Earlier this week ESPN’s Keith Law took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions on a conference call, which we published here. There wasn’t quite enough time on the call to get to all of my questions and Law was kind enough to answer a few more via email.
To catch up on his Cardinals-work over at ESPN, you can read his team rankings, including the Cardinals system, his Top-100 overall, where the Cardinals placed four players, his Just Missed List which featured Harrison Bader, his full assessment of the Cardinals system ranking the team’s top 20 players, his top players by position, and his sleeper prospects for every team.
VEB: Last year, we talked about the opportunity players like Magneuris Sierra and Edmundo Sosa had to take a big leap forward. Is it fair to say they took a step back, and are there other players in the Cardinals’ system that did use 2016 as a springboard?
Klaw: Sosa took a step back, IMO, and I think there are real questions about his aptitude for any improvement. Sierra didn't regress at all, though; I thought he had a solid year, in line with expectations, but Bader passed him, and Perez is a potential star (with a high bust risk). Alcantara was the biggest breakout or springboard guy in their system in 2016, in my opinion - and in this case that's in scouts' opinions and the Cardinals' as well, since I haven't seen him.
VEB: Carson Kelly, at just 22, probably isn’t going to be hurt by spending another year in the minors, but is there a point when he could start to force the issue in St. Louis? Should the Cardinals try to plan a slow transition/caddy approach like the team did a decade ago with Matheny or will they have to rip the band-aid off at some point. If Molina has another good year, he’s going to be a free agent next winter.
Klaw: I think he needs another year in the minors anyway, because now we need to see him start driving the ball in games the way I think he's capable of doing. I do very much like the idea of having him spend time with Molina, because Molina really is among the best we've seen at all the less tangible aspects of the position, and also because Kelly is about as smart and eager a kid as you're going to find - I think he'd be a sponge if he got that opportunity.
VEB: It’s been a few years since the Cardinals have had the opportunity to draft one of the top amateur talents, but they seem to have done so with Delvin Perez. He’s still very young at 18. What would you do with him this season, and is full-season ball by the end of the year a reasonable goal?
Klaw: He'll play all year at 18; I would actually push him to the Midwest League, even with the full awareness that he might struggle. He fell in the draft because of the failed drug test, yes, but also because there are questions about his maturity, and I think some adversity would be good for him. Let him see how far he can go on pure ability, which is probably pretty far anyway, and let pitchers tell him what he has to do to get better.
VEB: The Cardinals now don't have a pick until the third round next year. How does that change how you would go about scouting and preparing for the draft?
Klaw: The Cubs just did this, so there's a model out there. They eliminated 30-40 names early, and then focused on guys who were pretty clearly third round talent and below, plus some guys who were potentially day one picks on talent but had warts that might push them to day two. Their first pick, Tom Hatch, was a day one talent with a bad medical, so he wasn't even on my predraft top 100 - but he was the kind of pick you want to make if your first selection is in the third round, because the reward is pretty good and justifies the risk you're taking. And the reduced draft budget means you can't just grab a HS arm who falls on signability.
Thanks again to Keith for taking more time to answer questions. If you have more questions, he has weekly chats over at his blog The Dish. He announces them from his twitter account and he is likely going to do one today. Keith also has a book coming out in April that you can order here.