Krusty is coming, everybody! Er, wait. No. The draft is tonight, everybody! There we go.
So after better than six months of draft posts, nearly 90 players written up in scouting report form, and god only knows how many words dedicated to the subject (I'm honestly scared to even consider the number), we come to the end of the 2015 Draft Preview series. I have plenty of other stuff to say, and a ton of players I still never quite managed to get scouting reports posted on -- sorry, Jordan Holloman Scott. And Willie Calhoun. And Jacob Cronenworth. And Tristan McKay. And Antonio Santillan. And Peter Lambert and Solomon Bates, both of whom I love. And, well, you get the idea -- but time is short, words are precious at this point, and I'm going to skip the long expository bit at the beginning and jump right to the meat of this final draft-related post.
I've got a few bits and bobs of news, my final list of guys I'm especially high on and guys I'm especially low on, and then my own personal draft board if I were running the Cardinals' draft room through eleven rounds. Actually, I might make that twelve, in order to get one extra guy in there I'm pretty high on.
First off, when we did the podcast on Wednesday, I made the mistake of confusing Nick Plummer, a toolsy high school outfielder from Michigan, with Kyler Murray, a toolsy two-sport shortstop/athlete from Texas. I then corrected myself in the comments section, with the point being I liked Murray very, very much as a raw, dual-sport athlete who might slide in the draft and could be popped a little later with a big bonus to sign him away from a commitment to play baseball and football (quarterback, specifically), at Texas A&M.
Well, I have a further correction, or at least a clarification. I had missed the news, but Murray has apparently taken steps to take himself off the draft board, telling teams not to draft him and reiterating he plans on going to A&M to pursue both sports. It's not a 100% sure thing he's been entirely honest, of course; we've seen players say things like that before as a leverage play or because they really believe it until there's a million five starting them in the face, but considering there's so much debate on which sport Murray really has a brighter future playing, I'm inclined to take him at his word and, reluctantly, consider him basically off the table.
Second, Kolby Allard, the undersized but crazy talented SoCal high school lefthander who appeared among my favourite pitchers in the draft way back in the beginning, has not managed to make it back onto a mound yet. He's rehabbing from a stress reaction/fracture in his lower back and has begun throwing, but hasn't yet progressed to throwing from a mound or getting into games. That clouds his future a bit, but not a ton, as there are plenty of teams rumoured to still be interested in him. Ben, Eric, and I discussed Allard a bit on the podcast, and I said then and say now: as much as I like Allard, this injury concerns me. It's the second time in his high school career he's had some sort of back problem pop up, and that's not a good thing for a seventeen year old kid. I worry the back may already be or become a chronic issue. It's still awfully tempting to consider the talent, though, and I don't know what I would do if faced with possibly picking him.
Third, if you haven't seen it already, you should really check out the big sortable draft board that Kiley McDaniel has put together over at FanGraphs. Kiley is the best, even if his taste in rap is generally horrible, and the ability to just sort out players by groups is such a simple thing that you basically never see. Give him a pageview, won't you?
Fourth, in recent mock draft news: MLB.com has the Cardinals taking Nathan Kirby, the Virgina lefty with the mediocre stuff, crap command, ugly delivery, and injury concerns, while Baseball America has the Redbirds popping Kevin Newman, the slap-hitting Arizona shortstop with the elite contact skills and positively Jon Jay-esque lack of power and patience at the plate. Can you tell how I feel about these two projections?
So you're sitting there asking yourself: which players does Aaron really, really like, I wonder? Well, you're in luck, Gentle Reader, since I'm going to give you a list. A baker's dozen, in fact, of players I do, in fact, really, really like. If I had a first name that alliterated well with favourites, I would have a more personal name for this segment, but seeing as how I'm Aaron Schafer and not Freddy Fazbear, I suppose calling it the Final Favourites List will have to do.
And why a baker's dozen? I don't know. Because I like overly precious artificial constructs, and would prefer to do things that way rather than simply making the list however long it actually needs to be, maybe? It could definitely be that.
Anyhow, these thirteen represent the players I think most highly of going in.
- Tyler Jay, LHP -- Jay is the best pitcher in this draft. Watch and see.
- Alex Bregman, SS -- J. Dansby Swanson is the higher pick, but I'm betting on Bregman's absurd contact ability.
