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The Long View on the Rest of the Draft

Covering all the draft picks fit to cover, with apologies to any hidden gems not covered.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies
Pictured: A long shot.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 major league baseball amateur draft has come and gone, with 40 rounds of riveting selectioneering action taking place over the course of three crazy, crazy days. Want to know how crazy? How does sitting and starting at a computer screen while a disembodied voice announces, with a complete lack of emotion, a series of numbers, names, and the word ‘redraft’ over and over for like seven hours? It’s almost too much excitement, if you’ll allow me to be real here for a second.

Anyway, the Cardinals selected a whole bunch of players. They didn’t select any players early, because they decided to sign a poor defensive center fielder to improve the big league club defensively and hired a vindictive hacker with seriously poor judgment to run their drafts a couple years ago. (And yes, Dexter Fowler has been tons of fun to watch at the plate, if not so much in the field, and Chris Correa was less a hacker than a guy who guessed ‘Eckstein1234’ was Jeff Luhnow’s password, but still.)

I’ve already written up the players taken by the Redbirds in rounds 3-10; here are the reports. I have not, however, had time to give much in the way of my thoughts on the day three guys, the 11-40 guys, so that’s what we’re going to do today. As always, a lot of these players are really obscure, to the point that not only do I not have notes on them from prior to the draft, but can’t really find much on them now, either. I have a few area scout contacts, a few college staff contacts, and one regional crosschecker who will answer my emails with decidedly cagey answers, but at least I get a response. What I’m trying to say is my network of scouting contacts is not particularly vast, and a whole lot of these players are literally guys that only the teams drafting them really know much about.

So with that in mind, I’m not going to give generic writeups of every player taken by the Cardinals in the last 30 rounds, and just give you whatever stats I could dig up on them. Instead, I’ll give you the players I either know something about or could find something interesting about. If I don’t know about a guy or don’t have anything to say, we’re just going to skip him. In other words, the standard operating procedure, but just so everyone understands what we’re talking about here.

Anyway, here we go.

Rd. 11, # 334: Evan Mendoza, 3B, North Carolina State

A funny thing happened on day three of the draft. I was half-listening to the stream in the background, knowing the Cards’ first pick was coming up, and then I heard, “Cardinals select draft ID blankety-blank-blank, Mendoza, Evan, a right-handed pitcher from North Carolina State.”

I suddenly snapped to attention, and briefly almost panicked, because I know Evan Mendoza. I know an Evan Mendoza from NC State, even. Not personally, I don’t mean; I just mean I had notes and a scouting report on Evan Mendoza, and it was 100% not about a right-handed pitcher. Oh, shit, I thought to myself, did I put the wrong name on a scouting report? Or did I miss the fact there are two Evan Mendozas on NC State? Or am I really stupid enough to have written up a third baseman when, in fact, the guy is really a pitcher and just happened to be playing there for a couple games or something?

Well, luckily for me, there were wires crossed, but they actually weren’t on my end for once. Evan Mendoza was, in fact, announced as a right-handed pitcher, but the Cardinals have since stated they drafted him as a third baseman. Which is good, because Evan Mendoza is a pretty good third base prospect. As a pitching prospect...well, he pitched his freshman season with the Wolfpack. He threw less than 20 innings, walked ten, struck out nine, and was really quite lucky to get away with a svelte 6.75 ERA. So the announcement was strictly a clerical error, it would seem, for now, and Evan Mendoza joins the organisation as a third baseman, and I don’t have to try and rescout the guy as a pitcher, thankfully.

So anyway, here’s my opinion on Evan Mendoza, third baseman: he’s pretty good. Too good, I think, to have lasted until the eleventh round, although he could potentially go back to school for his senior season. Usually that’s not much of a threat, and it’s probably still not in the case of Mendoza, but there is one small wrinkle: Mendoza was not very good at all this spring.

