The last chapter of the draft saga is upon us, children; at least for 2015, that is.
What I'm doing today is my annual shadow draft, wherein I go through and make my selections in place of the Cardinals, in the same spots they did, in order to either try and prove how much smarter I am than the ridiculously successful professionals who do this for a living, or perhaps to simply try and keep myself honest in my assessment of my own skills of assessment, if you will. Either way, I make a bunch of picks, tell you briefly why I deviated (if I did, of course), from the Cards' own selection there, and then check back each year around this time to see how I did.
Thus, before we look at the present and I pick for the future, a brief trip into the past, as I review my previous shadowy efforts. Beginning with...
2011 -- The Year of Wong
In 2011, the Cardinals took Kolten Wong with their first round pick. And that has been a brilliant pick, by pretty much any measure. At the time, I liked Kolten, as I thought he would hit for a high average and decent pop, but I definitely did not expect the kind of power output we've seen from him. I thought, at his best, he would be the sort of player to hit 8-10 home runs annually; instead, he has a chance to hit 15-20 this year, and I don't think, having watched him play every day the last couple seasons, that it's a fluke. There was also some question about his defensive ability at second base when he was drafted; he had moved around the field a lot at Hawaii, and there was some thought he might need to go back to the outfield. Having not seen him play defensively much at all, I put a fair amount of weight on those concerns as well. He has since turned into a plus defender at second base, so, again, brilliant pick, Cardinals.
As for my own picks:
1 - Henry Owens, LHP -- Went to the Red Sox, progressed very nicely until this season, when it seems his command and control have regressed, badly. He never had pinpoint control, by any means, but it's really gone to hell this year. It's the first real struggle of Owens's career, and I think he'll still figure it out eventually. The emergence of Wong as a 3.5-4.0 win player at second base, though, means I'm probably losing this pick.
2 - Charlie Tilson, OF -- I agreed with the Cards on this pick. Tilson has hit pretty well most everywhere in his Cardinal career, despite an almost shocking lack of power development. He struggled badly on first promotion to Double A last year, but has returned to the level this season and is putting up a near-league average line. The power doesn't seem to be coming, leaving us with less the early career Steve Finley type I had hoped for and something a little more...Jon Jay-ish, which wouldn't be bad, of course, with the speed and defense Tilson brings to the field.
3 - Derek Fisher, OF -- Fisher didn't sign in the draft in 2011, and so I get no credit for this, really. However, he did sign after being drafted in 2014, and has put up big numbers so far in the Astros' system, so I feel good about my assessment of him as a player even back in high school.
4 - Nick Delmonico, 3B -- I really liked Delmonico back at the time of the draft, and in his first couple stops with the Orioles he looked every bit the patient, slugging lineup presence I thought he could be. He was traded to the Brewers in 2013, hit pretty well for them, but then collapsed in 2014. Apparently there were personal issues, which the whispers have inferred could include a drug problem, and he was released by Milwaukee at the end of the season, despite still being just 22. He's in the White Sox system now, but hasn't gotten on the field much this year. I like the player, but it sounds like he's run into some personal demons.
5 - Chris Marlowe, RHP -- Marlowe was a college reliever I took because he threw hard and I couldn't find another player I really loved on the board at that point. He had arm trouble, didn't perform, and washed out of the game after 2013, so far as I can tell. Not a good pick on my part.
So how did I do? Not very good, honestly. I still think I got three potentially very good players in my first three picks, but not signing Fisher and Owens hitting a snag in Triple A makes my class look a little worse than it could have.
How did the Cardinals do? Better, mostly because of Wong. They took C.J. McElroy, Kenneth Peoples-Walls, and Sam Gaviglio with picks 3-5, and may end up with nothing out of that group. McElroy has shown even less power than Tilson -- thought he can steal a base like nobody's business -- Peoples-Walls has been converted from shortstop to pitching after failing completely to hit, and Gaviglio netted the Cards Ty Kelly in a trade, which would be awesome if the club showed any interest at all in actually, you know, fielding the best team possible.
Better Class? Probably the Cardinals, though I still like Owens a whole lot and take great pride in my assessment of Fisher at the time. Delmonico hurts me badly, though it seems his problems are really not of the on-field variety.
2013 -- Kaminsky Gets Me Arrested
The Cards went college pitching with their first pick, taking Marco Gonzales, while I went for a college hitter with Phil Ervin, a center fielder who ultimately went to Cincinnati in the supplemental round. Gonzales certainly moved faster, and looks to be a solid bet as a back-end starter if he can get healthy.