- Kyle Tucker, OF -- The best pure hitting prospect in this draft, I believe.
- Walker Buehler, RHP -- I love the broad base of future plus pitches, and a delivery I like better than most.
- D.J. Stewart, OF/1B -- Right up there with Tucker as the best offensive prospect.
- Jacob Nix, RHP -- Great three pitch mix, great frame, and one of my favourite deliveries in the draft.
- Kyle Molnar, RHP -- Exceptionally polished for a HS pitcher, good arm action, and features an outstanding changeup.
- John Aiello, INF -- Switch-hitting up the middle athletes with power potential don't come along all that often, and if Aiello's arm is recovered from TJ, I think he could stick at short.
- Nick Shumpert, SS -- Maybe my favourite HS shortstop prospect, and the player I'm most confused about the overall industry opinion being lower on.
- Bryan Hudson, LHP -- Already features a devastating curve, a solid delivery, and the potential for significantly more velocity as he matures.
- Wyatt Cross, C -- Incredible catch and throw skills, and a bat that projects for above-average contact and doubles power.
- Brandt Stallings, 1B/OF -- Another guy way further down the industry boards than I have him, and a potential coup for a team willing to take him early.
- David Berg, RHP -- The submariner out of UCLA is just a guy I believe in. Don't ask me why; I just do.
There are lots and lots of others, of course, but those are some names that I'll be watching for on the board, and groaning loudly every time one is taken by some team other than the Cardinals. And don't kid yourself; the Cardinals aren't taking any of these guys, because they're way smarter than I am.
And now, the not-so-favourites list. Same number, but guys I'm way lower on than maybe the consensus. Just for posterity, and so you have ammo to attack me with in a year or two whenever I get too uppity about my draft knowledge and scouting abilities.
- Daz Cameron, OF -- Has strangely moved into post-hype sleeper mode before even being drafted, and teams apparently love him again. I still see good but not great tools and a limited ceiling. He should make the big leagues, though.
- Jon Harris, RHP -- Ugh, that arm action.
- Ashe Russell, RHP -- Ugh, that-- wait, I said that already.
- Kyle Funkhouser, RHP -- Mediocre command FB/SL guy with bad mechanics and shaky performance.
- Phil Bickford, RHP -- You'll notice a pattern of me not liking the deliveries on quite a few of these guys. I'd steer far, far clear of Bickford. Also, the secondary stuff has backed up since his high school days.
- James Kaprielian, RHP -- I like the changeup, quite a lot, but the overall repertoire is mediocre, I don't like the delivery, and I have a hard time spelling his name. I mean, 'James'? That's ridiculous.
- Nathan Kirby, LHP -- Stuff that has always seemed supremely average to me, a walk rate that has never dipped below 4.00 this year, an ugly arm action, and now injury concerns. No thank you.
- Kevin Newman, SS -- Look, I know that, "Pete Kozma if Pete Kozma could hit," probably sounds pretty enticing, and he should hit for a high BA while playing shortstop. But the secondary skills are so lacking I have a very difficult time getting excited about his upside. I still like his double play partner, Scott Kingery, better.
- Josh Naylor, 1B -- He's a really intriguing hitter, but a very poor athlete, and I wonder how much he'll actually contribute because of it.
- Braden Bishop, OF -- Gets a lot of credit for playing excellent outfield defense, but I don't think he's going to hit at all.
- Steven Duggar, OF -- Same story as Bishop, but the bat is even less inspiring. Watching him run is super fun, though, admittedly.
- Blake Hickman, RHP -- Big righty out of Iowa is being touted as a potential breakout starter candidate since converting to the mound from catcher. There's arm strength here, but...the mechanics. Oh dear god.
- Andrew Suarez, LHP -- You would think, considering I wrote not one but two scouting reports on him this year, that I must like Suarez quite a lot. I see very mediocre stuff, an iffy delivery, and overall a guy who's just too hittable.
I believe, out of all those players, that Hickman is the only one I didn't get written up properly this spring.
Speaking of, rather than sticking all of the links to all of my draft posts here, I'm just going to link to The Continental's fanpost, which aggregated them all together. Thanks to Continental for doing that; if ever we meet in this life, I owe you a bottle of fine champanyah. Or at least a glass. Keep that open in a tab when the draft is going on tonight, and you'll have my charmingly amateurish attempts at scouting right at your fingertips!
