The 2016 MLB Draft was Randy Flores’ first as the scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals. Unlike other professional sports, it usually takes years before one can truly evaluate the performance of a given MLB draft. Yet, that doesn’t stop people from providing their thoughts on each pick almost instantaneously. Well, after the first round, Flores received nothing but praise from national draft analysts.
And while the first rounders of Delvin Perez (SS), Dylan Carlson (OF), and Dakota Hudson (RHP) are the clear headliners, many organizations are made (or broken) by the first wave of selections after the top rounds, and sure enough, with one shortened professional season under his belt (and a league championship with the State College Spikes), excitement has begun to surround the Cardinals’ 6th round selection, middle infielder Tommy Edman.
- Bats: Switch
- Throws: Right
- Position: Shortstop/Second base
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 180
- Born: May 9, 1995 (21 years old)
- College: Stanford University (computer science major)
- How Acquired: 6th round of 2016 MLB Draft
2016 Statistics (via FanGraphs)
Viva El Birdos: Taking you back to draft day, what were you feeling when you found out that you were selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 6th round? Who was the first person to contact you with the news and what did they say?
Tommy Edman: I had talked to Zach Mortimer - the area scout for Northern California - a few times in the months leading up to the draft so I had an idea the Cardinals were interested. On the day of the draft, Zach texted me about halfway through the 6th round and told me that they were planning to take me with their pick at the end of the round. I was obviously ecstatic to be joining such a great organization and to finally be done with the uncertainty surrounding the draft.
VEB: You have started roughly two-thirds of your games with the State College Spikes at shortstop. Which position do you feel more comfortable playing: shortstop or second base?
TE: I played shortstop throughout high school as well as my entire junior year at Stanford, so I probably have more experience at shortstop. However, I gained some experience playing second base in my first couple years at Stanford so I’ve become pretty comfortable playing on either side of second base.
VEB: As a switch hitter, what extra work goes into staying consistent and mechanically sound on both sides of the plate? Which side do you prefer?
TE: I definitely have to try to get in a lot of extra work since I have two different swings to work on rather than just one. For me, that means a lot of tee work where I can really focus on my mechanics and I have found that I hit best in games whenever I’m taking a lot of swings off the tee. I was a natural righty hitter so I feel a little more comfortable from the right side although that gap is closing as I get more and more at bats from the left side.
VEB: The Cardinals have had recent luck in drafting Stanford Cardinal products, with the headliner obviously being starting outfielder Stephen Piscotty. Has Piscotty reached out to you at all since draft day?
TE: Not really, he graduated a couple years before I got to campus so I’d only talked to him a couple times whenever he came back during the offseason to work out. But it is cool knowing a former Stanford guy has already gone through the system, and I’m sure I’ll see him some time this offseason.
VEB: How much credit would you give the Stanford coaching staff in your evolution as a hitter?
TE: Two assistant coaches, Brock Ungricht and Jon Karcich, both helped out a great deal in my development as a hitter. They helped not only with any mechanical issues I was working on but also helped me to develop a more consistent approach at the plate. A lot of it was emphasizing waiting for my pitch instead of just swinging at every strike I see. As soon as I started focusing on that, I found myself getting better pitches to hit and felt I really starting improving quickly as a hitter. I would say that was the most significant improvement I made at Stanford as a hitter.
VEB: Speaking of Piscotty, he has already provided his thoughts on sabermetrics to ESPN’s Mark Saxon. What is your take on sabermetrics and their place in the game today?
TE: I think it is fascinating how in-depth some of these stats are and seems like it makes for more effective player evaluation. If a hitter or pitcher has a good batting average or ERA but is helped by the fact that he has gotten lucky all season, the player will be exposed by the more advanced stats. The advanced stats can present a more accurate depiction of how good a player has been. I think sabermetrics have an integral role in the game today, particularly in front offices as they can use these tools to really closely examine players before handing out huge contracts.
VEB: As a computer science major, what are your thoughts on all of the emerging technologies surrounding the game of baseball, mainly Statcast and all of its quirks?
TE: I love watching MLB Network and all the things they do with Statcast, like seeing exit velocity and launch angle on home runs. Just like all the sabermetrics, I think they can also be used for better and more effective player evaluation.
VEB: Being a 2016 draft pick, not many Cardinals fans are yet familiar with your game. Could you please describe your overall game in two sentences or less?
TE: I try to get on base as frequently as I can and make every at-bat count. Defensively, I take pride in making the routine plays look routine but also try to make the difficult ones look easy as well.
VEB: Growing up, which past or present MLB player did you look up to most? Along those same lines, which current MLB player would you most model your game after if you had to choose just one player?
TE: I loved watching Miguel Cabrera hit even though we are different types of players, but his approach at the plate is unbelievable. If I had to choose one current MLB player I model my game after, I would have to say either Elvis Andrus or Francisco Lindor. Both guys do a great job of hitting for average and getting on-base while being extremely reliable defenders at shortstop.
VEB: You have definitely experienced early success with the Spikes. What do you envision being the biggest adjustment going forward as you work your way up the minor league ladder?
TE: I think the biggest adjustment will be facing pitchers who are able to more consistently command the zone. I’ve heard that the higher the level, the more that pitchers are in and around the zone so there may be slight adjustments to make at the plate to account for the more advanced pitchers. And also just playing against guys that are stronger, faster, older, and more experienced.
VEB: You were successful on 19 of 23 stolen base attempts. The big-league Cardinals have not had a legitimate base-stealing threat in quite some time. Is base-stealing an integral part of your game or is this early success a byproduct of lesser competition from opponents?
TE: Base-stealing was a huge part of my game in high school, but our team didn’t run very much at Stanford. It was fun to get back into an environment where I had the green light to run most of the time, and I think that really added a lot of value to my game. I hope that I can continue to steal a lot of bases even as I go up to the higher levels.
Defensive gem for State College:
I thank Tommy for taking the time to answer these questions as he gets settled into his first professional offseason. Keep a close eye on his name because, given that he plays a premium position, I would not be surprised if his name appeared on organizational top prospect lists for the 2017 season.