1 - Phil Ervin -- Ervin, meanwhile, absolutely destroyed the league in his first pro experience, but then struggled a bit last year, getting off to an horrific start before rebounding some later in the year. He appears fully back on track this season, playing at High A and putting up a 137 wRC+, with ten homers, fourteen stolen bases, and a walk rate of 11.0%. I stand by my Tim Raines comparison, and I stand by my pick.
1a - Rob Kaminsky, LHP -- The Cardinals and I agreed, I danced naked in the streets, and now I can't live near schools. Also, Kaminsky has been excellent. He's close to being moved up to Double A still shy of his 21st birthday, and if not for the presence of Alex Reyes in the system would be the Cards' top pitching prospect.
2 - Jon Denney, C -- Went to the Red Sox, and...oy. The performance out of the gate in 2013 was encouraging, but then in March 2014 he was arrested at least twice for alcohol-related infractions, did not appear in a game last year, was reportedly "still working on things at home" as of October, and hasn't appeared yet this year. Between Denney and Delmonico, my organisation is not doing so well on the sobriety and upstanding-citizenness scales.
3 - Stephen Tarpley, LHP -- Tarpley was selected by the Orioles, pitched well for them, and was then traded as part of the Travis Snider deal to the Pirates. He's been solid again this season, though he still needs to cut down on the walks a bit. Probably a reliever, but possibly a really good one.
4 - Zack Collins, C -- Collins wasn't drafted until late by the Reds, didn't sign, and headed off to Miami, where he won the ACC Freshman of the Year award in 2014. He struggled some early this season, putting the 'slump' in 'sophomore slump', but rebounded to put up a 1.041 OPS overall. Incredibly patient, incredibly powerful, and still playing catcher. I don't really get credit for this, because he didn't sign, but I'm telling you: this kid is going to be a monster, and you heard it here first, two years ago.
5 - Bobby Wahl, RHP -- Fell for somewhat nebulous reasons, but has really struggled in pro ball also, so perhaps the reasons were not so nebulous after all. His control is absolutely horrific; he can strike out the world on a pretty regular basis, but walks a ton of hitters and has been extremely homer-prone as well. The stuff is clearly still there, but it's an open question whether or not he can harness it.
So how did I do? Frankly, I'm kind of thrilled with my picks, aside from the off-field disaster of Jon Denney. And, at some point, I have to be realistic about what I am, and how limited my ability to judge character and potential off-field issues really is. Since I'm not an on the road scout (and barring a shockingly successful Patreon campaign I will not be anytime soon), my actual exposure to these players is extremely limited. I can judge mechanical matters and stuff and athletic ability all day long, and I can send out emails and make my inquiries of coaches and parents and a few scouts I sort of know and whoever else, but makeup is just not something I'm really equipped to evaluate, sadly.
Anyhow, I'm quite pleased with my picks here. Ervin is back on track this season, and gives me one of the more dynamic overall offensive talents in the minors. I've got a mid-rotation starter and a potential high-end reliever on the way. I know I don't really get credit for the success Collins is having in college, but realistically what I'm really looking for with these drafts is how well I assess talent, and I consider Collins a big win on that front, even if my front office would probably be very sad right now over failing to sign him. Lastly, Bobby Wahl is a wild card, and could very easily be nothing. He could also take a step forward with his control with a simplified approach out of the 'pen and become a useful setup type reliever. I like the talent I got, for the most part.
How did the Cardinals do? Not so great, really. Gonzales was an excellent pick, and I obviously love the potential of Kaminsky, but after that it gets mighty dicey. They went Oscar Mercado, Mike Mayers, Mason Katz, and Ian McKinney for the rest of their five-round selections, and McKinney is the only one of those players I'm really excited about. Mercado hasn't hit, and the glove has been surprisingly questionable. Mayers has been a solid, if unspectacular, performer in the minors for the most part, but is currently putting up an FIP near 5.00 in Double A as a 23 year old and has seen his walk rate nearly double from where it was in High A ball last year. He could be a useful piece, absolutely, but I don't have particularly high hopes for him. Maybe a move to relief would turbocharge his stuff and results. Mason Katz has hit fairly well, with solid walk rates and above-average power, but he's also nearing 25, is currently striking out over 25% of the time in High A, and doesn't really have a defensive position. He's trying to play second base, in the Dan Uggla manner of things, but I have my doubts. Ian McKinney is an intriguing talent as a pitchability lefthander with a plus curve, but hasn't been on the field much this year; I'm not entirely sure why, to be honest.
