The St. Louis Cardinals took a different approach when selecting their 2015 MLB draftees. Instead of selecting safe college pitchers, the club selected three straight high school players. This change of approach was needed thanks to a gaping hole of talent in the minor league system.
The 2015 draftees are nearly two months into the season and trends are starting to develop. While I am going to analyze the starts of several draftees, this season should not sway opinions on the futures of these players. For high schoolers, its a tough transition and for collegiate players, they have had a long season and fatigue is setting in. These samples are not enough to draw many conclusions.
Nick Plummer, 1st round
The Cards' first pick has had his struggles in his rookie season. Over 163 plate appearances, the Michigan native is slashing .189/352/.276 with a wRC+ of 102, which is slightly above league average. While the power has not shown yet, this is a common problem for high school players making the transition to professional ball. Fans should not be concerned about this slow start, while his solid OBP shows a solid plate discipline.
Jake Woodford, 1st round
The prep pitcher from Florida has had several strong outings, but his numbers may be swayed by one bad outing. On the season, Woodford has a 3.63 ERA and a .303 batting average against. Over his last two appearances, Woodford has gone 9 innings and has allowed only 1 run on 8 hits and has struck out 8.
Bryce Denton, 2nd round
Denton was considered a tough sign as the high schooler from Tennessee had a strong commitment to Vanderbilt University. The Cardinals were able to lure him away and assigned him to the Gulf Coast League and like Plummer, Denton has struggled. On the season, Denton is hitting .168/234/.208 with one home run.
Harrison Bader, 3rd round
Bader and fellow 2015 draftee Paul DeJong are the only draftees to reach Low-A Peoria. After a quick 7 game stint with State College, the Cards shifted Bader up a level and he has not skipped a beat. Over 30 games with Peoria, Bader has a 131 wRC+ and has made starts at all three outfield positions. He will probably finish the season in the Midwest League, but could probably succeed up one more level. He is a strong candidate to be a top 20 prospect for 2016.
Paul DeJong, 4th round
As I mentioned with Bader, DeJong received a quick promotion after just 10 games with the Rookie Level Johnson City Cardinals and has outperformed Bader at Peoria. Over 141 plate appearances, DeJong has a wRC+ of 162. Once thought of as a catcher, the Illinois State product has played third base for the Cardinals. Due to a weak third base position, DeJong could move quickly through the system.
Ryan Helsley, 5th round
Helsley was roughed up his last time out, but prior to that he held opponents to a 0.87 ERA and an opponents batting average of .173. Reports out of Johnson City have Helsley topping out in the upper 90's at times. He could be a nice sleeper prospect in the system for 2016.
Jacob Evans, 6th round
The Oklahoma product has had a strong start to his professional career. Playing with the State College Spikes, Evans has a 1.08 ERA over 25 innings and has done a great job of limiting base runners with only two walks and an opponents batting average of .204. Evans' FIP of 2.54 suggests there will be some regression. He could probably succeed at a higher level.
Ian Oxnevad, 8th round
Oxnevad was considered a tough sign out of the 8th round and it took a nice, over-slot bonus to lure him away from a commitment to Oregon State. Over 18 professional innings, he has a 1.00 ERA but has struck out just 11 batters and opponents are hitting .250 against him. The 18-year old is off to a solid start for his career.
Chris Chinea, 17th round
The LSU product is probably playing against inferior competition and could use a promotion, but with three weeks left in the season, that is unlikely. With the State College Spikes, Chinea is slashing .316/.363/.500 with a wRC+ of 133. He has split time between first base and behind the plate.
Orlando Olivera, 38th round
One of the biggest surprises from the 2015 Draft is Missouri Baptist product Orlando Olivera. After a quick 10 game stint with the GCL Cardinals and a .898 OPS, the Cardinals promoted him to State College and he has not missed a beat. Over 74 plate appearances with the Spikes, Olivera is slashing .353/.405/.603 with a wRC+ of 192. The 24-year old could rise quickly through the system, thanks to his advanced age.
Allen Staton, Undrafted
The Cardinals have had big success finding undrafted free agents. Zach Petrick and Derek Gibson are two of the success stories. Allen Staton could be the next. Like Olivera, Staton was quickly promoted from the GCL Cardinals and has had nice success with the Johnson City Cardinals. Over 119 plate appearances, Staton has a wRC+ of 160.
It will take several years before we are able to make judgments about the Cardinals 2015 draft class, but there are several lower round prospects who are exceeding expectations. Also it is clear the club can draft and develop pitchers.