clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2018 Draft Preview No. 10: Educated Infielders

Collegiate infielders, three of ‘em. Read and learn and then be disappointed when they aren’t drafted by the Cardinals.

Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Well, at least the Twins have moved on out of town, right? That was awful.

Anyway, here’s another draft preview post, this time featuring a trio of college infielders. This just so happens to be one of the thinner demographics in the entire draft this year; there are plenty of high school kids destined to play in the dirt, but a real dearth of the polished, solid-average infielders we usually see populating much of the first three rounds. There are a couple, sure; Nick Madrigal, who I’ve covered here already, is probably a lock for the top five picks at this point, and one of today’s writeups is a guy with a ton of helium heading into the draft. Overall, though, it feels like it’s going to be somewhat slim pickings for clubs looking for premium position talent in the first round this year.

Cadyn Grenier, SS, Oregon State

5’11”, 180 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: Cinco de Mayo, 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I mentioned a moment ago Nick Madrigal, the Oregon State second baseman who might be the pure hitter in the draft this year and is at least circling the question of this year’s top overall pick. One of the really interesting debates about Madrigal is whether or not he could handle shortstop, rather than being confined to second base; his hands and range are likely good enough to play short, with only his arm really being a question mark. Part of the debate hinges on the fact it’s almost entirely hypothetical, as Madrigal has played basically zero shortstop at the college level. Why, you might ask, if he looks to potentially have that ability?

The answer is Cadyn Grenier.

Here’s the thing: Cadyn Grenier might be the best defensive shortstop in college this year. His range is above-average for the position. His hands are soft and dependable. His arm is not a cannon cut from the Andrelton Simmons mold, but it’s more than strong enough to make all the throws he needs to from short. Grenier is a joy to watch in the field, and will almost certainly reach the big leagues based just on his glove aptitude. Nick Madrigal hasn’t really even attempted shortstop in college because, as remarkable a player as he is, he simply can’t hope to contend with the glove of the guy already entrenched at short.

On the other hand, we also have an object lesson here in exactly how offensive and defensive skills are valued relative to one another. Because while Madrigal, by dint of being that maybe the best pure hitter in the draft status, is probably going to go in the top 3-5 picks, Grenier, probably the best and most pro-ready defender at the toughest position (non-catcher, of course, which falls into an entirely separate category), on the diamond, is probably looking at more of a 50-80 pick draft position.

Which isn’t to say Grenier simply can’t hit; he can. He has solid contact skills, and he looks to my eye a little more balanced in the box this spring than he has in the past. There’s very little power in his profile, though, and I think it’s more a function of bat speed and limited hitting strength than an approach thing. He’s a smart hitter, and understands his strengths and weaknesses, but he simply doesn’t have the kind of offensive talent that’s going to get him picked toward the top of the draft. That being said, maybe there’s some development that could come under a professional team’s watch; after all, we’ve seen over the past handful of years that players may be more malleable than we previously thought.

The Cardinals actually have history with Grenier, having selected him out of high school back in 2015. At the time, he was a wiry, undersized middle infielder with very little bat, and the Cards popped him in the 21st round just as a flyer. He headed off to school for the Beavers, and three years later he’s a slightly less wiry middle infielder with a modest amount of offensive upside.

Grenier puts me in the mind of another former Cardinal draft pick: Ryan Jackson, the former U of Miami shortstop taken by the Redbirds in the fifth round back in ‘09. Jackson ended up with several cups of coffee spread over a few years, but never could quite stick in the big leagues. The bat just didn’t ever come around, and while he had high-level defensive tools, he played nervous most of the time, knowing full well he was right on the edge of being sent down at any moment. That may not sound like a particularly inspiring comp for Grenier, admittedly, but in his time Ryan Jackson was a very intriguing prospect; the offense just failed to develop. I think Grenier’s offensive tools are a little better across the board than Jackson’s, and his defense is of a similar pedigree. The supplemental first feels early for Grenier, but if he fell to the Cards in the third round I could see him being a good fit there.

via Baseball America:

Jonathan India, SS/3B, University of Florida

6’1”, 185 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 15 December 1996

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Jonathan India is one of the biggest helium players in the draft this year, having gone from something like a third- or fourth-round talent projection prior to the college season starting to potentially a mid-first round pick at this point. He’s gotten there by making adjustments to his offensive game and taking off to a new level.

