Welp, the post editor got me again.
I was about 1300 words into today's post, when in the course of switching windows to do something else for a moment I accidentally closed my browser. No big deal, I thought; after all, we have this awesome autosave that activates every minute or so, it seems like, and so I'll maybe lose the last sentence or two I typed, but nothing major. Thank god it's not still the bad old days of VEB posting, when you either wrote up your post in a word processor program and then fought the formatting when you pasted it in, or you took your chances composing in the editor, crossing your fingers nothing bad happened in the course of writing.
Turns out that it apparently still is the bad old days, because the autosave for some reason decided not to work, and so I lost literally everything but the words "2016 Draft Preview Extra" in the title bar. I'm not having a very good morning.
So rather than try to recreate the intro I wrote about the Cardinal offense scoring nine runs a game against bad pitching and zero or one run at best against mediocre to anything resembling good pitching, and how I can understand some difference, but this clearly isn't normal, I'm going to simply jump past the frustration with the current MLB club and work on the meat of the post.
What I'm doing today is something I mean to try and do every year, but basically never do, and that's actually provide some updates on some of the more notable names I've covered already here in the course of doing the draft preview series. I follow the players I cover, of course, right up until the draft itself, and I always mean to try and update you all on what players I consider relevant to the Cardinal draft day situation are doing in terms of their performances. However, every year it seems like I find myself torn between using time and space to update players already written about, and bringing you more new names in the name of information and consideration. And every time, I come down on the side of trying to provide as much new stuff as I can, even when I occasionally think it might be more important, or at least useful, to go back and look at what trends and performances are taking place amongst the previously covered.
Given the contextual nightmare of high school numbers, not to mention the fact they're just flat-out a pain in the ass to keep track of reliably, I'm going to stick to the college side. When or if a high schooler I've covered does something notable, be it a breakout or a breakdown or an injury of some sort, I'll try to make a note of it somewhere. For college players, though, we have at least somewhat meaningful numbers, as well as enough information about the quality of competition and the like to put those numbers into some context.
I'm going to focus only on players I think fit roughly into the Cardinals' draft area, with one notable exception (which I'll explain when I get there), so as not to muddy the waters too very much with players who I've written up more for informational purposes than strict relevance to our home club.
Anyhow, moving on and hurrying up, let's start with, say, the positional side of things, since I started with pitchers in my first attempt at this article.
All stats come from The Baseball Cube.
Zack Collins, C/1B, Miami
Relevant 2016 Statistics: 150 PA, .410/.580/.710 (1.290 OPS), 14.7% K, 29.3% BB, 8 HR
I've loved Collins's offensive potential since all the way back in 2013, and he came into this spring as one of my two or three favourite college bats overall. I loved the patience, the power, and the balance in the swing, while worrying a tiny bit about the contact rate. In 2016, he's kicked his hitting up to a completely new level, and now stands alone as the bat I most want to see the Cardinals come away with in June. The only problem: he's hit so well that I now worry he'll jump up past our spot. The kid is going to be an absolute monster, and is solid enough behind the plate he could serve as that emergency catcher teams worry so much about. Make no mistake, though; his offense is too good to really try and keep him at catcher long term, I think.
Will Craig, 1B/3B, Wake Forest
Relevant 2016 Statistics: 139 PA, .442/.561/.856 (1.417 OPS), 12.2% K, 18.7% BB, 10 HR, 13 2B
Will Craig was my other favourite first-base-only type at the outset of the spring, with the advantages of a crazy contact rate and more of an infield pedigree over Collins. He's absolutely laid waste to the ACC this spring, making tons of hard contact, showing off that unbelievable contact ability, and just generally looking a whole lot like the 2016 model of A.J. Reed. I prefer Collins slightly, due to his complete refusal to expand the zone whatsoever no matter how carefully pitchers try to work him, but I have to admit Craig's tremendous ability to make contact while not sacrificing power is awfully enticing, as well. Craig seems likely to serve as a test case of just how high a guy with his body and likely future defensive home can possibly go in the draft in this current environment, with Reed's rocketship trajectory through the Houston system potentially serving as an intriguing recent point of reference.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
Nick Senzel has, at this point, likely solidified himself as the top college infielder in the draft, and probably beyond the Cards' grasp. Coming in, I thought he would probably fall right around their slot, maybe creep into the top 20, but there's a chance now he could be top ten. Still, depending on how things go the rest of the way, his stock could come back down; players who have that huge helium early on tend to fall a bit as teams and analysts look back at the previous version of the player during the leadup to the draft. If he did fall, taking Senzel would be a no-brainer; he's the single most Cardinaly hitter in this draft, in that he is essentially the prototype of what the Redbirds are trying to cultivate in their offensive players.
