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System Sundays: 2017 Draftee Progress Reports

Taking stock of the club’s most recent draft class.

2017 Division I Men's College World Series - Florida v LSU - Game 2 Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Nope, not going to talk about the big league club. Not going to win, didn’t do anything at the deadline to move the club in a positive direction for the future. Enjoy playing out the string, everybody. In fact, if I could come up with a way to not write about the big league team for the rest of the season, I might do it. Most likely, that will last until about this coming Wednesday, though. So give my pouting the amount of regard it calls for, which is frankly not very much.

In the meantime, however, I will talk about one of the more positive aspects of the 2017 season: the draft class. Admittedly, the 2017 draft class for the Cardinals doesn’t come without some caveats in terms of how positive it can really be; the hacking penalties put the Cards and Randy Flores behind the eight ball, and ensured there was a fairly hard ceiling on how much they could get done. Within the confines of all that, though, Flores and his department did one of the more remarkable jobs I think I’ve seen of acquiring talent.

So let’s update the performances so far of a few notable draftees just starting out their pro careers, shall we?

Rd. 3 — Scott Hurst, OF

Level: State College (Short Season)

134 PA, .299/.376/.470, 9.7% BB, 22.4% K, 2 HR, 8 2B, 3 3B, .171 ISO, 4/6 SB, 149 wRC+

So far, Scott Hurst is off to pretty much exactly the kind of start one would hope to see from him. One of the most, if not the most, dynamic talents the Cards grabbed on draft day, Hurst has shown some power, some speed, patience at the plate, and generally loud contact the majority of the time.

The strikeouts are a little higher than I would have hoped, but that seems to be the case with most of the Cardinal hitters even in the minors these days. To be fair, though, it’s Hurst’s first pro season, he’s playing later than ever before, and seeing better competition than he’s ever faced. Still, when I looked at him in college at the time of the draft, I thought he should run a sub-20% strikeout rate in the pros. So far, he’s above that, though not terribly so. Still, with a walk rate close to 10% you don’t worry as much about the strikeouts.

He’s running a very high BABIP (.384), but anecdotally from the one or two sources I have who have seen him play for the Spikes, he’s also just hitting the hell out of the ball. The higher of the two short season leagues the Cardinals run, State College was a slightly aggressive assignment for Hurst, considering how much time he missed with back/spine issues in college, but so far both the stats and the eye tests suggest he’s a little too good for the level. Very encouraging.

Rd. 4 — Kramer Robertson, SS/2B

Level: Peoria (Low A)

116 PA, .255/.293/.373, 3 HR, 5/8 SB, 87 wRC+, 5.2% BB, 19.0% K

Scott Hurst’s placement at State College felt aggressive, but not overly so, and he has so far looked as if the organisation’s faith was well placed. Kramer Robertson, on the other hand, was placed even more aggressively as a college senior, sent straight to full-season Peoria, and at least to this point it looks like the placement may have been a little too aggressive.

To be fair, Robertson did come out of the gate quickly; in his first seven games he hit .367 with a couple home runs. After that, though, the former LSU Tiger found the going much tougher as a professional, particularly during a 3-for-33 tailspin to close July. He’s hit well so far in August, but suffice it to say Robertson has not come out and put himself on the fast track just yet. Considering he’ll turn 23 in a couple months, he should absolutely start no lower than Peoria next year, and should really move up to Palm Beach if he wants to get on any kind of prospect age track. We’ll have to see if the organisation believes him ready for that challenge, though.

Rd. 5 — Zach Kirtley, 2B

Level: State College

119 PA, 15.1% BB, 20.2% K, .082 ISO, .233 BABIP, 89 wRC+

Kirtley, product of the same St. Mary’s program that brought the Cardinals the perpetual power tease of Patrick Wisdom, is in many ways the exact opposite of his fellow alum. Wisdom is a high-quality defender at third, with power to spare but poor contact skills and atrocious discipline. Kirtley, on the other hand, is all patience and discipline, with modest pop, questionable quality of contact (at least so far), and no real defensive home.

