You know, I actually thought about writing a piece about the Cardinals In Crisis, or perhaps Club In Crisis, talking about whether or not the Matt Holliday injury is the one that will finally force John Mozeliak to make a meaningful move. The Redbirds have managed to stay afloat up until now, in spite of a brutal spate of injuries, thanks to the remarkable depth Johnny Mo and Co have cultivated. This one, though...it really does feel as if this team, in spite of still boasting the best record in baseball and a run differential that would usually qualify them for full-fledged juggernaut status, is teetering on an edge, at least to me.
There has to be some tipping point, where the amount of talent lost to the disabled list becomes so overwhelming that the club simply cannot continue performing at anything resembling the high level we have seen to this point. Of course, without full knowledge of just how long Matt Holliday is going to be out, any such analysis would be missing a crucial bit of information; if Holliday is going to be on the shelf for only a moderate amount of time, then perhaps this latest storm will also be weatherable.
I say I 'actually' thought about writing that because, let's face it, that would have been kind of bizarre. I am, after all, very much the draft guy around here, and to simply ignore the fact today is the third and final day of the amateur draft would sort of fly in the face of what I focus in on for something approaching six months of the year. It would also have been pretty funny, at least to me.
However, in the end, I decided the joke wasn't worth it, and so you won't be getting a longform Matt Holliday piece from me today. No, you'll get what you no doubt expected, which is more draft stuff.
I'm actually not going to do a full review and analysis of the picks made by the Cardinals up to this point, however. For one thing, I'm running very short of time this morning. For another, and more importantly, there will be time for all of that later. This coming Sunday I'll likely offer up some overall analysis of the class, and then next Wednesday do my annual shadow draft. After that, it will probably be no more draft talk for quite awhile; I'm planning on doing a post or two late in the summer or early in the autumn, when the showcase season is in full swing (the PG All-American is in August, which is one of the real highlights of the high school showcase circuit), covering some of the names I'll be scouting for next year. I haven't done that before, always making my lists and the like privately, but I'd like to bring you guys a bit more comprehensive coverage next year, starting with an early preview of a lot of the players I'll be writing up for 2016 just to get the names out there for everyone to at least kind of be aware of.
But anyway, rather than doing a full breakdown of what I think of the players the Cards have taken up until now, I'm going to give you the players I most want to hopefully see the Redbirds call in the first couple rounds today. We discussed on the draft preview podcast how the post-tenth round period is when the draft suddenly gets really interesting again, with teams able to take risks in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth rounds they probably couldn't in the 6-10 round range (though that wasn't all that true this year, strangely enough), due to the bonus pool construction. There are quite a few very intriguing players on the board right now that teams will at least take a shot at; these are the guys I'm hoping the Cardinals can grab one or two of.
Before I get into that, however, I know I said I wasn't giving analysis of the picks already made, but I do have a couple quick thoughts I'll share right now:
- I adore the selection of Paul DeJong in the fourth round. Big power, defensively versatile, extremely smart, and in a situation that should make him affordable. He was a guy I had looked at earlier and tabbed as a future Persons of Interest inclusion, and then just honestly forgot about him. It's a simple problem of volume; even trying to be more organised the last couple years and utilise lists and spreadsheets and all sorts of tools to keep all the players I'm trying to follow straight and figure out who to write up and who to let slide, there are tons of guys who just fall through the cracks in my memory. I love DeJong as a cheap sign here, though, and I really hope the Cards at least give him a chance to do some catching.
- I really like the Kep Brown pick, but am very, very confused by it. I covered Brown in a post about power; he's actually my less-favoured player between he and Brandt Stallings, two players with very similar skills and profiles, but I'm still a fan. However...
- Seeing the Cardinals select two high schoolers in the back half of the first ten rounds was flat-out inexplicable. I'm hoping they know something I don't about how much bonus money they're going to be able to free up to sign Brown and Ian Oxnevad, the lefty from the Pacific Northwest, but it feels like a very long shot they're going to be able to get either of those guys, much less both. There's an interesting game theory element to this situation, in that the Redbirds basically took two guys who would normally fit in the 11th-13th round range, where the bonuses have that 100K buffer and don't cost you anything not to sign, and took them earlier, before anyone else would be able to take them first. They traded a whole lot of downside risk for an opportunity that very well might not have come along at all later on, when the risk was lower. I'm really afraid it's not going to pay off for them, but it's a really interesting tactic all the same.
- I hate the Cubs, so very, very much. They took two of my thirteen favourite players, in Bryan Hudson, the lanky lefty from Alton, and David Berg, the UCLA submariner I've been pining for since the spring of 2014. I feel like I want to scream and puke at the same time, in some sort of projectile sonic vomiting fit. I also like Donnie Dewees, though not to the point of bodily function-related horror.
