Today's Hatchlings post is little more than a 2013 draft retrospective -- looking back at a few of the prospects from last year's draft after some limited time playing against some other young professionals with wooden sticks in the Gulf Coast League.
Acquired: Draft, 2013: 1st round, 28th overall
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Kaminsky was drafted out of a New Jersey high school last year, and signed with the Cardinals, foregoing the opportunity to play at the University of North Carolina. At 6’ even, Kaminsky is short for a starter, so brace yourself to hear that talking point drummed into your skull if he becomes successful. He signed relatively quickly after the draft, and made his debut in the Gulf Coast League on July the 4th. He was impressive over 22 innings in eight appearances, striking out 28, and walking 9 batsmen. GCL numbers aren’t particularly meaningful in any sample size, not to mention 22 IP, but a solid K-rate and an ERA below four are always pleasant to look at, and better than the alternatives.
Reports have Kaminsky throwing mostly in the low 90s, and with a smaller frame he’s unlikely to start throwing any harder than that. In addition to the fastball, Kaminsky’s repertoire includes a very good curveball, and a decent changeup. Looking through the scouting reports from around the web, conveniently gathered by jeff_underscore here, I can’t help but notice they’re full of all the little good things you’d want to hear about a pitcher. Baseball America called him "a bulldog on the mound", noting that he "repeats his athletic delivery well". Keith Law noted his "good feel for pitching", and Baseball Prospectus wrote that his curveball "has legitimate plus-plus potential." I mean, every consensus first-rounder is going to have a good scouting report, but Kaminsky’s sounds especially positive. BA puts it nicely, saying Kaminsky has "some of the best present stuff in this year’s high school class."
Still, perhaps the quote that’ll be best remembered by VEB is Red Baron’s promise to "dance naked in the streets" if the Cardinals were to draft Kaminsky.
Given all the nice things said about him, it's hard not to like the Kaminsky pick. He's not the sort of pitching prospect that gets thought of as a future Cy Young winner, but with his advanced offspeed pitches and solid fastball, I'd be very surprised if he didn't have some immediate success in the low minors. Nobody is a guarantee to make it to the majors, but Kaminsky sounds like the sort of pitcher that will move through A-ball very quickly for a high school draftee. I wouldn't be too surprised to see him in AA some time in 2015.
In 2014, I expect he'll spend most of his time in Single A pitching for the Peoria Chiefs.
Acquired: Draft, 2013: 10th round, 305th overall
Collymore was drafted as a SS, but, to be clear, he’s not projected play there in the majors. Collymore hails from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and is a fantastic athlete who hasn’t had a chance to refine his baseball talents. He got his feet wet in the GCL last season, struggling in 60 PA. He hit .228/.267/.333, which is bad. Still, as a prospect that is especially raw even for a high school player, it’s no reason to be concerned for his long term development.
Collymore is not much more than an athlete right now. More so than other young players, there’s not a lot else to say about Collymore at the moment. All aspects of his game need refining. He has the potential to be a power hitter down the road, but right now that’s a long ways off, as evidenced by his 38.3% strikeout rate in the GCL. Defensively he needs to find a home. He’s not considered a long term SS, and having been drafted alongside Mercado and Rivera, he would have a hard time finding playing time there anyway. In the GCL he played five games at DH, and 14 at 2B, collecting eight errors in 46 chances. He’s incredibly exciting for a 10th round pick, and worth keeping an eye on, but right now his most likely career path is "bust".
It's a long road to the majors for Collymore. Guessing from his time at the position in the GCL, I expect the Cardinals to start him at 2B next year and see how it goes. He's a long way from any full season leagues though.
He'll hone his skills at extended Spring Training until the short season leagues get started, when he'll get some in-game experience with the Johnson City Cardinals in the Rookie Appalachian League.
Age: 18 (Turns 19 on March 15)
Acquired: Draft, 2013 -- 7th Round, #215 overall
Rivera was an upside pick a year ago -- someone in the mold of what Pete Kozma was supposed to be, only deep in the middle rounds of the draft rather than in the top 20: He's a high school stud with a good glove, above-average arm and a projectable bat. There are some questions of whether he can stick at the SS position in pro ball or whether he'll have to move to the the keystone as well as questions about whether he'll hit enough to be a valuable player there. His 5 homers in 145 PA's in the GCL last year were a bit of surprise -- this was a kid who supposedly made good contact but didn't project for much more than gap power, as jeff's writeup last June makes clear.