On the other hand, this is a player getting his first taste of pro ball, with an aggressive placement (particularly considering Kirtley is very young for a college draftee, not turning 21 until October), who is also walking over 15% of the time and striking out not much more than that. It was an open question what position Kirtley would play coming out of the draft, but so far the Cards seem dedicated to trying him out at second, perhaps just because they can’t help themselves but try to corner the second base market completely.

Rd. 7 — Chase Pinder, OF

Level: Johnson City (Short Season)

135 PA, .319/.430/.425, 136 wRC+, 13.3% BB, 16.3% K, 9 2B

First off, I skipped round six draftee Zach Jackson, the high school catcher with the big lefty uppercut, because he’s only played in about a dozen games and hasn’t really gotten going yet. We’ll check back in on him at a later date.

Pinder, meanwhile, received a less aggressive assignment than Scott Hurst, partially because I think the organisation wanted to challenge Hurst as their highest pick, but also because of the glut of outfielders at pretty much every level of the farm system. Pinder and Hurst being assigned to two different levels allows both to play center, where they need to be evaluated first.

The best part of Pinder’s line so far is that near-1:1 strikeout to walk ratio; he’s rocking a hard-contact-assisted .389 BABIP as well. He’s also put the ball in the air more often than on the ground, with roughly 60% of his batted balls being either line drives or fly balls, compared to a little under 40% on the ground. Admittedly, stringers and batted ball date in the minors can be shaky, but it’s fair to say already that Pinder is doing pretty much everything right so far.

Oh, and another note: those numbers are from FanGraphs, but I happen to know Pinder just put up a 5-for-6 performance last night that should help his line even more.

Wilberto Rivera, the club’s eighth round pick, has thrown four innings. So, you know. Let’s wait on that one.

Rd. 9 — Evan Kruczynski, LHP

Level: Peoria

7 GS, 34 IP, 6 HR, 5.03 ERA, 16.5% K, 3.4% BB , 48.6% GB

Kruczynski was pushed to full-season ball immediately and so far has been bitten by the home run bug. Beyond that, though, he’s pretty well held his own. He’s not striking out a ton of hitters, but he’s also not walking basically anyone at all. So, pretty much as advertised so far.

Rd. 10 — Brett Seeburger, LHP

Level: Johnson City

6 Games, 2 GS, 16.2 IP, 17 K, 3 BB, 0.55 ERA

Brett Seeburger has been nothing short of awesome so far. He is 22 years old already, having been drafted as a college senior, and so is fairly advanced for the Appy League, but he’s still come out and been great. I haven’t been able to lay eyes on him yet for Johnson City, but as good as he’s been out of the gate I need to get a look soon.

Rd. 11 — Evan Mendoza, 3B

Level: State College

165 PA, .370/.433/.541, 9.1% BB, 18.2% K, .452 BABIP, 13 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR

Evan Mendoza is a bad, bad man. At least in State College, anyway.

So far in his brief minor league career, Mendoza has done nothing but barrel up baseballs left and right, sending screaming line drives pretty much foul pole to foul pole. The strikeouts are not bad, the walks are just fine, and the contact has been phenomenal.

The only downside of Mendoza’s profile is he’s running a very low fly ball rate, just over 25% of his batted balls so far. Now, there’s absolutely the small sample issue, but that’s very much the kind of hitter he was in college as well. He hits the ball hard, but the swing is fairly flat and doesn’t lend itself to much loft. Still, he’s done nothing but crush New York-Penn pitching this summer, and you have to kind of love how many of these draftees have been startlingly good to begin their careers.