Better Class? I actually think I prefer my picks here, particularly if we could imagine a hypothetical world in which Collins signs. Marco obviously made it to the majors faster, but I think Phil Ervin could be an impact bat for a long time, and I like my collection of arms better than what the Cards grabbed up.
2014 -- The Year I Did Ten
I actually did ten rounds worth of shadow draft last year, and so rather than go through each pick individually, I'll list what both the Cardinals and the St. Louis Aarons did in the draft.
- Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
- Jack Flaherty, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS
- Ronnie Williams, RHP, American Senior HS
- Andrew Morales, RHP, Cal State Irvine
- Trevor Megill, RHP, Loyola Marymount
- Austin Gomber, LHP, Florida Atlantic
- Darren Seferina, 2B, Miami Dade CC
- Andrew Sohn, SS, Western Michigan
- Brian O'Keefe, C, St. Joseph's
- Nick Thompson, RF, William and Mary
- Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, Embry-Riddle
- Danny Diekroeger, 3B, Stanford
- Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy HS
- Mike Papi, OF/1B, Virginia
- Ronnie Williams, RHP, American Senior HS
- Milton Ramos, SS, American Heritage HS
- Carson Sands, LHP, North Florida Christian HS
- Jacob Nix, RHP, Los Alamitos HS
- Skyler Ewing, C/1B, Rice
- Reed Reilly, RHP, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
- Branden Kelliher, RHP, Lake Stevens HS
- Andrew Rohrbach, RHP, Cal State Long Beach
- Luke Eubank, RHP, Oxnard College
- David Berg, RHP, UCLA
So, who did what and better?
Way too early to tell, really. I just wanted to put the names down here; if you want to read about the players chosen and the like check out the linked post for info. This one is particularly too early, seeing as how several of my players have yet to even get on the field in 2015, such as Ronnie Williams, Kelliher, and Andrew Rohrbach. From the Cards' list, Luke Weaver is pitching fairly well in High A ball, while my first pick Foster Griffin is taking his lumps in Low A. He's also a 19 year old in full-season ball, so I'm not at all concerned. Luke Eubank is currently tearing it up as a reliever in the Indians' system (point for me), and Danny Diekroeger is hitting better than I expected for the Cards in Low A (point for them). Poncedeleon has been very good, and has an awesome name, so we all win. I will say that Mike Papi, who was one of my favourite hitters in the draft last year, has so far failed pretty miserably in pro ball. He's still showing amazing patience at the plate, with a walk rate near 20%, but he's also striking out far more than I expected (~25% K rate), and hasn't hit for any power at all. Very disappointing to date, though I'm obviously not ready to pull the plug on him yet.
Interesting side note: I actually picked two players in Jacob Nix and David Berg who reentered the draft this year, and one of whom I'm picking again. (I thought about picking both of them again, honestly, but had a change of heart in terms of direction at the last minute.) The Nix pick in particular presents me with a conundrum, as I picked him in place of Trevor Megill, the Cards' third rounder who failed to sign last year. I feel like I would have been able to sign Nix, given he had a deal in place with Houston before the Brady Aiken deal blew up, but in that case I wouldn't have the extra third round pick this year. Which I'm still going to make. I'm thinking too deeply about this hypothetical; it's really a matter of judging players and the like, not trying to set up an actual mirror universe.
Anyway, I'm not about to try and judge how either I or the Cardinals did, when the returns are so minimal. Next year we should have more of an idea how the picks are going to work out.
Good lord, this post is getting long. I think I'm going to have to find some other way of doing this in the future, as with every year I do this there will be more picks to talk about. Probably what I'll do is next year I'll just do a shadow draft post, without covering the full spectrum of what I did in years past. Then, in the offseason when I'm looking for a topic, I'll go back and look at all my picks. There's very little to write about properly in November, usually, so I'll move my shadow draft recaps to the offseason. That seems like a good idea to me. Otherwise, this is going to get completely out of hand when I have to break down three years worth of shadows and then make picks again in 2016. I wish I had thought of that before I started this; it didn't occur to me just how much material I was planning to cover today.
But anyhow, moving on to this year, and what I'm going to do here. I actually have a slight benefit this year, in that I already did a personal draft board in my final wrapup preview post, so I've kind of already made a bunch of picks. And, miracle of miracles, most of my picks would have worked out in terms of what players were available where, so I don't necessarily have to change a whole lot from that if I don't want to.