At 6'1" 185 pounds, Rivera has a lanky build that could fill out some, but if it does might move him off the SS position later in his career. Right now, though, he's going to battle his draft-mate Oscar Mercado (see below) for innings at the SS position as they each move up through the minors. When you watch him field what you see is very polished fundamentals, good athleticism, range, and a cannon for an arm. This is what you look for in a great glove man:
Rivera's swing is quiet and quick, with good bat speed through the zone and excellent balance. There are some issues: He loads the bat really deep, which gave him lots of problems with breaking pitches at the high school level and doesn't bode well for the better breaking stuff that he'll see as he moves up into A-ball. Another: His swing is very "arm-y": Rivera stays compact through his load, but when he swings, he tends to swing with his arms rather than his body, so it's little wonder why he's had such a struggle hitting for power despite his good size. The noodle-ness of his swing is absent for a bit in the Home Run Derby segment when he's trying to drive the ball more, so maybe this is something that can be fixed. But then you watch him look horrific on two breaking balls out of the strike zone against live pitching and you're back to considering him not much more than a fringe mid-round project with limited upside.
Perhaps Rivera has already worked some of these things out (as his late summer power production would suggest) and with projections of 70 for both arm and defense on a 20/80 scouting scale, Rivera is an excellent risk/reward prospect for a farm system void of any upside potential at his position.
He's just hatched and it's likely going to be a while before he's able to truly spread his wings at the professional level. Rivera's defense might be ready for AA, but his bat still screams Rookie League, especially after hitting .195/.255/.353 in 145 PA's in the GCL last summer. The 11 extra base hits are encouraging. The 33 K's to 9 BB's? Not so much. He's a project, and one that the club will have a bit more of a grasp of at the end of 2014. Possible move to 2B coming for him as he fills out. Dark horse candidate to move behind the dish a-la Carson Kelly as well -- certainly has the size and arm to do so, and bat might play better there too.
Getting plenty of playing time in the GCL, possibly Peoria if his bat improves. It will be interesting to see who the better defender is between Rivera and Oscar Mercado as they were ranked 1 and 2 on most draft boards for middle infield defense last spring.
Acquired: Draft 2013 -- 2nd Round, #57 overall
A number of scouts had Oscar Mercado as the top SS prospect in a 2013 draft that was historically weak on high-ceiling middle infield prospects and that's nearly all of the strength of his glove -- pretty much every report you read touts it as major league ready right now. The question: Will his bat ever catch up with his defense? The Cardinals paid Mercado over slot to sign a professional contract, so clearly they believe that it will:
Mercado didn't show much promise at all with the lumber last summer, hitting just .209/.290/.307 in the GCL in 186 PA's. He did demonstrate a good walk rate (9.1 BB%) in that limited sample as well as swiping 12 bags while being caught just 4 times, a 75% success rate. Pretty solid for a guy that doesn't possess blazing speed on the base paths.
Mercado was nearly a consensus pick for the top defensive SS in the draft before J.P. Crawford climbed up draft boards last spring. Still, I'd put Mercado on top -- he just makes every single play look effortless, with above average range to either side and an arm that can power the ball to first from shallow left field. I'd say that Rivera probably has a better overall arm, but Mercado's is better than average. A 60/70 rating with a quicker release that's much more accurate presently than Rivera. It's really just a pleasure to watch Oscar play defense, and something I'll look forward to seeing as much as possible this year while covering the GCL:
The bat? Well...I like it more than Rivera's if only because I think the contact skills are better. Mercado's shorter load won't leave him as susceptible to big league breaking balls either. He doesn't strike out quite as much as Rivera does, walks a bit more, and is even a tad taller at 6'2", 175 lbs. That's not wiry strong though: Mercado's probably going to have trouble pushing his ISO over .100 at any point in his career and just doesn't seem to have the athletic frame that Rivera has to develop into. I think he can be a good line drive hitter his excellent baserunning instincts could make him a valuable offensive player despite his lack of power.
If his glove is as good as advertised he probably won't have to: A .270 hitter with 70-80 defense at SS and an average walk rate is a 3 WAR player. When you think of Mercado as a big leaguer just try to imagine a poor man's Elvis Andrus: Not quite as fast, but polished defensive tools and the ability to make good enough contact to have value offensively. The Cardinals haven't had a SS prospect with that kind of potential for quite a long time -- maybe Mercado can finally shatter the Templeton barrier and break through when we put Jhonny Peralta out to pasture in 2018.
Make no mistake, a 2018 arrival is probably pushing it for Mercado. If he pans out as a prospect, I wouldn't expect to see him until at least 2020, meaning he's going to spend a significant amount of the 2014 season stumping around the bus leagues developing his offense and honing his considerable defensive skill. He'll promote only as fast as his bat allows, and I expect that to be pretty slow.
I'd be shocked to see him get out of the Rookie league this year, unless his bat takes a giant leap forward without the inevitable step back. This is a player to watch, in my humble opinion, and someone who has all the tools to make himself a very valuable prospect
Well, there you have it: The four players to watch from the GCL (and who, minus Kaminsky, are more than likely to be right back on the GCL prospect list in 2015 as well). All projection at this point -- samples are too small to adjudicate their skills in any kind of predictable way but each of them have excellent tools. We anticipate Kaminsky climbing up the Top 100 this year and the Cardinals track record with drafting pitchers the last half decade is unrivaled across baseball.
We'll return on Friday with a look at a few other of the Rookie league prospects to watch for this season...