To begin with, the position: India is listed alternately as a shortstop or third baseman, depending upon who you ask. Personally, I think he fits better at third base; his arm is maybe his strongest defensive tool, and his hands are good. He’s more quick than fast, though, with limited range at short, I feel, and in the end I just think he plays better at the corner than up the middle. Still, it’s an open question for now, and what a team thinks about India’s ultimate position will likely have a big say in how soon he hears his name called on draft day.

Really, though, it’s the bat that’s going to get India drafted high, and the bat has taken a huge step forward this spring. Is he a launch angle guy? Well, it sure looks to me like he is. He’s also a leg kick guy, and a plate-discipline-jump guy. In other words, he kind of did the Josh Donaldson makeover to himself in college, and is now being talked about as one of the best bats among college guys.

In 2017, India came to bat 251 times for the Gators. In those 251 plate appearances he hit six home runs. This spring, he’s got 207 PAs under his belt, and fifteen dingers for his trouble. He’s more than doubled his walk rate, from 9.2% in 2017 to a ridiculous 19.3% this year. Yes, he’s running a super high BABIP, but he’s not getting lucky, or at least not much. He’s just killing the ball damn near every time he comes up to bat. It all adds up to a .392/.531/.791 batting line, and an easy first-round draft grade. It’s not quite JD Drew’s junior season, but it’s really close. He’s probably got room for another 20 good pounds on his frame, as well, so there could easily be more power to come.

Oh, and India is also one of the most efficient base stealers you’re ever going to see. Between 2017 and ‘18, he’s swiped 24 bases. He has been caught zero times.

In all likelihood, India comes off the board before the Cardinals pick. Of course. Because even when the Cards are as bad and frustrating as most of us can remember, they still pick 19th, instead of tanking into the top ten like the Red Sox or the like. If Jonathan India did make it to the Redbirds, though, he’s a slam dunk pick.

via Vincent Cervino:

Nico Hoerner, SS, Stanford

5’11”, 190 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB; 13 May 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

A very optimistic person could look at Nico Hoerner and see shades of Scott Kingery, the former Arizona contact wunderkind who has developed power on his way to the big leagues and is currently trying to adjust to big league life with the Phillies. There’s a similar contact-heavy approach with Hoerner, as well as a similar level of plate discipline. Hoerner this spring is running a 15:14 walk to strikeout ratio in 175 plate appearances, and while there’s not much pop to speak of (just two homers, and fifteen extra-base hits altogether), he’s very adept at using all fields and spraying low-launch-angle contact around the ballpark.

In other words, Hoerner is very much a Stanford hitter, but he mostly makes it work for him. When a corner outfielder comes out of Stanford, like Austin Wilson or Stephen Piscotty, that Stanford-y approach can present a problem, in that those positions are generally ones from which you need some power production. From a middle infielder, though? High contact, moderate power bats are welcome pretty much any time.

I say an optimistic person could see Kingery in Hoerner because I don’t see the same kind of natural explosiveness in the swing of Hoerner that I remember from Kingery’s time at Arizona. The hands and wrists simply don’t have the same kind of suddenness. Still, Hoerner is a natural when it comes to putting the bat on the ball, and in today’s game that’s an interesting trait to see in a hitter.

As for the defense, I think Hoerner could handle shortstop at a slightly below-average level, but his best fit is probably second base, where his arm will be a plus, rather than a mild liability. He’s an above-average runner, and has actually made strides this spring in turning his speed into production on the bases, with 11/13 stolen bases on the year. Sure, it’s against college pitchers and catchers, who are very rarely dedicated to stopping the running game as pro clubs are, but it’s still a solid, efficient addtion to Hoerner’s bag of skills.

If I’m being honest, I think I like Hoerner a bit more than I do Cadyn Grenier, simply because his offense is more fully-former, and comes from a high-contact profile that I think could be very valuable in the current baseball climate. Where Grenier has the advantage in defense and is a solid contact hitter, Hoerner may be best at second, and less likely to make it to the bigs on his glove alone, but has a higher ceiling in the end due to having a true plus tool in his contact ability. I definitely wouldn’t take him at nineteen, and he might be a bit of a reach in the supplemental round, but I might also be able to talk myself into him not feeling like a reach there.

via rkyosh007:

Hey, at the top of this post is a picture of Kolten Wong. Kolten is both a college infielder the Cardinals drafted, and a native Hawaiian. Hawaii needs help right now. Kolten has a gofundme page set up. If you’ve got any spare change in the couch cushions, those people could really, really use it.