As a sophomore, Mendoza had a fantastic season, both offensively and defensively, showing a plus hit tool, very good plate discipline, and a glove that looked like a 55 some days, and a potential 60+ on others. There wasn’t much power to speak of, but he peppered line drives to all fields and sucked up everything hit toward him at the hot corner. He played in the Cape last summer and was even more impressive; in a league where wood bats dampen all but the most elite hitters, Mendoza hit over .300 and posted an OPS in the mid-.700s. That success with wood in the toughest summer league out there is probably a big part of the reason he ended up with the Cardinals, in fact.

This spring, though, he just didn’t perform to the same level. He still showed excellent contact skills and really good plate discipline, but he didn’t drive the ball nearly as effectively. Think of Aledmys Diaz last year vs this year. He’s not striking out more, he’s just chasing more pitches and getting himself out. Mendoza seemingly had a similar crisis of approach, though what caused it is a bit of a mystery to me. Probably he just had a tough spring and didn’t play well; that does happen from time to time even without a good reason. But that drop in production definitely didn’t help his stock.

The good news is this: Mendoza still plays very good defense, with a big arm over at third that gives him an immediate leg up. He also still has a very sound, level swing and plus contact ability. It’s a swing much more geared to bat control than power, but that might not be a bad thing. If forced to choose, I would say I think power comes for players who make solid, consistent contact more often than contact comes for a player who already has big power. Mendoza’s BABIP cratered this year, losing well over 100 points, but his underlying skills mostly remained the same.

Looking for a comp for Mendoza, Martin Prado kept coming to mind. I’m not sure Mendoza has the versatility Prado has displayed at points in his career, but the permanent third base fixture Prado seems like a pretty fair comparison to me.

via NCStateAthletics:

Rd. 12, #364: Andrew Summerville, LHP, Stanford

Summerville fits the crafty lefty sort of profile, with one small exception, which is the fact I think he has one really plus pitch, thus potentially disqualifying him from the ranks of the capital-c Crafty.

Said plus offering is Summerville’s curveball, which he manipulates like a master, varying up the break and speed from pitch to pitch. His fastball is just okay, coming in in the upper 80s and topping out around 91. His changeup is pretty good, but nothing to write home about. He throws what looks like a slider, too, but it could also just be a curve he’s throwing a little too hard and causing it to flatten out. Whatever it is, the pitch moves laterally but doesn’t have much down to it, if you know what I mean.

Summerville represents an interesting case study to me. In college, he’s thrown his curveball like a secondary pitch, just like every other pitcher does. He leads with the fastball, and then mixes in the other stuff. But we’ve seen in pro ball there’s a minor revolution going on of late, with pitchers essentially deciding to just throw whatever their best pitch is more often, discarding much of the conventional wisdom that you have to pitch off the fastball. Think of Rich Hill and his ilk. I don’t know if having a plus breaking ball and throwing it more often, almost as a primary option (or at least co-primary), could make a pitcher a force, but Summerville would seem to me to be exactly the kind of pitcher who would make a good candidate. If he threw his fastball and curve both ~35% of the time, and then divided up the rest of the pitches between the change and a cutter/slider/splitter/whatever, I wonder what kind of pitcher he would be.

I like Summerville’s mechanics; the delivery itself is sort of long and floppy, like the ears of a pet rabbit, and reminds me of something from the late 80s, like Rick Honeycutt or Kent Mercker or someone. He wears goggles when he pitches as well, which I find more charming than I can really explain why.

I feel like the Cardinals must have someone scouting Stanford who’s really good at getting their way, considering how many players the Redbirds have drafted from Ivy League West over the past handful of years. Overall, though, I like the Summerville pick. He’s unlikely to make an impact of any sort, obviously, but he continues the trend of Randy Flores draftees usually having something, some specific quality, you can hang your hat on. In his case it’s one plus pitch of a variety that seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts right now, which makes him interesting to me.

Also, someone in the Stanford video department decided the Raveonettes makes for an excellent baseball montage background song. Which I happen to agree with wholeheartedly, by the way. And watch for a Tommy Edman cameo!

via Stanford Athletics:

Rd. 13, #394: Jacob Patterson, LHP, Texas Tech

Holy crap, I have to make some of these segments shorter; this thing is approaching 1700 words and I’ve covered exactly two players. Okay, cut it down, Aaron.

