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Looking at the 2017 Cardinals draftees a year later

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Some interesting players, some not interesting players.

2017 Division I Men’s College World Series - Florida v LSU - Game 2
This is Kramer Robertson.
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Last year at this time, the third and final day of the MLB draft was happening, so I thought the one-year anniversary of that draft would be a good time to revisit the Cardinals picks and see how exactly they’ve progressed. It’ll be interesting if you ignore the minor leagues, but maybe not if you pay close attention since some of these updates are going to be the same as September of last year since short season ball has not started yet.

If you can remember, the Cardinals’ first pick was a 3rd round pick. This was due to the Astros hacking scandal, which I’ll be honest: I completely forgot that happened. They also signed Dexter Fowler and lost their first pick, which is not looking great right now. But it’s certainly looking better than the pick we lost in order to sign Greg Holland, so you got that going for you Dexter.

3rd round - Scott Hurst, OF

Hurst was under the radar because he had serious back issues for the first couple years of his career. During his junior year, he became healthy and the numbers followed. So he represented something of a risk because who knows if the back injury problems would follow. So far, so good. The Cardinals sent him to State College right after the draft, which is pretty much the highest level they’ll send anyone straight out of the draft. He rewarded their gamble. He batted .282/.354/.432. Good walk rate, decent power, sky high BABIP at .370 but that’s more of a positive than a negative in the low minors. He did strike out too much with a 24 K%.

They advanced him one level up to Peoria to begin this season and in 39 games, he has a 114 wRC+. He’s cut down on the strikeouts to 19.4% but so far the power has gone too (.150 to .106). A culprit of that is that his pull% has fell from 48.4% to 39.1% and his opposite field% has went from 31.9% to 39.8%. So it looks like an effort to not strike out as much, which is affecting his pull%, which presumably caused his power to go down. On the positive side, his IFFB% has went from a somewhat insane 28.6% to 15%. That still seems like a lot of infield fly balls, though low minor classification is likely not super reliable. Anyway, he’s only 22 and seems headed down the right path, albeit with a bevy of OFers in his way.

4th round - Kramer Robertson, SS

Funny I should say State College is pretty much the highest level they’ll send a recent draftee since the very next pick proves me wrong. Robertson was drafted as a 22-year-old, so he was a bit old for a draftee, so they sent him straight to Peoria. He was solid. He had a 109 wRC+ without relying on BABIP all that much, and really, without much power either. He just didn’t strike out much and walked a good amount. He got promoted to Palm Beach, where he’s actually cut down on his strikeouts even more, but not quite walking as much (7.1% to 8.7%). His lack of power became Kozma-esque this year, dropping to a .061. His BABIP has also dropped to .262, leading to a 77 wRC+. Palm Beach is pretty rough on hitters, but he’s going to need to ISO over .100 at a place not in Springfield (so Memphis I guess - or a huge turnaround for the rest of the season) for me to have any faith in this guy.

5th Round - Zach Kirtley, 2B

Kirtley is another middle infielder with little power drafted out of college. He got sent to State College out of the draft and he did something to distinguish himself. He walked. A lot. Despite a .272 BABIP and a .090 ISO, he still had a 105 wRC+. This year, in Peoria, he’s been a completely different hitter. He’s walked at half the rate he did last year (6.7%), struck out more, and completely relied on BABIP (.351). We’re dealing with 32 games here, but in my book, he has become less interesting.

6th Round - Zach Jackson, C

He played in 14 uninspiring games in the Gulf Coast League last year and that’s literally it. He got drafted out of high school so that’s to be expected. Moving on.

7th Round - Chase Pinder, OF

The Cardinals made a mistake here. They sent him to Johnson City and he clearly should have been sent to a higher level out of the draft. He didn’t have much power (weird trend), but thanks in large part to a 14.8 BB% and a .398 BABIP, his wRC+ was 146. This year, his numbers have cooled, because the Cards had him skip a few levels and sent him straight to Palm Beach. Which was an interesting decision! But not a bad one, necessarily. His numbers have gone way down, but he now has a 95 wRC+ with a .279 BABIP, so he seems to belong. His walks and Ks both went down, and his power is basically the same.

8th Round - Wilberto Rivera - RHP

The high schoolers will not have much of an update here. He threw 9.1 bad innings in the Gulf Coast League, purely as a reliever. But he was 18 so it would be more of a surprise if he was immediately good.

9th round - Evan Kruczsynski - LHP

Now we’re talking. Another old draftee, Kruczsynski was sent to Peoria and was solid. He had an unexcitedly good performance, largely off the back of not walking many hitters. He got promoted to Palm Beach for this season and started pitching better. He raised his K% from a below average 19.1% to a pretty good 24.4%. He’s walking slightly more, but not alarmingly so. His FIP lowered from 4.14 to 3.35 for this season. Let’s see if he can survive Springfield.

10th round - Brett Seeburger - LHP

It’s interesting to see who the Cards believe in and who they don’t. Both Kruc and Seeburger were 22-years-old and left-handed starters. Kruc went to Peoria, and Seeburger went to Johnson City, They were drafted one round apart. Anyway, Seeburger had a 28:3 K/BB ratio in Johnson City in 27 IP and has not pitched yet this season. So that’s curious at the least.

