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The First Night of the Draft, In Brief

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The Cardinals' first night of the MLB draft was very surprising. VEB's resident draft obsessive is here to break it down for you.

Mmmm, draft.
Mmmm, draft.
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

The picks are in -- at least, the first two rounds of picks are in -- and the St. Louis Cardinals played very much true to form. This is a team that values performance, that values track records, that values fast-moving talents, which usually translates to college. The direction and demographics are clear, and we saw again last night how the Cardinals rarely deviate from their plan. Hey, it might not be the most exciting, but if it ain't broke, then why fix it, right? And so, when the Cards reached into the barrel of solid college performers from which they like to shop, I--

Wait, what? Did you just say the Cardinals took three high schoolers last night, one of whom (their first pick, as a matter of fact), is a cold-weather kid with an extremely limited amount of track record? That...just can't be.

With the first night of the draft in the books, I thought I might take a moment to quickly go over the players the Cardinals drafted, seeing as how they miraculously drafted three players I didn't cover, though I mentioned Plummer several times, and Eric and I briefly talked about Bryce Denton on the podcast. Anyhow...

Round One, Pick 23 -- Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School (MI)

5'11", 190 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this pick?

In a draft with very, very few elite offensive talents, the Cardinals managed to grab one of the few available. Plummer has one of the most intriguing bats of any player this year, both in terms of contact ability and power potential. If one were so inclined to look for a player specifically to bet on possibly becoming a cornerstone type guy in terms of the bat, one might -- might, I say! -- land on Nick Plummer's name.

The first thing that really stands out about Plummer is the bat speed. This is a kid capable of really whipping the bat through the zone in a hurry, and that alone makes him a highly intriguing offensive talent. He's got a nice approach, as well, focusing his efforts toward the middle of the field, rather than selling out for power by trying to yank everything, which is much more common in high school kids.

I made the comp last night to J.D. Drew, only with less arm, and I don't hate that. In the comments Shin-Soo Choo was brought up, from a purely offensive standpoint, and I don't hate that, either. I also, if I can go for recent Cardinals' history, could see a little of Kolten Wong in Plummer, in that he is of fairly modest stature (though still several inches taller than Kolten), with a compact, athletic build and tremendous pure bat speed that leads to plus power in spite of the player not necessarily looking like a prototypical thumper.

The downside for Plummer is that the rest of his game is not nearly as exciting as his bat. He's an average runner, maybe a tick above, and there's a question to be asked about whether he plays center field at the next level. I said last night, and I stand by it now, that if Jon Jay has the speed and athletic ability to play a solid center field, then Plummer does as well. Plummer is faster than Jay, although not the kind of plus runner you normally see patrolling the wide-open spaces of center.

Unfortunately, Plummer's arm is similar to Jon Jay's, as well. That means if he is unable to handle center, he's almost certainly confined to left field, I think he could end up a very good defensive left fielder, but let's not kid ourselves: if Plummer ends up moving off center field, his value takes a definite hit.

Still, what you're betting on with this particular player is the bat. He has tremendous offensive upside, with excellent natural bat speed that gives him a leg up on all the other skills he needs to refine to become the player he could potentially be. There are much worse bets to place than a bat like this, and while I'm still in mourning for Walker Buehler passing us by last night, the pick of Nick Plummer is one I'm feeling quite optimistic about.

via Brian Sakowski:

Competitive Balance, Pick 39 -- Jake Woodford, RHP, Plant High School (FL)

6'4", 210 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this pick?

When I wrote this pick up last night, scrambling to find what few notes I had taken on a guy who had fallen through my personal net of writeups, I felt fairly good about Woodford, even though I was very much disappointed in some of the other talent the Cardinals had passed on to take him. Now, with a little more time to look at him, and a night to think about/sleep on the pick, I don't like it nearly as well, even if I still don't think it's a disaster.

