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2017 Draft Preview No. 5: Speed Kills

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Five speedy athletes, any one of whom could fall to the Redbirds in June.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

In the last edition of the draft preview series, we looked at five players with legitimate upside, but also legitimate chance to fall to where the Cardinals make their first selection in the draft at #94 due to some wart or question mark or whatever the case may be. Good prospects, in other words, but certainly imperfect ones, and all with at least one real flaw that could easily push a player down.

This week we’re going to look at another group of five players, all in relatively rapid succession, with brief reports on each. The common thread this week is a focus on athleticism and speed; these are bets we could see the Cardinals place on ceiling, since the surer things will probably all be gone by the time their pick comes along. The Redbirds aren’t going to be able to just focus on best player available this year most likely, because by the time you get down toward pick 100 the waters are already so muddied that BPA is strictly hypothetical. If you’re going to place a bet once the safe bets are off the table, going for the biggest possible payoff, regardless of the odds, is one possible strategy.

How likely each of these players are to be available at 94 is an open question; obviously, some are less likely than others, but while not all will make it there, I think it’s a fair bet that at least one or two will. And round three is not at all a bad time to be picking a raw premium athlete.

Quentin Holmes, OF, Monsignor McClancy Memorial HS (New York)

6’1”, 175 lbs; R/R; DOB - 7 July 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

In a column dedicated to players with speed and athleticism to spare, we’re going to start off with the king of them all. Quentin Holmes is the fastest player in the draft this year, full stop. His times in the 60 peg him as a 70-75 grade runner, and honestly, he plays even faster than that. Holmes is what one can, without too much hyperbole, describe as breathtakingly fast on the baseball field.

He is also extremely raw in most facets of the game, coming from a cold-weather background in New York and still being to date one of the skinnier kids you’ll see come draft day. There’s not much pop to speak of, and his swing has a whole lot of extraneous movement in it. Once on the bases, Holmes can absolutely wreak havoc, with both the short-range quickness and straight line speed to swipe bags pretty much at will, but there’s an open question how much he’s going to be able to get on base. Given his speed, I could see a club taking him and setting him to learning to switch hit, trying to utilise that head start out of the box lefty hitters get to put him on first as often as possible.

Holmes has room on his body for a ton of development, and a club taking him will basically be betting on him growing into even just mediocre offensive ability to complement the defense and baserunning that he brings pretty much right out of the box. His arm is okay, but no better, so if he ends up moving off center field he probably goes to left, but with his wheels I see no reason for him to not play in center for the foreseeable future.

Holmes is basically what Magneuris Sierra is right now, only a little less advanced. You’re looking at what he can do with his legs on the bases and in the field, and hoping he can develop just enough bat to keep him in the lineup so the rest of the tools can play. Holmes might actually be even faster, but it’s the same kind of slight build and slap-hitting profile right now, with the hope Holmes can add more weight down the line than Sierra has to date.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Mason House, OF, Whitehouse HS (Texas)

6’2”, 190; L/L; DOB - 10 September 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Mason House is one of the biggest pop-up guys in the draft this year, having been basically unknown up until his senior season. (I had certainly never heard of him before this spring.)

House doesn’t have the same kind of elite speed Quentin Holmes or a couple of the other players on this list have, but what House does have is serious power potential to go along with plus speed and a natural grace in the outfield. Basically, Mason House could best be described as a J.D. Drew Starter Kit, with power, speed, and a sweet left-handed swing all present in spades.

The problem for House, as with a lot of these types of prospects who unexpectedly jump onto the scene late, is that he’s had far less exposure on the showcase circuit, and we’ve never really seen him hit against top-level competition. It’s sort of the opposite of what the Cardinals had with Nick Plummer; Plummer played all over the showcases his junior spring, and clubs got a good look at the best he had to offer against the best competition possible. Then, come his senior season when he was back playing in Michigan against iffy competition under beer league softball rules, teams had to look back on those showcases for their scouting reports. With House, weak competition in his senior season is the only good look anyone has really gotten at him, and everything is strictly projection based on that.

House is understandably a little raw, considering the quality of competition and the fact he hit a growth spurt in the last eighteen months that changed his projection quite a bit, but there isn’t a tool on his card that deserves less than a 55, minus maybe the hit tool. He’s beating up on the players he’s playing, but therein lies the issue. Still, the power is legit, he’s a plus runner, has an above-average arm, and plays an easy center field for now. He probably fits better in right long-term (again, think J.D. Drew), and could be an impact defender there.

House is a risky bet, and as a draft pick is a little like one of those offensive linemen who go early on in the NFL draft based as much on arm length and bench press reps as their on-field production. Sometimes those guys grow into monsters, and sometimes those guys are Greg Robinson. A club would have to do a fair bit of projecting to bit House, but there’s a legit five-tool star potentially contained within his profile.

Jake Mangum, OF, Mississippi State

6’0”, 185 lbs; S/L; DOB -- 8 March 1996

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The only college player I’m featuring today, Jake Mangum features three 60+ grades on his report card; his speed, glove, and throwing arm are all at least plus, with his speed playing even a little better than that. He can go get it in center, and made some of the more remarkable catches in college baseball as a freshman playing in the corners out of respect to the center field incumbent.

Offensively, Mangum also brings a very good feel for hitting to the table from both sides of the plate. He makes a lot of contact, especially right-handed, and will occasionally do the Ichiro running start out of the box from the left side. His speed helps his contact ability play up, which is a good thing, because he has virtually zero power at this point and even less patience at the plate. His approach in the box got noticeably worse this year, as pitchers challenged him and he showcased a far too aggressive approach all spring.