However, I'm not making all the same picks; my thinking has changed a bit since the day of the draft, and one player in particular has jumped up in my eyes with a second look. So, I'm not going straight down that list I made before and taking the same guys completely.
Round 1, Pick 23
Cards' Pick: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS
Aarons' Pick: Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
Why I differed: The Cardinals took a very exciting bat, a high school player with big-time upside, and a player I can certainly get behind philosophically. However, one of my personal cheeseballs in the draft actually fell to this spot, the player I took in my totally unrealistic can't believe it could happen version of my draft board, and I can't pass him up. Walker Buehler may not have great size, but he has ridiculous talent and a delivery I'm very much a fan of. The Dodgers took him one pick later, at 24, and I can't tell you how unhappy that makes me. Luckily, my universe has no such problems, and I added a quick-moving pitcher with three plus pitches to my system.
Comp Balance Round, Pick 39
Cards' Pick: Jake Woodford, RHP, Plant HS
Aarons' Pick: Bryce Denton, 3B/OF, Ravenwood HS
Why I differed: The Cardinals picked Denton in the second round; I'm actually taking the same player, but even higher in the draft. Why? Well, before the draft, I actually wasn't a huge fan of Denton. I liked the bat speed, but didn't think much of the athleticism and wondered where he was going to play. Since going back and giving him a second look, however, I actually like him much, much better than I did before. He's a better athlete than I thought initially, and the power potential is really, really impressive. I have two players I want to select in this round and the second, and I could go in either order with them. In this case, though, I'm just bumping Denton up.
I strongly considered sticking with Mikey White, the Alabama shortstop I chose on my draft board in the extremely unlikely Buehler scenario, or going with Trey Cabbage, the high school third baseman I much preferred to Denton prior to the draft. However, the more I've looked at Denton, the more I want that offensive upside in my system, even if I think Cabbage is a much better bet to stay at third and I think White is only a step or two off from the middle infielders taken at the very top of the draft.
And why am I staying away from Woodford, you ask? Because I just don't like him all that much.
Round 2, Pick 66
Cards' Pick: Bryce Denton
Aaron's Pick: Bryan Hudson, LHP, Alton HS
Why I differed: Because you can't select the same player twice, basically. I wanted both Denton and Hudson, and would be willing to pick them in either order. Hudson unfortunately went to the Cubs at the beginning of the third round, so I'm going to be very, very miserable rooting for him to be brilliant.
I definitely considered one of the trio of pitchers I liked most heading into the draft: Jacob Nix, Austin Smith, and Kyle Molnar. Ultimately, though, Smith is gone by the point, and I decided I like Hudson a tiny bit more, Molnar was taken by the Cards so late I see no way he signs, so he wouldn't actually be part of my draft class, and Nix I already picked once, so it felt weird to take him again.
Round 3, Pick 100
Cards' Pick: Harrison Bader, OF, Florida
Aarons' Pick: Harrison Bader, OF, Florida
Before the draft, I wanted Chandler Day, a tall high school righthander, in this spot. However, he went very late in this draft, and so will almost certainly make it to campus at Vanderbilt this fall. I know it seems like revisionism to not take a guy in a certain spot just because he probably won't sign in the real draft, but I'm kind of treating that knowledge I have in hindsight as sort of the equivalent of signability info teams have ahead of the draft but I do not. Ergo, I'm going with a college bat I'm quite fond of in Bader, matching the guy the Cards took.
Supplemental Round, Pick 105
Cards' Pick: Jordan Hicks, RHP, Cypress Creek HS
Aarons' Pick: Trey Cabbage, 3B, Grainger HS
Why I differed: Because one of my favourite players fell far further than he should have, and I just now realised it. I'm now left desperately hoping the Twins actually get him signed.
I'm passing on Breckin Williams, the Mizzou closer I really love, to take Cabbage here. I can't pass on the upside play. But, I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge it was a tough call.
Round 4, Pick 131
Cards' Pick: Paul DeJong, INF, Illinois State
Aarons' Pick: Paul DeJong, INF, Illinois State
I'm looking to save some money with this pick and the next, in order to pay all my high school guys from earlier and a couple more I'm going to take later. DeJong has offensive upside, positional versatility, and fits in my budget nicely.