There are two draft preview posts that don't appear in that wrapup, however; the first two, listed as number zero and 0.1, respectively -- which is, I'm sure, why Continental missed them -- cover players returning from previous drafts, as a sort of origin story spectacular. I realised they weren't on there a couple days ago, meant to add them in to the post or email Continental about it, and then...forgot. I don't have a better excuse.
Part Zero covers the three pitchers embroiled in the Brady Aiken saga from last year: Jacob Nix, Mac Marshall, and Aiken himself. Given Aiken has been linked to the Cardinals here and there, and Nix appeared just a moment ago in my favourites list, this is a fairly useful writeup.
Part 0.1 covers Phil Bickford, Hunter Virant (still the best Metroid enemy of all time), and my first scouting report on Andrew Suarez. Much less optimism to be found in this one, particularly since my opinion of Bickford is even lower now than it was at the time I wrote the report.
My Dream Draft Board
Every year, following the draft, I do a shadow draft post, in which I make my own picks in the Cardinals' slots, and then follow along with the development of the players I pick, both to see how I'm doing at this whole scouting thing, and also as just sort of a thought exercise on how the draft goes, and what kinds of risks one might be willing to take, how you balance those things, etc. I will be doing that again this year, in a couple weeks, probably, after the proper draft coverage of writing up players picked and things like that is done. However, this year I also wanted to do the same thing, but ahead of time.
I'm doing this in lieu of a mock draft; mocks are always useful in terms of getting a feel for logic and placement of players, but they rarely tell you much about where guys are actually going to go and things like that. Since there are so many full mocks out there -- and some of them quite good -- I'm going in a different direction. I'm going to pick the Cardinals' first twelve rounds worth of picks, and tell you what I would do, and at least a little about why. Again, I'm not really making predictions; rather, I'm getting my own preferences out there and trying to give everybody an idea of how I would think through making these draft picks and that sort of thing. Of course, I don't really know for sure who is going where, so it's likely a fair number of these picks will be null and void by the time the Cards actually go on the board, as they will have already been picked. I still feel this exercise has value, and it's fun, too. At least for me. And since it's my blog for the moment while I'm writing on it, you'll just have to suffer my whims.
Round One, Pick #23
I'm actually going to start this off with two separate scenarios, which probably sounds like cheating, and sort of is. But, there is a wrinkle to how I'll go about making my next pick which hinges on what I do at this first spot, so I'm going to make both picks here and then go through the scenarios of what happens after that.
First Scenario: If Walker Buehler is on the board when the Cardinals pick, he's my guy. Buehler was one of my favourite pitchers in the entire draft back when I first started out on these scouting reports, and he remains so now. He's a four-pitch righthander who can push the fastball up to 96 at times but usually works at the lower end of that range, throws an above-average changeup I'm very high on, and features both a curve and slider that have their moments, but don't always stay separate. I like the fact he's fastball-changeup as his primary combo, I love the athleticism, and I like the arm action quite a lot. If it were up to me, I would have him scrap the slider or, rather, tighten it up into an occasional cutter, work on changing speeds with the curve a bit more, and call it good. My best comp for him would be something like Zack Greinke, in terms of the body, the wide base of pitches, and feel for changing speeds.
So why would he still be on the board at 23, you ask? Well, to be honest, he probably won't. But, there's a chance he gets there, as he isn't big, doesn't have the frame to get much bigger, and missed time early in the spring with elbow soreness, which is admittedly a concern but one I'm okay with. He's also been a bit more hittable than you would expect with his stuff this spring; the strikeouts and walks have been good, and he hasn't been bitten by the homer bug necessarily (though they're a bit up from his fantastic sophomore campaign), but he's gotten hit more than you might think. Like I said, I don't think he reaches the Cardinals. But, there's a chance he slides a bit, and if he does, then this is my guy lock, stock, and barrel.
One last bonus for Buehler: he's one of the youngest players in his class this year. In fact, Andrew Benintendi, the draft-eligible sophomore who made such a huge splash this spring and is now a lock for a top 5-10 pick, is exactly...22 days younger than Buehler. Walker Buehler and I also share a birthday. He's destined for greatness, clearly.