11th round - Evan Mendoza, 3B

Props to any draft evaluation system that said this guy was going to be a fast mover. I don’t know if anyone did, but if they did, I don’t think they expected him to move this fast. Admittedly, the Cards have been pretty aggressive. Immediately following getting signed, he got assigned to State College and got promoted to Peoria after 41 games of 191 wRC+ performance. He only managed a 90 wRC+ in 18 games there, but nonetheless, the Cards assigned him to Palm Beach to begin this season. He had a 149 wRC+ there. He needed a .412 BABIP, but he was also at Palm Beach and that was enough to promote him to Springfield. In 24 games at Springfield, he has a 118 wRC+ with a .343 BABIP. He will turn 22 in about two weeks.

12th round - Andrew Summerville, LHP

Another college lefty. There’s really nothing particularly interesting in his stats so far. He pitched 60 decent innings at State College last year after getting drafted, walking a little too much and not striking out not quite enough. He is in Peoria this year and appears to have abandoned starting, only pitching 9 innings. He has 15 Ks and 10 BBs in 9 IP so far.

13th round - Jacob Patterson, LHP

How many college lefties did they draft last year? In any case, Patterson’s stats stand out. They didn’t show a ton of faith in Patterson, putting him in Johnson City. He pitched 23.1 IP, struck out 33, walked 7 and gave up only 15 hits. The reliever skipped a few levels to Palm Beach and his numbers look more normal. He’s only striking out 20.9% of hitters while walking 9.6%. He did skip a few levels, but it’s also Palm Beach and he’s a reliever so it’s a little disappointing after his stats last year.

14th round - Donivan Williams, 3B

Williams got assigned to the Gulf Coast League, turning 18 in July last year. His wRC+ of 73 is not good, but he had a 9.6 BB% and 21.7% with a .253 BABIP so there are signs. He hasn’t played yet this year.

15th round - Terry Fuller, OF

I’m going to choose to ignore his current stats to tell you that he will be a future star for the Cardinals. Do not google his stats please. Just take my word for it.

16th Round - Jake Walsh, RHP

Walsh got assigned to Johnson City last season and he averaged about 2 innings per appearance but did not start, striking out 36.1% of hitters and walking 9.3%. He skipped State College to start games in Peoria and was pretty good! His K% fell to 27.2%, but his walks also fell to 8.7% and he was not starting games, so he barely missed a step. He got promoted to Palm Beach and stopped striking out people and walking them in 24 not very good innings.

17th Round - Will Latcham, RHP

Reliever out of college, so you know he’s kind of a boring guy. Nonetheless, if you’re going to make yourself known as a relieving prospect, having a 2.05 ERA while striking out nearly 33% of hitters in State College is the way to go. He’s actually striking out more people in Palm Beach this year, but he’s also walking a lot more too. His xFIP has fell from 2.42 to 3.25. We’ll see how he can do in Springfield.

19th Round - Irving Lopez, 2B

With the 18th rounder choosing to go to school for his senior season, the Cardinals have their first unsigned draft pick. That’s ok, we got a good one here. Lopez was a college infielder sent to Johnson City where he had a wRC+ of 122. Nothing terribly exciting in his profile, but solid walk rate, very few strikeouts, and solid pop. The Cardinals sent him to Peoria for this season and he’s doing a similar impression. His strikeouts went up considerably and his power went down, but his BABIP went from .305 to .333 so his wRC+ is 118. There’s nothing all that exciting about him, but the Cardinals have gotten average guys out of less than this.

20th round - Brandon Benson, OF

Benson appears to be incorrectly labeled as a 24-year-old on Fangraphs, so needless to say I was very confused about what the Cardinals have chosen to do with him. Benson was sent to State College, somewhat of a warning sign already that he’s probably not 24. He did fine, walking at a good rate, not striking out a lot, and having some pop, for a 112 wRC+. He has not played yet this season, indicating he is repeating State College, hence my confusion at his age.

21st Round - Jake Dahlberg, LHP

Mo to Randy Flores presumably: “I don’t ever want to have to fucking sign Brett Cecil again, get me all the lefty relief pitchers. ALL OF THEM” . That said, this guy is already 24 this year and wasn’t very good in Johnson City so this lefty will not replace Cecil.

22nd Round - Kevin Hamann, RHP

If this guy ever makes it to the big leagues, expect to hear the school Lewis-Clark State out of Idaho a ton because, you know Matt Adams went to Slippery Rock right? Hamann was 23 when drafted and he pitched 19.1 IP of not walking anyone ball. Sorry he walked 2.5% of hitters. He’s in Peoria this season and he’s playing “let’s walk everyone ball.” Sorry, he actually has a 20.8 BB%

23rd Round - Evan Guillory, RHP

Alright our first successful diamond in the rough pick in a little while. Granted literally every pick is a diamond in the rough after a certain point, a point in the draft we have long since passed. Guillory pitched 45 innings in Johnson City of pretty solid baseball. He got a groundball 55.6% of the time and didn’t walk many batters (3.9%). In Peoria, he has pitched pretty much the same, walking more and getting less groundballs, but somehow having a nearly identical xFIP. I wish I knew the correlation between swinging strike percentage and K%, but I’m fairly certain his 12% swinging strike would indicate better than his below average 19.5 K%.

