I'm writing this Tuesday morning, so hopefully nothing earth-shattering has happened between now and when you're reading this to make it entirely obsolete. We didn't all get raptured away in May; hopefully they didn't just forget to carry the one or something and it was the 31st instead of the 21st. (Or was it the 20th? I should pay more attention to apocalyptic predictions made by crazy people, I suppose, just on the off chance one of them eventually gets it right.)
Anyhow, last time I wrote a post ahead of time I predicted a Lance Berkman breakout and it came through fairly well, so I'm going to say we're all buzzing this morning about a Chris Carpenter gem last night. Seven innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, just 3 hits allowed. However, an error by Ryan Theriot allowed two unearned runs to score and Carp still ended up taking the loss, 2-1.
Then again, knowing my luck with news popping up on my post days, it's much more likely the Cards will swing a deal for Jose Reyes (exciting!), or Heath Bell (depressing), at about 9 am Wednesday, so look forward to that. (For the record, I'm not saying Heath Bell wouldn't be a nice addition, only that some team out there is going to give the Padres a big, big haul of talent for him, due to his arbitration status and Established Closer Credentials, and I hope it isn't the Redbirds.) Without further ado, let's jump right into another group of three scouting reports. The draft is coming up fast, and the buzz will start building hot and heavy as we get into June. Onward and upward, comrades.
Austin Hedges, C, Jserra High School (California)
6'1", 185 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Someone asked me in the comments section last week about my own personal top five wish list for the draft. I answered, and one of the names was Austin Hedges, a high school catcher I really, really like. I then realised I haven't actually done a write-up on Hedges. One of my top five guys in the draft, and I completely skipped over him somehow. I covered Blake Swihart, a switch-hitting backstop expected to go high in the first round, awhile back, but missed Hedges.
So anyhow, Hedges is cut very much from the new mold of catcher, an athletic, nimble specimen who has more in common with Buster Posey or Russel Martin than he does a Molina brother. (Although Yadi barely looks like a Molina brother anymore, either, come to think of it.) He moves well behind the plate and has a plus arm to go with quick feet. He runs exceptionally well for a catcher, though there's really no telling whether or not that will remain true as the innings spent in a crouch mount over the course of a career. He has plenty of room to fill out in his frame, which should translate to more strength and more usable power down the road.
What I like most about Hedges isn't what he does behind the plate, though; it's what he does standing in the batter's box. Physically, he and Swihart are similar, with toolsets and projection that resemble one another all the way up the ladder. Add in Swihart's ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and you may wonder why I say I like Hedges better. The answer: the swing.
I love Austin Hedges' swing. Where Swihart doesn't always look connected, with his hands and body getting out of sync at the plate, Hedges has a balanced, athletic swing that just works. He takes an aggressive hack and has an outstanding swing plane.
The only real downside to Hedges is his likely draft position. He has a commitment to UCLA, but most believe he won't be an unusually difficult sign for a high school player. By the time the Cardinals go on the clock he'll probably be long gone, but we've seen players slide for any and all reasons before, including the simple fact high school catchers have an absolutely enormous failure rate in the minor leagues. If Hedges is still there, I have to believe he would represent the best player available and a chance for the Cards to add an impact talent to their system. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Javier Baez, SS, Arlington County Day School (Florida)
6'1", 200 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
If you ask a dozen different scouts about Baez, you'll likely receive at least a dozen different opinions, and possibly a few more if some of them change their minds midway through.
There are questions about Baez on both sides of the ball, and how he answers those questions in the years to come will ultimately determine what sort of player he ends up becoming. He has solid contact ability, with good hand-eye coordination that allows him to hit the ball even with a bunch of extraneous movement in his swing I would personally like to see cleaned up. There isn't a whole lot of power present in his offensive profile, but I think that has more to do with his approach at the plate than it does an actual lack of physical strength.
