2018 Draft: Lower-Profile College Arms

Talk surrounding the 2018 Draft is starting to heat up. The draft order is set, reports from fall practices are coming in and MLB Pipeline just released it's initial Top 50 list. After forfeiting picks last year, the Cardinals will be picking at #19 in the first round and #39 in Competitive Balance Round A. The club should miss out on top college arms like Mize and Singer, so here are a couple arms that could pitch there way into consideration at #19 or offer great value at #39 (or even in the second/third rounds).

Sean Hjelle - RHP - Kentucky

Hjelle went undrafted out of a Minnesota high school and found himself at the University of Kentucky, where he pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman before transitioning to the rotation during his sophomore campaign. He's massive for the baseball diamond, with a listed height at 6'11. The frame is lanky, only carrying 215lbs, but there is still room for some physical projection and he has better coordination than most pitchers his size.

As far as stuff, Hjelle brings to the table an intriguing mix of present stuff and projectability. His fastball sits in the low-90's, but plays up a half-grade because of the downward plane created by his height. He spots the pitch well to both sides of the plate, and most interestingly, reports have him hitting 96 in fall practice. Given his cold weather background and physical projection, it's entirely possible that his velocity could jump a few ticks this season. His money pitch is a low-80's knuckle-curve with impressive depth. It grades out comfortably as plus and generates plenty of empty swings. The changeup is his clear third pitch right now, but he's shown enough feel for it that it should be average with reps.

The delivery is controlled and repeatable, featuring a full-arm circle and a 3/4 release point. He fills up the strike zone and it's entirely possible that his command could grade out at above-average when all is said and done. There's also an obvious fire and competitiveness to his game every time he steps on the mound. There is mid-rotation potential here.

Sean Wymer - RHP - TCU

Wymer is in many ways the opposite of Hjelle. While Hjelle is a large and projectable with clear plus pitch, Wymer is a short righty with a deep arsenal but no clear plus offering. He stands 6'1 and has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Horned Frogs. He was very effective in 30 appearances in 2017, tossing a 2.10 ERA while racking up 10.67 K/9 and only allowing 1.62 BB/9 and 0.49 HR/9. Small sample size to be sure, but the ability to limit walks and keep the ball in the park seem legit.

The arsenal isn't all that sexy, but it's deep and he knows how to mix his offerings. He works off a low-90's sinker, but has shown the ability to reach back for mid-90's heat when needed. In a starter's role it's likely that he'll sit in the 90-93 range with quality sink. He features both a low-80's curveball and a hard slider, and which is best depends on who you ask. I for one prefer the curveball because of his ability to locate anywhere in the zone for easy strikes or bury it in the dirt for strikeouts. Each is an above-average offering. The changeup is only average, but he's confident with it and sells the delivery.

Altogether, you have a short righty that pounds the strike zone with a deep arsenal of average to above-average offerings. If a team is sold that he can stretch out and start, he's a #4 starter and presents safer and solid value as early as the second round.

Tim Cate - LHP - UConn

Of the three players on this list, Cate is the player most likely to push himself into the conversation at #19. He isn't all that big, standing only 6'0, but he has a long track record of performance. He's pitched as a starter for the Huskies in each of the past two seasons, posting a 3.02 ERA, while also pitching out of the bullpen for Team USA during the summer.

The selling point for Cate is a curveball that might just be the best in the class. It's features hard 12-6 movement, coming from the same plane as his fastball out of the hand. He commands the pitch extremely well and is able to throw it with impunity in any count. Plus would be a conservative grade, but I'd be aggressive enough to call it double-plus when all is said and done. His fastball sits 90-93 with average life, and it plays up slightly because of how it much respect hitters pay to his curveball. The changeup is behind the other two pitches, being a little firm at times, but there's enough there that it should become average.

There are some concerns about his workload, but if he can pitch effectively again in the Huskies rotation this year he'll put those concerns to rest. I see him as a relatively safe college arm because of his track record and curveball carrying tool. He could move fast through a system and slot into the middle of any rotation.