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2011 Draft Preview Quatre: The Middle Way

Every time my cat sees me with a knife she runs away. It's odd, because it isn't as if I've ever attacked her, but I'm pretty sure she thinks one day things are going to get bad and I'm going to cook and eat her. I wonder if in her mind it's like a Warner Bros. cartoon where the starving character looks at the other and envisions them as a ham or turkey. If I were to picture her as a food item I think it would be one of those mutton joints used to represent food in video games with medieval settings.

I decided to play a prank on her the other day after she took off running while I was chopping carrots for stir fry. I got out a cookbook and left it open sitting on the floor, then went through and crossed out all the meat names and wrote above them "Cat". So I had a cookbook full of Coq Cat au Vin and Roasted Pork Cat with Roasted Garlic Aioli and Veal Cat Piccata sitting there, just waiting for her to happen along, see it, and assume the worst. I waited for her to make a move, either to run away or try to kill me while I slept, but nothing happened. Then I realised I'm not sure if she can read well enough to really get the joke, so I may have been wasting my time.

Scouting reports after the jump.

Today I bring you draftees from a demographic the Cardinals need badly: middle infielders. It's a system-wide deficiency, and while drafting for need isn't usually the way to go in baseball it certainly could colour opinions one way or another all else being equal between choices.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde HS (Florida)

5'11", 170 lbs

Bats: Both

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Talk to any number of scouts, and most of them will tell you Lindor is the one guy in this year's draft class who doesn't have to worry about moving to another position. Typically when you hear or read scouting reports on shortstops there's the constant caveat of, "May need to move off the position down the road." Why  that's such a constant refrain in scoutspeak with regards to shortstops I don't know, other than to postulate scouts are just naturally inclined to disbelieve any play capable of playing the toughest defensive position on the field until he's done it at the big league level for a number of years.

With Lindor, though, there really isn't any question about him moving to second or third base; he's a born shortstop. His reactions and actions are solid, his arm is a plus, and he shows soft hands, particularly going to his right.  He isn't a burner on the basepaths, but his feet play faster in the field.

There are questions about Lindor's bat, though not huge ones. He's slight of build and doesn't project to add a ton of weight, so how much power he'll ever possess is open for debate. He has strong hands and wrists, which give him good bat speed, so it isn't as if he'll be limited to slap and dash. His approach at the plate varies, and asking different scouts who saw him on different days can net you widely different answers on just how much polish he'll need to add before he reaches the majors. He has more power presently from the right side, where he can pull the ball with authority, though it isn't consistent.

We all remember the last time the Cards picked a high school shortstop in the first round, no matter how little we might like to. Where Kozma was solid and steady across the board, though, Lindor is the raw bundle of potential who could grow into something special. Depending on how well he plays this spring he may be long gone by the time the Redbirds go on the clock, which is a real shame. He could present an almost ideal fit for an organisation looking to develop a long-term cornerstone player at a position they've been unable to fill well for quite some time now.

Levi Michael, SS/2B, University of North Carolina 

5'10", 180 lbs

Bats: Both

Throws: Right

Player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

I mentioned above the caveat you constantly hear from scouts about shortstops moving. Levi Michael is actually a little bit of the opposite. He came to UNC (after forgoing his final semester of high school to get a head start on his collegiate career, no less), as a second baseman. He shifted to third as a sophomore, not out of his own necessity but the team's, and now this year he's shifting to shortstop. Of course, that won't keep the scouting reports from saying he may need to move back, but the fact he's moving up the defensive spectrum without fear or concern for his draft stock to help the Tarheels win should tell you something about Levi Michael.

Tools-wise, Michael's glove doesn't put him in the same category as Francisco Lindor, but he has plenty of other points in his column. Michael has strong contact ability from both sides of the plate, a good batting eye, and surprising pop for his size. He also has plus speed, though he isn't quite as fast as he was coming out of high school. Michael has a solid track record of hitting with wood bats, always an important factor to consider when attempting to gauge the Cardinals' potential interest, and profiles to have average-ish power in professional ball.

Most likely, Michael profiles best at the second base position, where his offensive gifts and plus defense could make him an impact player. It's possible he could stay at short as well; he has plenty of supporters who say he can. If so, he likely jumps up draft boards significantly and it's tough to say where he might be picked. As it is, if teams watch him play shortstop and think he'd make an excellent second basemen, the latter half of the first round or early supplemental range seems an ideal landing spot.

Phillip Evans, 2B, La Costa Canyon High School (California) 

5'10", 180 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

You're probably going to cringe when I say this, so I'll just go ahead and apologise ahead of time. Phillip Evans is a ballplayer. That's right, a ballplayer. Which means, yes, he is in fact a scrappy guy. Not to mention gritty. In fact, he's so gritty sandpaper hates having to rub up against him. So gritty southern cooks try to put butter on him. So gritty that, well, you get the picture.

I'll give you an easy comp for Evans: Placido Polanco. That's the guy who comes to mind when I watch Evans. He's got the slightly choked-up bat and excellent contact skills along with a smart, savvy approach to hitting. (I actually like his swing fairly well and think he could have a bit more power, for whatever that may be worth.) Defensively, Evans has outstanding hands but just adequate range. His arm is plenty for second, though it's a little short for the left side of the infield. No word on whether or not he has the giant head of Placido, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

I know you're all having bad trip flashbacks of Pete Kozma now for sure, so I'll give you a moment. Better? Okay. I admit Evans isn't exactly a sexy pick, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be a smart one. (It doesn't mean he would be, either, but that's neither here nor there.) He projects to likely go somewhere in the second round, and I think you could do a whole lot worse.  After all, Placido Polanco may not be the kind of player who makes you swoon, but he's been an above-average player overall for most of his career, and that's remarkably valuable in today's game. I could easily see Evans treading that same path in the big leagues.


 The Baron's Playlist for the 16th of March, 2011 -- The 1990s in Video Form #2

"Sexy Boy" - Air 

"Common People" - Pulp

"Fake Plastic Trees" - Radiohead  (I really meant to go with Just here, but it was too interesting to have two videos in brightly-coloured supermarkets.) 

"The Universal" - Blur

"Firestarter" - Prodigy 

"Virtual Insanity" - Jamiroquai

"Regulate" - Warren G feat. Nate Dogg (RIP)