Jake Patterson, coming out of a Texas Tech program that has really molded itself into a consistent performer in the college baseball world the last decade, is another really intriguing pick for the Flores regime, as a one-tool guy whose one tool might be good enough to make him impactful somewhere along the line.

In Patterson’s case, it’s a relief-only profile, with one average pitch, one plus pitch, and a low, slinging arm slot that adds both deception and movement to his stuff. That one plus pitch is a wicked, tilty sort of slider that eats up lefthanded hitters, but is also sharp enough to back-foot righties. He turns his back completely to the batter, and even righthanded hitters seem to have a tough time picking up his release point. Lefties look borderline helpless a lot of the time.

The fastball is just okay, with average sort of velocity and a little bit of sail when he’s pitching up in the zone. Added to that, Patterson’s control wavers badly, and he’ll need to get his walks brought under control to have any hope of advancement at all. But the deception of the delivery, combined with a slider that’s already very good and could be really special with further refinement, could make him an impact reliever down the road somewhere.

via rkyosh007:

Rd. 14, #424: Donivan Williams, 3B, Harold Richards HS (Illinois)

I’m really surprised Donivan Williams slid all the way down here to round fourteen; if asked prior to the draft, I would have pegged him somewhere as a fifth- to seventh-round guy. It’s possible he’s a questionable sign or something, to the point teams just didn’t want to risk one of those earlier picks on a guy they weren’t sure was a slam dunk to turn pro, or maybe he just slid because he was number two or three on a couple teams’ boards several times and they just went in different directions. Players falling in the MLB draft, beyond about the first three rounds, is not a phenomenon that is easy to pin down. Sometimes shit just happens.

Anyhow, my point is that athletically, Williams belongs quite a bit higher on the board than where he was actually selected. He’s a natural fit on the left side of the infield, with a huge throwing arm that gives him an immediate head start on those throws that have to go all the way across. The hands look good to me, and overall he’s got that twitchy, fast athleticism that suggests great range in the dirt.

Offensively, it’s a good all-fields approach and some natural bat speed. Not a whole lot of power or loft yet, but there’s time for that to come. Williams already has speed and explosiveness; he could really use some upper body bulk and functional strength, though. That should come as he matures and fills out, obviously. His swing is pretty good, although he’s one of those hitters who start their swings by raising the bat up, which is never my favourite trigger. Good balance with a moderate leg kick, though.

I won’t call Williams a home run in the fourteenth round just yet, mostly because I don’t know what kind of signability we’re talking about with him yet. I believe one of our commentors has a relationship with some member of Williams’s family; perhaps said community member could inquire about money and then promise all the pie VEB promised but never delivered to Matt Holliday all those years ago. Hopefully new pies will be baked; those particular ones made for Holliday might have a bit too much age on them at this point.

If Williams doesn’t sign, he’ll head off to Illinois State, alma mater of current Cards’ second base fill-in Paul DeJong. So maybe DeJong could join in our campaign and tell Williams about the near-constant beatings and starvation students at ISU are forced to endure.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Rd. 15, #454: Terriez (Terry) Fuller, OF/1B, Griffin HS (Georgia)

Okay, so I said I wouldn’t call Williams in the fourteenth round a home run; I will most definitely call Terry Fuller in the fifteenth a home run. Partially because I honestly can’t believe Fuller made it this far in the draft, and partially because, well, home runs are what Terry Fuller is all about.

The story with Fuller is pretty easy to tease out: he’s a huge, physical specimen, standing 6’4” and 240 lbs, and he hits baseballs very, very far. Like Pedro Serrano far. Happy Gilmore far. Some third comedic film reference I can’t think of far. Didn’t Kathy Ireland kick a football really far in some movie? Maybe like that.