Alright, enough of that. Here are the players left on the board I'm most hoping to see with the STL logo next to their names on the draft board by the time this day is over.
Kyle Molnar, RHP, Aliso Niguel HS -- I said before the draft that Molnar might be my favourite high school pitcher in this entire draft. He's probably my favourite right-hander, at least; Bryan Hudson is right there with him for the top spot in my heart overall. The fact Molnar is still on the board is testament to the fact he wasn't quite as sharp this spring as he had been last year, with a slow start possibly due to playing basketball over the winter and transitioning straight to baseball with no real break or ramp up period, and also a commitment to UCLA. Grabbing a kid away from the Bruins isn't quite so daunting a task as in the case of Stanford, but it's still a tough job. Still, Molnar is worth the effort, as he features a low-90s sinker with crazy movement and possibly the best high school changeup in the draft.
Chandler Day, RHP, Watkins HS (Ohio) -- Day isn't quite as far up my own personal board as Molnar, but there isn't a huge gulf. I like Day's delivery a whole lot, as well as a hard sinker/devastating waterfall curve combo that could easily rate dual 60 grades in the future, not to mention a changeup more advanced than typical for a high school pitcher. He's tall and lanky and has plenty of room to add weight and strength, as well, and I think if he follows through with his Vanderbilt commitment (which looks very likely at this point), he'll be a top ten selection in 2018. I'd love it if the Cardinals made sure that doesn't happen.
John Aiello, INF, Germantown Academy (Pennsylvania) -- Aiello is not only one of my favourite players in the draft, as I said when I wrote him up in the very last preview of the year, he's also the guy I tabbed as my own personal eleventh-round special in my pre-draft mission statement/manifesto. Clearly, I would flip out if he was the Cardinals' pick to begin the day today.
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Charlotte Christian HS (N. Carolina) -- I covered Kowar not all that long ago, and while it's definitely not an arm action I'm in love with, the stuff is undeniable, with a wicked one-two punch of Jake Peavy fastball and Jake Peavy changeup that I could very easily see myself using the L word in regards to. Pretty strong Clemson commitment, so may not be signable. I really, really like him, though. (And I know scooter does, too, if I remember correctly.)
Alonzo Jones, SS, Columbus HS (Georgia) -- Jones is the fastest man in the draft this year, and one of the most impressive overall athletic specimens you're going to come across. He's another Vandy commit, and they don't need all these good players. Here's an opportunity to shut Buster Olney up about his beloved Commodores, and grab yourself one of the higher-ceiling athletes in the draft.
Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (California) -- Hooper has had one of the weirdest springs of any high-schooler, going from top ten lock to out of the top ten rounds, due to a UCLA commitment and stuff that backed up on him a little this spring. It seemed he let the draft pressure get to him, as the performance both in terms of numbers and actual stuff were down, but the upside here is still enormous. I don't think he's a great bet long term, as he's got one of the uglier arm actions you're likely to see, but good god is the ceiling ever high, and the value could be enormous in the short- to medium-term if you could pop him in the eleventh and actually come up with enough bonus to lure him away from the Bruins.
Luken Baker, 1B/RHP, Oak Ridge HS (Texas) -- I wrote up Baker fairly recently; I like him better as a pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a solid delivery, but the power potential is very intriguing as well. I think he probably goes to school and continues to play on both sides of the ball until it becomes clearer where his future ultimately lies.
Brandt Stallings, 1B/OF, Kings Ridge Christian HS (Georgia) -- I've said a lot about Stallings this spring. He was my second pick in the third round on my draft board. He's still available. I think I would still take Aiello and Molnar over him, but it's close. He's a near-naked-street-dancing eleventh round pick for me. So, you know, if everybody wants to see me on the news again, pull for something like this to happen, yeah?
Solomon Bates, RHP, Junipero Serra HS (California) -- I talked about Bates only in my dream draft board post, where he was my twelfth-rounder. He's a projection pick right now, with one of my favourite deliveries in the draft and a fastball that hits 90 already. USC commitment, so probably not super cheap, but a player I think could be had all the same.
Okay, I'll call that good, ladies and gentlemen. The draft starts back up in a couple of hours, and runs until they're done, 30 rounds later. The Cardinals have a moderately early game today, also, as they try and not get swept by the Rockies. Jesus that sentence hurt to type.
I'll probably put up a thought or two about whoever El Birdos take in the first couple rounds today, but it gets pretty far off in the weeds relatively quickly on day three. I'll be back on Sunday, probably with a full analysis post on the draft, and why I'm so much smarter than a multimillion dollar corporation whose main business is baseball players.