Round 5, Pick 161
Cards' Pick: Ryan Helsley, RHP, Northeastern State
Aarons' Pick: David Berg, RHP, UCLA
Why I differed: So this really is probably a bit of hindsight, seeing as how I'm making this pick here ahead of the Cubs actually taking Berg early in the sixth round, but I'm carving out another substantial chunk of bonus money to reallocate elsewhere, and I've been talking about my love of David Berg since forever around here. He's going to save me a pretty penny, move fast through my system, and toss a whole bunch of swiss army knife-style innings out of my bullpen in a couple years.
Round 6, Pick 191
Cards' Pick: Jacob Evans, LHP, Oklahoma
Aarons' Pick: Nick Shumpert, SS, Highlands Ranch HS
Why I differed: Nick Shumpert is one of my favourite middle infielders in the entire draft this year, and a player I'm much, much higher on than the majority of the industry. To be able to get him all the way down here is hard to imagine, for me, but he's there, I've got some savings banked from my last couple picks, and I'm confident I can meet his bonus demands. And so I've grabbed another of my favourite players, at a draft position I never would have believed possible.
Round 7, Pick 221
Cards' Pick: Jesse Jenner, C, San Diego
Aarons' Pick: Greg Pickett, 1B/OF, Legends HS
Why I differed: I've still got some money from cutting in rounds four and five, and Pickett is a much better offensive talent than this spot in the draft should normally net you. The Phillies took him in the eighth, but I'm popping him here before they can do so. He's a big, power-hitting corner type from Colorado who hits from the left side. On my pre-draft board I actually had him in consideration in the third round, but he's still just sitting here, so I'm taking him.
Round 8, Pick 251
Cards' Pick: Ian Oxnevad, LHP, Shorewood HS
Aarons' Pick: Peter Fairbanks, RHP, Missouri
Why I differed: I don't think I have enough money lying around to take a shot at a high school kid here, and I don't want to miss on signing anyone if I can help it. So, I'm taking Fairbanks a little earlier than I had him on my pre-draft board, but he's a college arm with some real upside still if he can figure some things out, and I value getting local guys into my system when I have the chance.
Round 9, Pick 281
Cards' Pick: Andrew Brodbeck, 2B, Flagler College
Aarons' Pick: Andrew Brodbeck, 2B, Flagler College
Brodbeck wasn't on my radar prior to the draft, but checking him out since being taken by the Cardinals, I'm intrigued. He can really hit, and should stay up the middle. I'll go with the pick here.
Round 10, Pick 311
Cards' Pick: Kep Brown, OF, Wando HS
Aarons' Pick: Ian Gibaut, RHP, Tulane
Why I differed: This is one of the picks I most disagree with the Cardinals on; not because I don't like the player, but because I never believed there was any chance of him signing here, and even with a tenth round pick I'm a firm believer in getting something, rather than nothing.
I would like to take Jared Carkuff from Austin Peay here, but he went undrafted completely, and so will return to school for his senior season, and I don't want to miss out on a player. So I'm taking Gibaut, a hard-throwing reliever from Tulane who should be a reasonable sign here. He works around 93 with his fastball, running it up to 96 at times, and pairs it with a hard slider. Lower arm slot guy with good movement and velocity, and should have a shot at making the bigs as a middle relief/setup option.
Round 11, Pick 341
Cards' Pick: Paul Salazar, Lutheran South Academy
Aarons' Pick: Wyatt Cross, C, Legacy HS
Cross didn't get picked until the 33rd round by the Rockies, and so will almost certainly not sign. But, I like him, and if I'm pretending to be making these picks mostly in the moment, this is a guy I want. I'm taking him over John Aiello, the high school shortstop I took here in my pre-draft board, because Aiello has a stronger college commitment than Cross, I believe, and because catchers are so difficult to find. I believe in this one.
Round 12, Pick 371
Cards' Pick: Jacob Schlesener, LHP, Logan-Rogersville HS
Aarons' Pick: Brandt Stallings, 1B/OF, King's Ridge Christian HS
I know virtually nothing about Schlesener, and so I'm going to default to another of my favourite players from this draft, the guy I think will be a surefire first-rounder in three years, Brandt Stallings. He went undrafted, so definitely gets to college, but I want this guy's name in my system, at least hypothetically.
And I'm going to stop there. Twelve rounds is more than enough, and this post has taken a very, very long time to write. That's the end of my 2015 draft coverage, for better or for worse. Maybe I'll come back during the offseason and update the previous year's shadow draft classes like I talked about earlier. But for now, the book on 2015 is closed.