Terry Fuller has legitimate elite raw power. Not plus, not plus-plus. Top of the scale, Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton raw power. Of course, the question is whether he has the bat to ball skills to tap into that raw power. If I were coaching him, I would try to get him to drop his hands down and get more balanced in the box. As it is now, he’s coiled back behind the hitting zone with a high back elbow approach, and everything he does is conducive to hitting a baseball as far as humanly possible. So why would I want him to change that part? Because it matters in a high school scouting showcase if you hit a ball 500+ feet. It gets you noticed. It gets your videos on YouTube. In pro ball, though, a 500’ home run counts exactly the same as a 400’ home run. You only need to hit as many balls as possible over the wall; it doesn’t matter how far over the wall they go.

Fuller is a solid athlete for his size, but he’s going to be limited to the bad end of the defensive spectrum. It doesn’t matter. If he hits enough to get to that power, he could be a star.

I’m sure we’ll all be talking a whole lot more about Terry Fuller in the coming years. So rather than continue on with this scouting report, let’s do something fun. I wanted to actually cut together the two things I’m about to put up here, but haven’t had the time. Therefore, we’re going to do this old school style. Like stoned teenagers syncing up The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon old school, or my friends and I (who, yes, were also stoned teenagers at the time), finally getting enough really good stereos together to play Zaireeka properly.

via Brian Domenico:

via Second City Saint:

Okay, here’s what you do. Cue up both videos to get past any advertisements at the beginning. Mute the first one. Pause it and go to 1:00. (I would set it up to play from 1:00 automatically, but the embedding system this new editor uses doesn’t allow for things like, you know, creativity.) Take the second back to the very beginning. Hit play on the first, still with no sound, and then immediately hit the second. And enjoy some Terry Fuller dingers. You’re welcome.

Rd. 16, #484: Jake Walsh, RHP, Florida Southern

Walsh is interesting, at least in part, because he never pitched anywhere long enough in college to set down roots and establish a scouting profile. He began his college career at Jacksonville, transferred to a Florida junior college after one year, and then transferred to Division II Florida Southern after one season in the juco ranks. I don’t know the story, but when given the chance this year Walsh put up big numbers and was in the running for the Brett Tomko award, which is presented to the top Division II college pitcher in the land. (Sorry, but having watched Brett Tomko in a Cardinal uniform, I can’t help but laugh at the notion he actually has an award named for him. Somewhere, Garret Stephenson is explaining why he doesn’t have an award, and it’s mostly because he just made one bad pitch in an otherwise sterling career, apparently.)

Walsh is also interesting because he possesses solid-average velocity and a good, tight curveball he can work in or out of the zone. He locates the fastball at the bottom of the zone consistently, and throws a pitch that’s either a firm changeup or a splitter that looks fairly promising. The arm action concerns me, but in terms of stuff there are the makings of a starter’s profile here. He’s not big, at 6’1”, so you might worry about the fastball lacking plane, but for the most part it looks like he buries the pitch at the bottom of the zone effectively.

Rd. 19, #574: Irving Lopez, 2B, Florida International

Originally from Hermosillo, Mexico, Lopez spent two years at a junior college in Arizona before transferring to FIU, where he put up big numbers as a junior and even bigger numbers as a senior.

Lopez represents the confluence of two trends it seems we’re seeing in the Randy Flores drafts: players who came to college through the juco system, and players with extreme plate discipline. Lopez can fill up a stat line, with a little speed, a little power, and a ton of walks. He’s a switch-hitter to boot, so there’s a little Tommy Edman in his game, but physically he reminds me of Placido Polanco. His approach is more patient, less contact-oriented than Polanco, but Lopez is 5’10”, 180 lbs, makes solid contact, and plays what looks to me like a pretty good second base. I think Polanco is a decent comp for what the very best version of Irving Lopez might look like.

Rd. 22, #664: Kevin Hamann, RHP, Lewis and Clark State

Kevin Hamann is very skinny, has a pretty delivery, and a really good curveball. He’s also a fifth-year senior who pitched less and less each year in college, and ended up throwing less than 30 innings in seven relief appearances this year. I don’t know what the story is with him. He does have what looks like one good pitch to me, though, so he gets included here.