The good thing about Woodford is the fastball. He throws hard, capable of pushing it up to 94-95 at times, and even better than that is the hard sinking action on the pitch. It has both plane and real boring action, finishing out at the bottom of the zone and generally away from the middle of the plate just based on movement alone. The sinker isn't major league caliber just yet, but it isn't all that far away, honestly.

The bad thing about Woodford is most of the other stuff. The slider has potential, but it's wildly inconsistent right now and needs a lot of work. The changeup is barely there, which is extra disappointing to me given my own philosophy on pitching and the way the Cardinals have seemingly focused in on the use of the changeup and changing speeds in a more general way the past few years as a very smart path to success. If I were trying to develop Woodford, I would probably lean hard on getting him to throw either a split-grip change or maybe just a true split-finger pitch, in order to play off the downward movement of his sinker. As it is now, he's purely a sinker-slider guy with some power in his repertoire but not much else.

I like the delivery pretty well, though I like it less having watched more of it than I had last night. There are some issues, but I don't consider them fatal flaws, and think they could be improved, making him less of an injury risk. Now, whether that happens or not is really anyone's guess, but that's where I am right now.

I think the Cardinals passed on several much, much better pitching prospects to take this guy. I'm pretty disappointed, to be honest.

Round Two, Pick 66 -- Bryce Denton, 3B/OF, Ravenwood High School (TN)

6'1", 195 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this pick?

Now this is an intriguing pick. I personally would have preferred Trey Cabbage here as a third base prospect, because I think there's a better chance for Cabbage to play a high-quality third base defensively while also possessing some real offensive ceiling, but I admit to finding Denton's physical abilities interesting.

The first thing that jumps out at you with Bryce Denton is the same thing that jumps out about Nick Plummer -- great raw bat speed. Denton is capable of really moving the bat through the zone, and while he doesn't have the same kind of balance to his swing as Plummer (translation: I don't think Denton is nearly as good a hitter as Plummer), he shows plus raw power from center to left. He's also one of those rare kids (and this is something I've noticed here and there, usually with hitters who appear to have exceptionally quick wrists and hands), who looks much, much better swinging wood than metal. It's almost as if the lighter metal/composite bats just don't provide enough weight or feedback or whatever for a guy with elite bat speed.

In the field, Denton doesn't have a great position, but he can play half a dozen of them decently. His body profiles best at third base, while the arm is maybe a better fit for second. His hands aren't a huge asset, which might make you think he's an outfielder, but he's not a great runner, maybe right around average, so it isn't as if he's chewing up huge swaths of turf running around out there.

On the other hand, while it sounds like Denton just doesn't any defensive position all that well, he's shown an ability to play lots of them decently enough. I wonder if the thought here is he might develop into a Ben Zobrist-y sort of player, who can move all around the diamond and give you acceptable defense while getting a very productive bat into the lineup. Personally, I feel like he's short of that level athletically where you might be able to reasonably expect him to contribute defensively all over the field, but it's an intriguing notion, and one his profile somewhat hints at.

via FanGraphs:

I feel like a broken record at this point, but Bryce Denton is a player I like, but he wouldn't have been my pick. I do find the bat speed and power potential very intriguing, but there were guys on the board still I would have personally preferred. Still, there's some real offensive upside here, and I can't complain too much about the Cardinals coming away with one elite offensive prospect and another with some definite upside in their first three picks in a draft class that is, by and large, very thin on real offensive upside. The pitcher I'm much more lukewarm on, but there's arm strength and one great pitch there, so I can live with it, even if those words taste pretty bitter in my mouth.

The draft starts back up in a few hours, everybody. I'll try to get the players picked by the Cardinals written up as quickly as possible, but I can't guarantee instant service.

And everybody cross your fingers on Matt Holliday. This season feels weirdly close to the edge considering the record is so...juggernauty. And Nick Plummer probably isn't quite ready just yet to take over for Matt in left. Maybe give him a month or two.