Buddy Reed, OF, Florida
Buddy Reed is the player I sort of never really expected to be all that relevant to the Cardinals' draft cause this year whom I'm still updating here. The thing is, Reed has probably done enough with the bat to solidify himself near the very top of the draft; he hasn't shown a ton of power, certainly, but he's definitely improved his on-base skills over previous years. That, combined with the dynamic overall package he presents in terms of speed and defense, should be enough to get him taken very high.
However, there is also the fact that several of the other candidates for high draft slots have taken even bigger steps forward than Reed; Corey Ray of Louisville has crushed the competition this spring, showing much more power than in the past, and has probably cemented himself as the best overall college bat in the class. Nick Senzel we already talked about. Kyle Lewis of Mercer is still facing weak competition, but is OPSing almost 1.400 with 15 home runs while looking like a potential impact defender. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, but in the case of Buddy Reed, it's possible the rising tide may actually push his down slightly. He's still the best defensive outfielder in the class, though, and the most likely outcome is for him to maintain his spot near the top.
Ryan Howard, SS, Missouri
Ryan Howard has not had a particularly good season so far. It hasn't been a bad season, by any means, but it also hasn't been the sort of campaign to push a player's stock higher. I like the patience, as he's done an even better job of controlling the strike zone this season, but the power hasn't really shown up more than in the past, and that relatively low BABIP is as much a product of inconsistent contact as poor luck on balls in play. His OPS is actually down 50 points from his sophomore season, which definitely isn't what teams want to see from a kid in his draft season, but there's also the fact this is a legitimate shortstop with plus on-base skills and the potential for more power down the road. He's probably solidife his position as something less than a first-rounder at this point, and could represent a good bargain if he slips to the bottom of the second or even into the third.
And now, a few pitchers.
Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
Logan Shore came into the spring a very enticing performer, who nonetheless up to this point had not put up the sorts of big strikeout totals you want to see from a potentially dominant pitching prospect. Chalk it up to a good fastball/great changeup combo, which made him extremely difficult to hit but didn't completely miss a ton of bats. This season, he's sharpened his slider to better combat right-handed hitters, and has tightened the change even further to the point he is getting empty swings with it. Shore may not have the pure stuff to move much beyond the mid- to late-first round, considering some of the pyrotechnic arms in this draft, but I think he's one of the best bets in the class to perform at a high level in pro ball all the same. He has amazing command of the zone, and three potential 55 offerings. Nothing not to like, in other words.
Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
Lauer, similarly written up as one of my early favourites, has performed, if anything, even better than Shore this spring. The quality of competition Lauer is seeing in the MAC doesn't measure up to the SEC, though, so take that with a grain of salt. However, what's impossible to deny is the difficulty hitters have in actually, you know, hitting Lauer, as evidenced by the extraordinarily low number of hits he's allowed, and the generally low quality of contact even when he does allow contact. The stuff is very good, and he's deceptive on top of it. Picture JA Happ, but with an extra 3 mph on the fastball (at least).
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
Sedlock, in his first season as a starter for the Illini, has more than lived up to the hopes I had for him coming in, successfully converting from a two-pitch reliever who essentially picked two of his sinker, changeup, and slider (most often it was the slider), in any given outing to utilising all three weapons and actually missing more bats as a result. In the same way that Carlos Martinez is harder to hit when he can force hitters to try and account for all his offerings, Sedlock as a three-pitch starter is tougher to hit than when he was limiting himself in any given outing to 80% sinkers and one complementary pitch.
Sedlock still has room to improve; finer command would certainly help him limit the hits, though as a guy who leans on a sinking fastball he'll probably always give up his share of hits. Perhaps he could even add a proper curve to go along with his other three pitches, and expand the range of speeds he can call on to further torment hitters. Cody Sedlock started as an intriguing arm, and is moving up my list of favourites pretty steadily.
I'm going to call this here, so as to get this up before the game today. I may revisit some other names at a later date, or perhaps check back in on these guys again closer to the draft.