24th Round - Thomas St. Clair, RHP

Yay, old reliever only prospects! St. Clair turned 24 last month, but at the very least, he’s putting good stats on the board against much younger than him competition. He struck out 34% of batters in Johnson City, but walked quite a few (16%). He started this year in Peoria and has struck out more (36.9%) while cutting down on his BB% significantly (10.8%). He’s moderately interesting with those stats and given his age, he’ll probably see some time in Palm Beach before the year is over.

25th Round - Patrick Dayton, LHP

Well this is a guy who was sent to Gulf Coast League and is a relief only college pitcher. He was fine there, but you’d kind of expect utter domination given his age. Hasn’t debuted yet this year, if he’s even still in the organization.

26th Round - Paul Balestrieri

This guy appears to be organizational filler and thank god because I do not want to spell that name again.

27th Round - Kodi Whitley, RHP

Whitley was sent to the GCL, because this is the 27th round and threw 14 utterly dominant innings in relief. The Cardinals liked what they saw and promoted him all the way to Peoria. His number are not as dominant, but he has a good K/BB ratio and gets his fair share of grounders.

28th Round - C.J. Saylor, RHP

Another relief only guy who is already 24-years-old today. There’s really not much to say about this guy, but he’s been fine in Peoria.

29th Round - Wood Myers, 2B

In 69 plate appearances last year, he hit 166 wRC+ in Johnson City. The .481 BABIP might have helped. His numbers fell all the way to 65 wRC+ for the rest of the season in State College. He has far some reason been hitless in six plate appearances in Palm Beach so far, but no appearances anywhere else this season.

30th Round - Alex Fagalde, RHP

Look I’ve run out of things to say about these interchangeable, old relief only pitchers who have fine numbers, but they are so much older than their competition and also relief only pitchers, so there’s nothing to say.

32nd Round - Cameron Knight, C

The Cardinals drafted back-to-back catchers, the first of which didn’t stay and chose to go to college instead of coming straight from high school. Knight played 15 games at Gulf Coast and 13 games in Johnson City and he was the same bad hitter at both spots. He hasn’t played yet this year. He’s 23.

33rd Round - Taylor Bryant, 3B

Drafted out of Cal State Fullerton, it seems a little unfair to the GCL pitchers that they sent him here first, but they did and he played like a guy who played college baseball at a good school against teenagers. He started this season at Peoria, hit a solid but unremarkable 105 wRC+ and then got promoted to Palm Beach already. In 17 games, he has 7 extra base hits already, but is striking out a ton. He’s also walking a ton and has a 112 wRC+ to show for it. He is already 23, but hey he might get promoted to Springfield before the season is over.

34th Round - Cory Malcom, RHP

Yet another relief only older pitching draft pick, though I will say he has posted comically high K numbers in Peoria this year. He has struck out 43.5% of the batters he has faced this year and walked 13% plus has a .474 BABIP against the few times hitters do make contact, so he probably has very little control over his pitches. His swinging strike rate is, uh, 10.8%, which isn’t low or anything, but preeeetty low for a guy who strikes out over 40% of the batters he faces.

35th Round - Alex Gallegos, RHP

Here’s an unusual one. If I’m finding my information correctly, Gallegos was drafted out of high school and signed with the Cardinals and immediately got placed on the DL. He recently turned 20. He has not played a game for the Cardinals organization.

36th Round - Michael Brdar, 2B

No, I did not spell his last name wrong, that is apparently how it is spelled. He was drafted as a SS, listed as a catcher on fangraphs, and playing most of his games at 2B. I just told you the most interesting thing about him.

38th, 39th Round - Jim Voyles, Chris Hunt, RHP

Placeholder sentence about older relief only pitcher.

Unsigned Players

Shane McCarthy in the 18th round to stay for a senior season at Seton Hall, Saul Garza in the 31st round out of high school so that he could play at Howard College, Adam Kerner in the 37th round who chose to go to the University of San Diego (and is Freshman All-American!), and Austin Pollock in the 40th round, a lefty out of high school who chose to go to Florida State.

Conclusion

Given the Cards’ first pick wasn’t until the 94th pick of the draft, this isn’t too bad. There’s not many exciting players in this group and a surprising lack of power from the good hitters, but if you remove the 1st, 2nd and supplemental picks, your draft will look a lot different. The best picks appear to be Scott Hurst, Chase Pinder, Evan Mendoza, and Jacob Patterson. There’s a few intriguing high schoolers in this group who got their first taste of professional ball and we should have a better idea of where they are at at the end of this season.

I guess I’ll finish this post with a question: is there any player in this group you are irrationally attached to and think can do something in the majors despite the odds being against it? Let’s cancel out Hurst, because he’d be a boring pick.