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Cardinals Select Scott Hurst, OF, #94 Overall

The Cards finally made their first pick of the draft, and went for a seriously intriguing gamble.

Atlanta Braves v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Finally, after a painful amount of waiting, the Cardinals made their first pick of the 2017 MLB amateur draft.

With that pick, in the third round and number 94 overall, El Birdos selected Scott Hurst, an outfielder out of Cal State Fullerton. I didn’t write up Hurst this spring, so I’ll have to give you my scouting report here.

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Hurst is not a big guy, by regular human standards and certainly not by pro athlete standards, listed at just 5’11” and 170 pounds. That modest stature, combined with a checkered injury history his first two seasons at Cal State Fullerton, kept him under the radar until this, his junior season.

The fact Hurst was so under the radar should not, however, be taken as any kind of indictment of his tools, as he packs as much athleticism into his frame as any college players in the draft this year. He’s an easy 60 runner and a plus defender in center field, who might also have a 70 grade arm. He was clocked as high as 99 in the outfield back on the showcase circuit in 2014 when he was a high school senior, and watching him play for any time at all out there the arm jumps out in a big way.

The biggest question with Hurst is power, although he did have an historic four home run game (you know, like noted slugger Scooter Gennett), earlier this spring. He has good bat speed, and could become a very good slash and run type hitter, but what kind of pop comes out of his bat will go a long way toward deciding his ultimate ceiling.

Okay, so here’s the thing: Scott Hurst hurt his back in 2015. And hurt it pretty badly, from what relatively limited medical information was ever released. (College athletics are not nearly so transparent as the pros.) He wasn’t having a great freshman season anyway, and then the back injury put him on the shelf. In 2016, it didn’t look like he was fully healthy still — or at least not at full strength — and he struggled, badly.

This year, though, has been a different story. He’s looked healthy, finally, and he’s put up some big-time numbers. There’s an interesting parallel for the Cardinals drafting Hurst to what they did with Nick Plummer a couple years ago; Plummer, you may recall, played in Michigan, where they actually start with a 1-1 count in every at-bat and also just happens to be a very tough place to play in early spring. If you saw Nick Plummer the summer before the draft on the showcase circuit, you would have thought you were looking at a top five overall guy with the best bat of any high-schooler. If you saw him playing cold-weather ball in Michigan with beer league softball rules, you were much less convinced.

Hurst has always had tremendous athletic gifts, but didn’t really show them up until this season, through a combination of simple poor performance and a really tough injury. The Cardinals are taking a risk here, which they probably have to do considering what kind of limits they’re looking at with their draft situation, that the athleticism Hurst has always possessed, and the performance he’s shown this spring, are the reality of his situation, and the fact he was such a risk is the reason he was available later than the talent would dictate.

If Hurst is the guy Cal State Fullerton fans saw this spring, he’s a legit four and a half, maybe even five tool player, and a potential steal. He’s definitely a purchase from the scratch, ding, and dent department, though, and a really intriguing bet for the Cards to be placing with this brutally limited draft pool.

Oh, a note: I love his swing.

via Big West Conference:

And yes, in case you’re wondering, the speed, defense, and outrageous arm strength in center does, in fact, make a Kiermaier comp at least a little feasible. Just saying.