Buehler won't be a particularly cheap sign, but shouldn't really be an overslot guy, either, I don't believe. He'll cost slot or just a shade more, I think.
Second Scenario: If Buehler is off the board, as I expect him to be, then I obviously have to look elsewhere. If Tyler Stephenson, the high school catcher from Georgia, is available he would be my pick, but it looks like Stephenson will go between 10 to the Phillies and 15 or so.
I would also consider Brady Aiken and/or Kolby Allard here, were either of them to make it to this pick. Both are likely to be gone; the Pirates appear to be on Allard in particular. Aiken might be here, though. Tough to say, really. Both guys are injury risks, and in both cases they appear to be the sorts of injury risks that could be chronic; Aiken in particular, as his Tommy John surgery was apparently 'unusual' in some way, though beyond that we don't know a whole lot of details. I'm just not sure I would feel completely comfortable drafting him, even though the upside, if he gets fully healthy, could be enormous. Allard I would have slightly less trouble taking, but even there, back issues are scary in terms of long-term health. Still, I would be very tempted.
In this case, I'm going to go with D.J. Stewart, the outfielder from Florida State with the Jeff Bagwell crouch. I don't think Stewart plays a position more difficult than left field or first base, but I'm a big believer in the bat, and if a guy can hit than he can play. I'm also, I admit, reaching a bit for this pick, as Stewart is more generally in the early 30s of the rankings, and I think I can get him for a little under slot here. I'm hoping to save some money on a guy I see as a really good bet to produce offensively and possibly move to first in short order for the Cardinals. He could also be trade bait, in that Brett Wallace sort of way.
This might feel like an uninspiring pick to someone looking for pure athletic upside, but I've come to believe more and more that the hit tool can trump a whole lot of other shortcomings in a player, and that's why I'm going with Stewart. He'll walk, he'll hit, and he'll hit for solid but not elite power. I might comp him to Kyle Schwarber a bit, the Indiana "catcher" the Cubs took fourth overall last year, though Stewart isn't quite as sure a thing as Schwarber.
Competitive Balance Round, Pick 39
First off, can I just say I think teams should be trading for these picks more often? If I were a GM, I'd be trying to load upon these things, since they're the only draft picks that can be dealt, and come with the additional bonus pool money associated with that slot. I want both the extra picks and the extra flexibility, and would be amassing as many of these as possible. I'm sure there are reasons not to, but that's what I would do for the two years they actually let me before I was fired for massive incompetence.
Buehler Scenario: If I actually managed to come up with Walker Buehler at pick 23, then I paid him slot or maybe a little more, and I'm going to reach for a player here to try and gain some financial flexibility. There are tons of players who should be here I like a lot, but I need some bonus space, so I'm going with Mikey White, the Alabama shortstop whose game isn't all that dissimilar from J. Dansby Swanson's, if a poor man's version. We talked about White on the podcast; I like him a whole lot, and think he's been weirdly overlooked just due to the bizarre bumper crop of not only college shortstops in general this year, but SEC shortstops specifically. (Seriously, just from the SEC in the first couple rounds you have Swanson, Bregman, Richie Martin, and White. That's just weird.) I could also be talked into one of the other college shortstops from the post covering White, either Blake Trahan from Louisiana-Lafayette or Kyle Holder, the defensive whiz kid from San Diego, but I prefer White's overall game and power potential to the glove of Holder or the footspeed of Trahan.
White should be a fairly cheap sign here, giving me some financial flexibility for my next couple rounds, and he's an undervalued asset in my opinion. This is the dream scenario for me.
Stewart Scenario: If, however, Buehler is gone at 23 and I take D.J. Stewart, I think I saved some money on that pick, in which case I'm going in a different direction. As much as I like the Buehler/White scenario, I have to admit there's some real attraction to taking Stewart and one of the guys I'm about to talk about.