Mangum is probably the top draft-eligible sophomore in this year’s class, which clouds his stock a bit. The raw edges in his game would be bigger concerns as a junior, but the extra leverage he possesses this year makes him a more questionable pick. The fact he seemed to take a step back this season versus where he was as a freshman has to be concerning for a club thinking of buying him out of his junior year. There’s also the fact he’s prone to bouts of weeping while taking at-bats and seems likely to retire from the game in his 20s to hang out with his musical saw player clubs will have to wrangle with.

Right now, Mangum is basically a switch-hitting version of what Jordan Schafer was as a prospect a decade ago, when he was a rocket-armed center fielder with top of the lineup catalyst potential. The pitfalls for Schafer, a lack of power development and mediocre on-base numbers, are the same facing Mangum. It’s easy to see teams passing on him until after his junior season, when everyone will have another year’s worth of looks at him. On the other hand, a club who believes in his overall package and is motivated to get him could pluck him early and pay him overslot to come out of college early.

via Brennen Green:

Chris Seise, SS, West Orange HS (Florida)

6’2”, 175 lbs; R/R; DOB - 6 January 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Well, first off, the fact Seise is an infielder, rather than an outfielder, gives him an immediate leg up. While the other players on this list have a chance to be impact defenders in center (or right), due to their legs, Seise has a decent chance to stay at the premium position of all premium positions, with the tools to excel there.

Those fielding tools begin with a plus arm that isn’t quite in Delvin Perez/Andrelton Simmons territory, but isn’t far off. He can make throws from well into the hole at short that not a whole lot of players have a shot at. Combine that arm strength with well above-average speed (6.4 in the 60), which gives him plus range, and you have the makings of a a dynamic fielder at the toughest position on the diamond. He’s not there yet; his footwork is messy, as his body hasn’t really caught up to his raw tools yet, but there’s plenty of time for him to develop. He plays short very much the way Oscar Mercado did coming out of high school, with exceptional quickness and athleticism, but always on the verge of being out of control.

Offensively, Seise needs to get bigger and stronger. He’s developed some over the past year, with his stock rising as a result, but he’s still a long ways from his physical ceiling. He has an interesting swing, one which tends to put the ball in the air a lot due to an uppercut plane, and I admit to dreaming a bit on what he could do with an already fly-ball heavy approach and another 20 pounds of muscle on his frame.

The ceiling for Seise is as high as just about any player in the draft, if things come together right for him. He has a long way to go with the bat, but the swing makes me think there could be plus power in his future, with an average feel for contact. Combine that with a defensive package that could make him a 55-60 grade glove at shortstop, and you could have a monster prospect on your hands in a few years.

via SkillShow Videos:

Bubba Thompson, OF, McGill-Toolen HS (Alabama)

6’2”, 180 lbs; R/R; DOB - 9 June 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I’m finishing up today with my personal favourite of the bunch, and one of the players I covet most in the entire 2017 draft. Bubba Thompson is an absolute beast in terms of tools already, and I think there’s a good chance he turns into one of the most dynamic prospects taken this June.

Thompson has played both baseball and football for most of his high school career, but he is dedicated to baseball going forward. He committed to Alabama for baseball only, and has put it around to teams that he’s interested in getting his pro career started under the right circumstances. Personally, I don’t think there’s any chance he ever gets close to campus.

Thompson is a step or so slower than Quentin Holmes, but isn’t that far off in terms of foot speed. He put up a 6.35 in the 60 at one showcase, which puts him in Upton brother territory. And unlike Quentin Holmes, Thompson shows a very good feel for hitting already. He possesses well above-average bat speed, and while the swing is flat currently and he tends to leak out onto his front foot, there’s plus power potential just waiting to come out with some swing tweaks.

He dominated as a quarterback, and has the arm strength to prove it. Defensively, he fits in center field currently, and unless he fills out quite a lot should stick there. The glove and arm could make him a plus-plus center fielder down the road if he works on developing his reads and jumps. Combine that with sky-high offensive potential, and it’s easy to see why Thompson could go very early on.

Then again, he’s also a two-sport guy who is still pretty raw in a lot of aspects of the game, which keeps him from garnering the Byron Buxton comps that might otherwise come. In batting practice, Thompson looks like a beast; in games, even against just regular high school competition, he often looks like an athlete who has yet to fully morph into a baseball player.

There’s very little chance Bubba Thompson falls to where the Cardinals pick, sadly. Nonetheless, he’s one of the players I’ll be most upset when I hear his name called in a non-Redbird capacity, because he has talent the likes of which very, very few other kids in this draft can match.

via rkyosh007:

Any of these players could represent a chance to grab a high-end athletic talent at a draft position where you rarely get that opportunity, and probably at least one of them will make it down to the Cards in round three, simply because of the way the draft tends to shake out. What kind of strategy the Cardinals choose to employ, having so few draft resources this year, will be really fascinating to watch. These players would probably require the Redbirds to commit a big chunk of their draft pool to just one talent, rather than shooting for multiple organisation players and hoping one or two of them exceed expectations and turn into Greg Garcia types. We haven’t seen enough yet of Randy Flores as scouting director for me to say I have any kind of feel for which way he would go in that situation, or if the organisation’s overall conservatism would dictate to him how he should lean.

Apologies for the lateness of this post, everybody; usually I try to at least get these started on Tuesday evening, but this week I couldn’t get out ahead of it.