Rd. 25, #754: Patrick Dayton, LHP, Kent State

Dayton I find very interesting; he barely pitched at all his first couple years at Kent State, but then took off this spring in a relief role, striking out 37 hitters and walking just four in 26 innings. Those qualify as video game numbers, and point to what I think is a potential late-round sleeper pick.

Dayton is a low arm slot lefty, capable of getting his fastball into the 90s, but his best pitch is a wicked slurve that gets lefties bailing out like crazy. How much success he’ll actually have with what is essentially a souped-up Randy Choate arsenal, but at the least that low arm slot and nasty breaking ball could make him a LOOGY down the road.

via Glenn Dayton IV:

Rd. 27, #814: Kodi Whitley, RHP, Mt. Olive University

Whitley was a live-armed righthander with shaky control back in 2014, his freshman year at Mt. Olive in North Carolina, when a reader here at VEB sent along a note about him. It was the first I had ever heard the name, and I took a look. Big velocity, bad control, risky delivery.

He improved his sophomore season, bringing the walks way down, but was still pretty hittable for a guy who could reach 95 with the fastball. Then, in 2016, he injured his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery, coming back this spring for a very brief senior season. (Roughly five innings pitched.) The reports are that his velocity was all the way back, and he touched 95, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got at this point. Pure arm strength bet on a guy who’s already been cut on once, so you’re probably looking at a reliever profile. Still an interesting pick, though, given the velocity.

Rd. 28, #844: C.J. Saylor, RHP, San Diego State

Saylor was a two-way player in college, pitching and catching for the Aztecs, but he’s way better on the mound than behind the plate. He’s got some velocity, pushing 94 as SDSU’s closer this spring, and there might be more in the tank as he focuses more on pitching. He’s undersized (5’10”), but has a little bit of that Jason Motte kind of short-arm catcher-as-pitcher thing going for him.

Rd. 31, #934: Saul Garza, C, Edinburg North HS (Texas)

Garza is going to be a tough sign at this point in the draft, given his leverage as a high schooler. I’m not sure what it would take to sign him, nor if the Cards have the flexibility to get it done. The good news is that only anything over $125,000 counts against the club’s bonus pool, so maybe they’ve got wiggle room enough.

Garza is big for a catcher at 6’3”, but he’s got a strong arm and is pretty nimble behind the plate. Where he stands out, though, is in the batter’s box, where he has interesting power potential from the right side of the plate. Specifically, he’s shown pop going to the opposite field, which is always a big deal in my estimation. Garza is a long, long way from a finished product, but the power potential is very intriguing if he can stay behind the plate.

via Santana Garza:

There are a couple more interesting players among the final nine picks, specifically a pair of high school pitchers in Austin Pollock and Mike Gallegos who are both likely to go to college, and another high school catcher who’s more highly thought of for his glove than his bat in Adam Kerner. He’s probably going to school as well.

Overall, though, I think I’ve hit the players I find interesting, and there are a pretty fair number considering how rough the Cardinals’ situation was heading into this draft.

And that’s pretty much the theme of this draft for me: the Cardinals had virtually no chance of really having a good draft this year, due to the lack of picks before the third round and basically no ability to spend whatsoever. For the resources they possessed, though, I think Randy Flores and his drafting department did about as solid a job as could be expected. The trio of Scott Hurst, Terry Fuller, and Donivan Williams give the Cards three prospects with fairly high ceilings, I think, and there are at least a handful of very useful players later on I think have a solid chance of contributing at some point. Admittedly, looking at the list this year there’s a lot of organisational filler, including a couple guys taken in the top ten who probably don’t have much chance of making it past High A ball, but that’s to be expected when you have to save money to spread it around to the few bets you can really place.

So was 2017 a good draft? Well, realistically, we won’t know for a couple years. But in all likelihood, no, it was not. It was, however, probably the best we could have hoped for, or close to it.

I’m really hoping next year’s draft is more fun to cover.