In the field, Baez shows exceptional hands and a strong arm, plenty of both to stay at shortstop longterm. The questions revolve around his range and his frame. Right now he has the range to play short, but there's plenty of doubt he retains that range as he gets bigger and slows down a step or two. Baez has a big frame, and like any player who doesn't look like a waterbug in the middle infield he gets slapped with the 'move to third base' tag. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to see him at third or second down the road, but I also wouldn't be shocked if he stays at shortstop. He has good actions there and quicker feet than he gets credit for.
On the whole, I like Baez a little better than the prevailing opinions, though as I mentioned above prevailing isn't quite as strong an adjective as it sometimes is in this case. If Baez can stay at shortstop, even his current offensive profile, with no growth, would make him a very attractive player. Moving to second wouldn't change much of anything. Moving to third, however, would knock his value down a notch or two, and put his offense under much heavier scrutiny.
Baez has been linked to the Cards in at least one mock draft, and it's a pick I can certainly understand. What kind of value he offers -- and whether or not he's worthy of a first-round pick -- will all hinge on what position the club examining him feels he'll end up playing.
Larry Greene, OF, Berrien High School (Georgia)
6'1", 230 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Larry Greene is very close to being a one-tool player. The upside to that is his one tool is mighty impressive. (That sounds much dirtier than I meant it to.) Greene offers huge raw power from the left side of the plate, enough to put a late first round grade on him based on his power potential alone.
The downside, of course, is Greene really only offers that one tool. His speed is good enough for a corner outfield spot, but not a plus by any means. His arm is solid, but nothing spectacular. He's a stocky kid already, and he'll have to watch his weight as he gets older to keep from packing on the pounds.
At the plate, Greene is fairly raw, though he has shown growth in his plate approach as he has run the showcase circuit according to most reports. He's not a free swinger, exactly, but is definitely an all-or-nothing type, swinging from his heels and trying to hit the ball a long way every time up. That's not necessarily a problem -- see the success Jose Bautista has had swinging for the fences -- but it does raise concerns about his ability to hit for a high average.
When I look at Greene, the player I think of is Randall Grichuk, the high school slugger the Cards were linked to in 2009 just before the draft, who caused such consternation among draft followers. Grichuk was another future corner outfielder (read: left fielder), who offered tantalizing power as his calling card. Grichuk was skinny, white, and batted from the right side, while Greene is stocky, black, and hits lefty, but the overall profile is much the same. Both are players whose value is almost entirely derived from their ability to hit the ball for power. Oh, and both were rumoured to be drawing interest from the Cardinals prior to the draft. Coincidence? Absolutely.
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of players like Greene. One-tool types just have too limited a range of potential outcomes for my taste, particularly when you're talking about a high schooler, who has such a long way to go. College first basemen with just one tool can move quickly, a la Brett Wallace (who, by the way, is looking more and more like the hitter we thought we were drafting), but a guy like Greene still has plenty of years ahead of him, plenty of years in which things can go wrong. So honestly, Greene wouldn't be my first choice. Or my second. Still, a guy who can mash like Larry Greene will always find some team willing to take a chance on his potential for generating runs.
The draft is this coming Monday night, the 6th of June. The first round will be broadcast on MLB Network. Once again this year, I haven't managed to get to all the players I wanted to, but I've gotten to a fair number of them. I hope these reports help; at the very least, it gives me something to write about when I can't come up with a decent idea.
The Baron's Playlist for the 1st of June, 2011
-- Since this has been the season of the double play so far, as long as the Cardinals retain their MLB lead in GIDPs all of my playlists will come in double play format.
"I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky" - Slim Whitman
"Indian Love Call" - Slim Whitman
"Quicksand" - David Bowie
"Drive In Saturday" - David Bowie
"Great Day" - Madvillain
"Rapp Snitch Knishes" - MF DOOM
"Morpha Too" - Big Star (does this song not sound eerily like half the songs Elliot Smith ever recorded?)
"O My Soul" - Big Star