You know, I sure do like having Carlos Beltran on my favourite baseball team.
I don't know that I really need to come up with much more compelling analysis than that, to be honest; Carlos Beltran is a fantastic baseball player -- still -- and I'm really glad it was the Cardinals who managed to snag his services in the offseason. Johnny Mo pulled quite a rabbit out of his hat for the second offseason in a row.
What shouldn't be overlooked, though, I think -- though it would be awfully easy too in the light of Beltran's amazing evening -- was just how good Jake Westbrook has been so far this season. I will freely admit I had mostly given up on Westy following last year's debacle; the reaction was probably more emotional than analytical, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. There was something that was just so...unpleasant about watching Westbrook pitch in 2011 that it turned me almost completely against him. Something about the 0-2 counts turning into 3-2 counts turning into nibbling, maddening walks.
This year, though, Westbrook has looked like an almost completely different pitcher; more like the pitcher he was in the past before last season. That 1.76 ERA is certainly fantastic to see; better yet is the 2.75 FIP and 3.17 xFIP. Sure, he's getting lucky -- at least a little bit -- but the fact is he's not walking anyone, he's keeping the ball in the ballpark, and that's really all you can ask from a sinkerballer. Actually, you know what? That's not all you can ask of a sinkerballer; that 62.8% ground ball rate is downright remarkable. That's what you can ask of a sinkerballer.
Today we have a grab bag of draftable players; there isn't a connecting theme so much with this group as I usually try for. But, I'm running late and in a hurry, and I've already got notes on these three ready to go. So, after the jump they shall go.
James Ramsey, OF, Florida State
6'0, 190 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
James Ramsey is a college senior. Now, while that may not seem like a real big deal on the surface, that may very well make him much, much more attractive to the Cardinals in June. The reason is all those extra picks the Cards have. Even with an expanded budget, if the Cardinals plan on taking any chances on higher-priced risks, they'll likely need to find someplace to cut a little on other players.
Enter Ramsey, whose school status leaves him with little leverage and what will likely be a more modest price tag. A speedy, left-handed hitter, Ramsey's profile honestly puts me in mind a bit of former Cardinal farmhand Tyler Henley. Both covered huge swaths of ground in the outfield, and neither had quite the power to make them elite prospects. Much like Henley, though, Ramsey has a patient, intelligent approach at the plate that could help his tools play up. Ramsey does have better speed overall than Henley did, but with a tradeoff of slightly less power.
Ramsey's ceiling isn't the highest, but he's polished and has been very successful at the NCAA level. Add in a lower price tag and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Cardinals use one of their picks on him this year if they do decide to go for broke on one or more of their other picks.
Trey Williams, OF, Valencia High School (California)
6'1", 210 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Williams has good bloodlines, as his father was a big leaguer for over a decade, and it shows. His on-field IQ is very high, and he has plus power potential to boot. You hear the word specimen thrown around a lot with Williams, and it's an apt description. He certainly doesn't look like a high schooler. He's one of those guys who just generates bat speed without seeming to try, and he's smart enough to use the whole field most of the time. His discipline and a sound swing should make it possible for him to hit for high averages as well as plus power, giving him a very intriguing bat for a high schooler.
Defensively, Williams' arm is a plus, but he needs work on the rest of his skills. The glove plays at third, but it isn't great at this point. There's really no reason to believe he won't stay at the hot corner, though; this isn't a one-dimensional slugger who will need to shift across the diamond at a later date.
Williams offers an unusually advanced game for a high schooler, and the power potential could make him a star down the road. I don't know if he'll ever be more than average in the field -- though he certainly has the tools that he could be -- but that will be more than good enough if he hits the way he could.
I'm very high on Williams, personally; you don't often see players come along with his combination of raw physicality and plus makeup. I would love to see the Cards pop this guy with one of their early picks, giving them a plus athlete in the minors to shape into something special.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State University
6'3", 180 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
A forearm strain this spring put Johnson on the shelf for a time and likely depressed his draft stock; he looks to be healthy now, though, and should go off fairly early. He has a solid repertoire, beginning with a plus breaking ball that can flash even better than that at times. It can be a little slurvy, stuck in between the two traditional breakers, but so far it hasn't really mattered. It's a true swing-and-miss pitch, and is easily Johnson's best offering. I would think any team drafting Johnson would likely try to tighten it into one or the other of a slider or curve, but I don't honestly know which way would be best. Personally, I would leave it alone, but that doesn't seem to be the way teams think.
He works his fastball in the low 90s, topping out at 94, but it's a little on the straight side. When he keeps it down it's good enough, but when he tries to elevate it can get ugly in a hurry. I don't know if he throws a four-seam or two-seam fastball, honestly; it's possible a change to a different fastball grip could improve the movement he generates with the pitch and make him more effective. He also throws a changeup, but it rates as no more than usable.
I've seen Johnson pitch a handful of times, and I've come away a little...unimpressed. Or maybe no unimpressed, but just a little underwhelmed. He certainly has the frame, and the stuff looks very good at times, but he hasn't jumped out and told me he's a future stud. Perhaps I've only seen him on bad nights, but I just haven't seen what everyone else has to make him a potential high round draft pick. Still, he has one true knockout pitch and good control; perhaps he ends up in a bullpen somewhere down the road, bumping his velocity up and airing out the curveball at every opportunity.
I will say I really, really like his delivery, though as always when I haven't seen high-speed video of the guy I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date. His arm action I find very encouraging, and if I watch it enough I just might talk myself into liking him more than I do now.
There it is, folks, another batch in the can. I hope you'll forgive the extremely late post; life intervenes from time to time. Take care, and I'll see you all again next Wednesday.