairly early on as a stuff guy who needs some polishing up before he heads out into the world.

Bottom line, I would be happy with any of the players on this list if the Cardinals ended up with one of them on draft day. The question is whether any of them will still be available. These are just the sort of players draftniks hope for when we hear Bill DeWitt talk about this year's draft and how much it's going to cost them. Sure, any or all of them could be a total bust, but there's also legitimate star power to be had with all three. And as just about every publication that covers the minor leagues will tell you, the Cardinals need star power in the system, badly. 

The Baron's Playlist for the 7th of April, 2010 -- Play That Funky Music, White Boy

"Oh Lately It's So Quiet" - Ok Go

"Your Cover's Blown" - Belle and Sebastian

"I Turn My Camera On" - Spoon

"Debra" - Beck

"The Party's Crashing Us" - Of Montreal