There are three right-handed pitchers who should be available here I absolutely love: Kyle Molnar, Jacob Nix, and Austin Smith, the athletic power arm from Florida. I'll be honest: I would be thrilled to come away with any of these three here. If I'm trying to separate them out, though, I might have to go Molnar with the slightest edge, due to his feel for changing speeds with a nasty two-seam fastball and plus changeup, not to mention an overall level of polish completely out of the norm for a high schooler. Nix would probably be my second choice, as he has one of my favourite deliveries in the draft, can goose the fastball up to 95, and shows a solid three-pitch mix featuring a split change that I've said before puts me a bit in mind of Dan Haren. Smith has the highest velocity ceiling of the three, and a potentially plus curve, but the feel is a little less there and he's not really shown much of a changeup. Really, though, I'm ordering these three guys, but the margins between them for me are so slim I would gladly select any of them.
My pick: Kyle Molnar. Probably. Although I will say: if Nix, who received a half million dollar settlement (somewhere in there, I believe), from the Astros last year for breaking their agreement with him, would be a little cheaper sign, giving me some more flexibility, he might very well jump over Molnar.
Round Two, Pick 66
I actually don't need to go through two scenarios here, as either way my pick is the same. I'm taking Bryan Hudson, the tall left-handed curveball specialist from Alton, Illinois. Hudson made strides this spring, but as a 6'7" lanky drink of water just really starting to come into his own physically, there's plenty of projection left, not to mention plenty of development still needed. All the same, I love this kid, and think he could have one of the higher ceilings of any pitcher in the entire draft class.
This might be a bit of a reach, honestly, considering where Hudson shows up in the draft rankings. I'm a believer, though, and I won't lie: I'm a sucker for the local kid. But more than anything, I just think the sky is the limit for what he could become.
Round Three, Pick 100
This round is my last protected pick, so I'm going to go with a tougher sign here. Hopefully I've banked a bit of flexibility to this point, but even if I haven't I'll figure it out later. I'm taking a risk on a signability guy regardless, as doing it in the fourth round would leave me out in the cold if negotiations break down.
I really wish Trey Cabbage would be available here; he's one of my favourite rising-stock guys on the offensive side of things, but I don't think he makes it here. I would also consider Marquise Doherty, the two-sport Mizzou commit from out near Kansas City, but word is he will probably end up in school, as it's an open debate right now where he has the best future. I would be very tempted, though. I like him a lot.
For me, this pick comes down to Doherty, Chandler Day, a tall right-handed high school pitcher from Ohio, or Jackson Kowar, the Jake Peavy-ish arm slot righty from North Carolina. I like the stuff on both Day and Kowar, but I think Day's arm action is less risky. I'll use that as the tiebreaker.
I would call up Doherty and try to get a feel for his signability. If I thought I could get him, I would take him. If not, Chandler Day is my guy here.
Supplemental Round, Pick 105
From what I understand of the new CBA, picks you fail to sign remain protected for two years, rather than just one, so this particular pick that I received for missing on on Trevor Megill last year should still be protected. If it isn't, I may have to reassess.
However, working on the assumption this pick is still protected, I'm taking another tough high school sign here in Brandt Stallings, the big first baseman slash outfielder from Georgia. Greg Pickett, a similar player from Colorado, would also very much be a consideration here, but on the whole I think I like Stallings just a tick better in a competition between two monster power hitters.
Round Four, Pick 128
I'm taking steps here to save some money, as I want a little extra flexibility to hopefully take a shot at a kid I love in the fifth. Also, I've banked a bit to this point, but my two third round picks could eat up any surplus there in a hurry.
That's why I'm going with a college reliever here in Breckin Williams, the Mizzou closer with the hard fastball/cutter combo. I really like the arm and the aggressiveness, and he should be a low-cost signing with the promise of an expedited rise up the ladder if he performs. He's close to a finished product, and I don't think there will be too many speed bumps for him.
Round Five, Pick 158
I'm taking a risk here, going after one last high school kid with an unprotected pick, but the player is one of my favourites in the whole draft and is a complete steal here, I believe, and I'm completely puzzled why he seems somewhat forgotten by the overall industry.
Nick Shumpert is the Colorado shortstop and son of former big leaguer Terry Shumpert, as well as Mookie Betts's cousin, which I thought was sort of cool. Honestly, I'd be willing to spend my second round pick on Shumpert, but I think I might be able to grab him late. There seems to be a lot of question about whether he plays shortstop; I think he does, and does so well. He hits everything hard, and has plus speed. I love this guy. Love him. I'm playing a terrifying game waiting to take him until here, and may have to mentally switch him and either Stallings or Chandler Day, but I get the feeling those guys might be tougher signs, so I want the protection of the picks there.
