Or, at least, it smells like victory today, thanks to the offense's support of Chris Carpenter's gutsy mediocrity. Carp finally gets a win, the Cards move past the 5 games over .500 mark for the first time this season, and we go to see Carlos Zambrano and Kerry Wood both knocked around in the same game. It was, to put it lightly, an enjoyable evening.
Tonight we'll get that recently resurgent guru of grounders, Jake Westbrook, taking on the Cubbies and their biggest offseason acquisition, one Matt Garza, he of the Tropicana Field No-Hitter of 2010. Garza is a remarkably tough pitcher to get a read on, an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a Cubs jersey. He's been nothing short of brilliant in the early going this year, though his ultimate results are head-scratchingly mediocre. He has a 1.57(!) FIP, a 2.05 xFIP, an 11.69 K/9, a 4.46 K/BB, and a 1-4 record with a 4.43 ERA. He's changed his pattern of pitching since arriving in the Windy City, and it's done wonders for his peripherals.
Given those numbers, there are two ways he could go. Either his baseball card numbers could head down toward his peripherals, or his peripherals could shoot up toward his baseball card numbers. I'm thinking the Cards need to bring the big bats tonight and make sure the latter happens.
A batch of steaming, freshly baked scouting report just for you after the jump.
It's been said before, by both myself and pretty much everyone else who talks about the draft, and it will be said again before this whole thing is over: the 2011 draft is all about pitching. Ridiculous depth of arms, light as hell on the bats. So if you're wishcasting a position prospect in the early rounds, good luck handling your disappointment. Chances are the pick is going to be a pitcher, simply because of the prevalence of them.
That being said, here's another group of three college arms who could interest the Redbirds. Not all are necessarily first-round types, but all three offer something intriguing in the early rounds all the same.
Andrew Chafin, LHP, Kent State
6'2", 210 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Chafin is a definite helium guy this spring, as he's rising up draft boards all over the place. He redshirted his freshman year following Tommy John surgery and is just now a redshirt sophomore, which could offer him some extra leverage in any contract negotiations. The Cards have made hay the last couple drafts by pounding on signability players, including Zack Cox and Tyrell Jenkins just last year, so it may not be a bad idea from now on to pay a little extra attention to players who have the difficult sign tag attached to them.
Chafin has the makings of a lefty power pitcher, with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 95 at times. He usually works more in the 90-92 range, but that top-end velocity has to be awfully interesting to teams. Chafin pairs his heat with a knockout slider that produces empty swings from lefties and right-handers alike. He's got a thick, solid build with big legs, a little like Drew Pomeranz from last year's draft, though Pomeranz is taller.
Chafin doesn't really have much of a changeup at this point. He throws one, sure, but it just isn't up to snuff as anything more than a show-me pitch when hitters are sitting on one of his other offerings. His command comes and goes at times, though he's been more consistent this year than in the past. If he's going to stay in a rotation Chafin will have to develop his change or come up with some other third pitch to complement his fastball/slider combo and refine his command. For my money, I actually like him more in a relief role, where he can air it out and sit higher in his personal velocity range. If he were to end up a reliever he could be much more than a LOOGY. He has the stuff to pitch at the back end of a major league bullpen, and I don't think it would take him long to get there.
It's a shame the Cards don't have a supplemental round pick this year, because that's right around where Chafin projects to go and I think he could make a really nice addition to the farm system, especially in a relief role.
Grayson Garvin, LHP, Vanderbilt
6'6", 220 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Well, first off, his name. Grayson Garvin is a fantastic 1925 baseball name, and it's my opinion you can never have enough of those guys on your team.
Second, Garvin is a highly productive college pitcher, the latest in a recent run of talented lefties to come out of Vanderbilt, though he's more Jeremy Sowers than David Price. He's tall and look projectable, but his repertoire is that of a finesse lefty all the way. Garvin works in the upper 80s with his fastball and tops out around 91 or so. His command of the pitch is impeccable, as he can spot his heater to any part of the strike zone and works the margins beautifully. He also throws a big-breaking curveball that sometimes rates a plus pitch, though he doesn't always maintain his arm speed when throwing it, occasionally telegraphing "off-speed stop."
Garvin's changeup is a solid pitch as well, and some observers actually like it a little better than his curve. The curveball has the more impressive movement, but he maintains good arm speed on his change and is more deceptive when throwing it. The changeup is at least an average pitch for Garvin, and could be better than that as he refines his approach further in pro ball.
The downside with Garvin is that he essentially is what he is going to be already. He's a finesse lefthander who already knows what he's doing on the mound, and any gains made by refining his approach are likely to be marginal. Things like learning to maintain arm speed when working in his offspeed pitches will improve his consistency, but he isn't going to develop into something he isn't already. He tends to nibble at times as well, though that may partially be a function of pitching in college with aluminum bats and the resulting difficulties that brings.
One final feather in Garvin's cap, at least as it might relate to any Cardinals interest: he was absolutely dominant in the Cape Cod League last year, winning the league's most valuable pitcher award and posting a 0.74 ERA. We know the Cards put a lot of stock into player's performances in wood-bat leagues, hitter and pitcher alike, so that could be a point in his favour.
I would love Garvin in the second round, but he'll likely go somewhere higher than that. Stranger things have certainly happened, though.
Also, can I just tell you how much I love those socks? Sweet jesus those are fantastic.
Update: Actually, here's a much better, more useful video of Garvin. It comes without the awesome socks, but gives you a much better look at what's going on.
Ian Gardeck, RHP, Angelina Junior College
6'2", 210 lbs
Player Page (from U. of Dayton)
So, what's so great about this guy?
Ian Gardeck is a big, strong, hard-throwing juco pitcher committed to pitch for Alabama next year. He started his college career at Dayton, then transferred to Angelina College this season and has been lighting up radar guns and scout's eyes like crazy all spring.
Gardeck's repertoire is fairly comparable to that of Stetson Allie, the high school flamethrower the Pirates drafted early in the second round last year. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and has been clocked as high as 99 this spring. He also features a nasty slider that gives him two of the most intimidating pitches in the entire draft.
The problem with Gardeck is that, as good as his stuff is, he doesn't always know where it's going. He posted a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio his freshman season pitching for Dayton, with 25 of each in 27 innings. His control isn't quite in the Jason Neighborgall neighbourhood, but that's the sort of comparison you'll hear thrown around occasionally. Gardeck doesn't have the best body, and will have to watch his conditioning in pro ball. He's worked as a starter this spring and can hold his velocity deep into games, but his delivery, two-pitch repertoire, and iffy command draw plenty of bullpen projections. He has no real changeup to speak of, though he has worked diligently on developing one this season.
Personally, I don't like something about Gardeck's arm action, though seeing it full-speed I can't be exactly sure of what that something is. He's certainly an intriguing pitcher, with an arm that generates unbelievable stuff, but he wouldn't be a player I would be jumping out of my shoes to draft if I were making the call in June. Still, a guy with his stuff has to appeal to plenty of teams, and he'll likely be drafted early enough to make that commitment to Alabama academic.
That's all for this week, folks. Please forgive the late post; I've done my level best to get these things up early in the morning, but life conspired against me this week. Take care.
The Baron's Playlist for the 11th of May, 2011
"Elder Chels" - Sleepy Kitty (They'll be playing Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum tomorrow evening; I cannot recommend highly enough you go.)
"Mess Your Hair Up" - White Denim
"Where's Your Dirty Mind" - Avi Buffalo
"If I Should Fall From Grace With God" - the Pogues (If you had told me I would live to one day see the Pogues' music being used to sell Subaru soccer mom minvans...)