Rd. 12 — Andrew Summerville, LHP

Level: State College

24.1 IP, 1.85 ERA, 21.6% K, 13.7% BB, .313 BABIP

As for the Cards’ newest Stanford acquisition, Summerville has had some control issues in the early going, with the walks way up compared to what you might have expected of him coming out of college. He’s walked twelve hitters in his last four starts, though, so I suspect there’s probably some fatigue involved. It wouldn’t shock me to see the organisation shut him down relatively soon if he continues to labour, just to try and avoid any kind of injury risk elevated by him being tired and pitching later in the year than he has previously.

Rd. 13 — Jacob Patterson, LHP

Level: Johnson City

15 G, 17.1 IP, 1.04 ERA, 37.3% K, 6% BB

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is an extremely intriguing bullpen arm. Intriguing to the tune of 25 strikeouts in just 17 innings intriguing. Yes, it’s Johnson City, so a fairly conservative assignment for the lefty slinger, but those numbers are still remarkable. I thought at the time of the draft the Cards might have found a bit of a diamond in the rough with Patterson, and he’s not disabusing me of that notion yet.

Rd. 14 -- Donivan Williams, 3B

Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)

58 PA, 15.5% BB, 19.0% K, .311/.431/.489, 158 wRC+

Wow. That’s really about all there is to say about Donivan Williams’s performance so far. I loved the bat speed, the arm strength, and the overall athleticism Williams brought to the table at the time of the draft, but in no way was I expected a kid with the kind of plate maturity he’s shown immediately. High school kids do not come into pro ball and walk over 15% of the time. Or, at least, they don’t do so while also striking out less than 20% of the time.

It’s incredibly early, yes. But Donivan Williams has my full and undivided attention now.

Rd. 15 — Terriez Fuller, 1B/OF

Level: Gulf Coast League

82 PA, .219/.305/.370, 93 wRC+, 9.8% BB, 36.6% K, 3/3 SB, 2 HR

Terry Fuller has swung and missed quite a bit so far in pro ball. That’s not shocking, considering how short a time he’s actually been concentrating fully on baseball, but it’s a good reminder that there were reasons why the guy who outhomered Bryce Harper at a showcase fell all the way to the fifteenth round. Not that he should have fallen anywhere near that far, mind you; I’m just saying, there are reasons Fuller was not a top prospect in spite of some elite physical tools.

He’s looked very athletic in the outfield, and hit a couple of absolute moon shots right off the bat. He’s been fighting it as of late, however, it appears, which I’m tempted to chalk at least partially up to tiring out, similarly to Andrew Summerville’s declining control. Fuller the first couple weeks of his season was much more patient, but has hit a rough patch the last ten days or so. The swing and miss concerns me, but the tools are still there, and have plenty of time to emerge and be polished.

As For the Rest.....

Jake Walsh (16) has struck out 25 in 19 innings for Johnson City.

Will Latcham (17) has struck out 22 in 16 innings at State College, walking just 5.

Irving Lopez (18), another second baseman, has a .405 on-base percentage for Johnson City, with four homers in less than 100 at-bats and a 13:14 walk to strikeout ratio.

Thomas St. Clair (24) has struck out almost 37% of the hitters he’s faced this season at JC.

Kodi Whitley (27) is running a 14:2 K:BB ratio in nine innings for the GCL Cardinals.

Wood Myers (29) put up a 162 wRC+ at Johnson City, then moved up to State College and has struggled so far.

Taylor Bryant (33) is both walking and striking out 17.7% of the time for the GCL club. He’s old for the level as a college player, but that’s still encouraging. The org needs to move him up, but I’m not sure to where just yet. (He’s a shortstop.)

Michael Brdar (36) has more walks (9) than strikeouts (8) playing in the GCL. He has walks like he has consonants in his name, in fact.

So far, it’s hard to find too many really terrible performances from 2017 draftees for the Cardinals. There are a few, of course, but the early returns on the draft this year are remarkably exciting, considering how limited the options were. It’s still far too early to make any sweeping declarations about the quality of the class, but that won’t stop me from thinking very loudly that the Randy Flores drafting department is the best the Cards have had since Jeff Luhnow left town.