Round Six, Pick 188
I'm going cheap here, reaching for a college senior I like, and taking Austin Byler, the slugging first baseman from Nevada.
Round Seven, Pick 218
I'm going to take Hunter Virant here, if he's still on the board. Things have gone horribly for Virant since he got to UCLA, but I wonder if the talent I liked so much when he was coming out of high school is still in there somewhere. I can't imagine he'd be a tough sign at this point, as he doesn't seem to be going anywhere but down in college.
If he's not available here, I'll take David Berg, and see below for the ramifications.
I also very much like Garrett Cleavinger, a power-armed lefty reliever from Oregon, at this spot. I think he probably goes earlier than this, though.
Round Eight, Pick 248
David Berg, UCLA: You guys know how much I like Berg. He's a college senior reliever, which should translate into a very cheap sign, and I think he submarines his way to the big league bullpen.
If I had to take Berg in the seventh, I'll go with Michael Freeman, a 6'8" lefty from Oklahoma State, also a senior. He's got a funky delivery and great feel for maneuvering an upper 80s fastball around the zone. Not much in the way of complementary pitches, and he's probably a lefty specialist sort of reliever. I'm intrigued by the funk and the feel, though.
via Vicki Freeman:
Round Nine, Pick 278
I'll take Garrett Dean, the left-swinging catcher from a juco in California. Dean doesn't have much upside, but he's a nice receiver with solid contact skills.
Round Ten, Pick 308
I'm going back to the Mizzou well and taking Peter Fairbanks, a tall right-handed starter who can throw hard but only just started to figure out any kind of complementary pitches this year. He's a junior, and won't save me quite as much money, but he's a local kid, from Webster Groves, and I'm hoping the combination of hometown team and a pitching development machine that could benefit him -- not to mention a Tommy John surgery already in his past -- could lure him in for a very modest bonus. He's probably a reliever, given the limited repertoire, but there's some raw material to work with here.
Round Eleven, Pick 338
Ah, and now we come back to the interesting part of the draft, where I suddenly have a 100K buffer zone for every pick and don't lose anything if a guy fails to sign. Sweet, sweet eleventh round, how I love thee.
There are a few players I think could fall to here with high upsides I really like. Specifically, I think John Aiello, the infielder who appeared just earlier in my favourites list, could make it here because of doubts about his arm strength returning and a strong commitment to Wake Forest. The other two are the two high school catchers, Wyatt Cross and Garrett Wolforth, both of whom I absolutely adore. Given my druthers, Cross would probably be the guy here. However, considering the truly barren nature of the catching class, even being a tough sign won't be enough to get Cross and Wolforth to slide past the point they could reasonably be taken, and so I think Aiello is the best bet to make it here. Ergo, he's my guy.
Round Twelve, Pick 368
This is probably my last shot at a signability upside play, and so I'm taking a kid I never did get around to writing up even though I'm very high on him, and that's Solomon Bates, a right-handed high school pitcher from California. He's got a great frame, touches 90 with the fastball right now and should grow into a bit more, and has one of the best deliveries I've seen this year.
Bates is committed to USC, and could be a guy who comes out of school much better than he goes in, so this will be a tough sign. But I really like the projection here, he shows a fantastic arm action, and enough fell for spinning the ball that I want to get him into a pro system and see what he could turn into.
via The Prospect Pipeline:
Wow. This is a long post.
Those are my picks. My board, if you will. I hope you found the exercise interesting, not just for the players, but for some of the thought process that goes into determining who to pick, and where.
I'm happy with those picks; if things worked out that way and I managed to get Shumpert in the fifth, as well as Stallings, Hudson, and Chandler Day or Marquise Doherty, I would, well, there would street nudity involved, I'm sure. I'm not thrilled I didn't manage to come away with really any catching talent to speak of, but at the spots I thought of taking a catcher I really like there was always a player I liked better. My system is just going to have to count on Carson Kelly, and maybe target other teams' catching prospects in future deals, I suppose.
Anyway, that's enough of this. We'll have a draft-specific chat thread this evening, in addition to the normal game thread, and I'll be writing up the players taken by the Cardinals as quickly as I can.
Have a great day, everybody. Krusty is coming.