The 2019 draft is officially in the books, ladies and gentlemen. The Cardinals made 40 picks in 40 rounds, and somehow managed to select 43 college pitchers.
Seriously, though, this was a strange draft. The organisation clearly decided to push hard on pitching this year, which is somewhat understandable given the sudden dearth of pitching talent in the pipeline, but you never really want to see a club seemingly make up its mind who to draft based on need rather than scouting. Still, with pretty rare exceptions, every single time you make a pick in the draft there are probably half a dozen players available at that slot whose talents are virtually indistinguishable in terms of quality. You might like one guy more than another based on pitch mix, or body type, or swing plane, or a dozen other factors, but there are so rarely clear differences in talent level that those preferences are as good a separator as anything, really.
I’m not going to try and give you scouting reports on every single player selected from the eleventh round on. A lot of these guys I’ve heard of, some I have info on, but a bunch of them are just names on the page to me. Rather than spit up a report filled with college stats and nothing about the player, I’m only going to cover players I either know something about or found something interesting about in brief research. So let’s call this the lightning round of draft profiles.
Rd. 11, #335: Connor Lunn, RHP, USC
Connor Lunn has a decent fastball, a solid curve, and a really ugly arm action. He worked mostly as a starter for the Trojans this spring, but he’s a reliever all the way for me in pro ball, both because of his middling velocity and the delivery, which I don’t believe holds up to a starter’s workload. As a starter he sits around 90 with the fastball, but in relief he can crank it up to 93-94 consistently, and he’s effective up in the zone with it. He throws his curve with good conviction, and it’s got nice shape and what looks to be a high spin rate. Two-pitch reliever in the John Brebbia mold.
Rd. 12, #365: Patrick Romeri, IMG Academy (FL)
Romeri is a superior athlete with plenty of room to grow into his frame, as he stands 6’3” and only weighs about 200 lbs. He’s an exciting defensive prospect, with 60s on both his speed and throwing arm, making him a possible fit in both center and right field long term. Offensively, he’s a lot more raw, with solid bat speed and really good pure contact ability but a weak approach and little inclination to lift the ball. Still, he has very good raw tools and is extremely young, not turning eighteen until later this summer. Similar draft bet to Bryce Denton from a few years ago.
via Prospects Live:
Rd. 13, #395: Tommy Jew, OF, UC Santa Barbara
Big fan of this pick. Jew used to be a pure speed slap-style hitter, but made some changes to his swing prior to this season, and also just started to fill out and get stronger. Now he’s a power/speed combo guy, with 20/20 potential down the road if he continues to improve. There’s some definite swing and miss in his game, which will bear watching, but he’s got all the physical tools you could ask for.
via Perfect Game Baseball:
Rd. 14, #425: Tyler Statler, Hononegah High School (IL)
Tyler Statler is already a good story, as he recovered from a terrible facial injury from a pitched ball that threatened his eyesight and playing career just to get to this point. Beyond the story value, though, he’s also a very talented, if very raw, pitcher. He’s a big, physical presence on the mound, in the 6’5” neighbourhood and not built like Chris Sale. Already up to 95 on the fastball, clean arm action in the back, points the ball toward second base longer than I would like. Shows a slider, but it needs work. Some changeup feel, but I might suggest a forkball. Got some Dave Stewart vibes here. This is a bet on a big, strong kid who already has plus velocity, trusting the player development staff can help him build a full repertoire around it.
via Tyler Statler:
Rd. 15, #455: David Vinsky, OF, Northwood University
Another premium athlete in the outfield, Vinsky comes by way of a small Division II college and, in fact, is their first-ever MLB draftee. I knew Vinsky’s name before the draft, but had only a vague idea who he was. Vinsky is an above-average runner, possibly could handle center field long term, and has very exciting hitting tools. He’s only starting to tap into any kind of power, but has a really smart approach at the plate and above-average contact ability. It’s always tough to predict how guys from small schools and the like will translate to pro-level competition, but this is how the Cardinals found Matt Adams a decade ago.
Rd. 16, #485: Thomas Hart, RHP, Wakeland High School (TX)
I hope the Cardinals can get this kid signed and into the system, because he has a very exciting arm. He’s got sort of the prototypical pitcher’s build, at 6’2” and only about 170 or so, and already shows plus arm speed and some feel for both spinning and slipping the baseball. He pushed his fastball as high as 92 this spring, though that’s definitely a peak for now rather than an average, and has shown both a decent — though slurvy — curveball and a really intriguing changeup. Nice, fluid delivery. Really love the future projection here.
via Thomas Hart:
Rd. 17, #515: Michael YaSenka, Eastern Illinois University
I’ve got nothing on YaSenka, but I am going to break my own rule and say he sure does strike out a lot of hitters. So yes, I’m scouting the stat line, but a 14+ K/9 rate in junior college and a 10+ for EIU as a starter jumps off the page. I’m smelling reliever here, either with some deception or one really good pitch. I’ll see if I can dig anything up on him going forward.
Rd. 19, #575: Zarion Sharpe, LHP, UNC Wilmington
Big fan of this pick, and big fan of Zarion Sharpe. He’s been both a reliever and starter in college (more starter than reliever), but I think he’s a reliever going forward, and potentially a very good one. Two-pitch mix, starting with a sinking fastball that almost has a Zach Britton-ish shape to it at its best. It doesn’t have that same kind of velocity, sitting more in the low 90s, but in short stints he should be able to push harder on the gas. Sharpe complements the fastball with a really tight little slider that has more depth than lateral movement, but can get swings and misses from both left- and right-handed hitters. He throws a changeup, as well, but it’s no better than a show me pitch, and he likely won’t need it if he ends up in the bullpen. For a nineteenth rounder, I think there’s a ton of upside here.
via Erik Carlson:
Rd. 21, #635: Jack Owen, LHP, Auburn
This is an interesting pick at this point in the draft. Owen is a draft-eligible sophomore, and to my eye one of the better sophomore pitchers available in the whole class this year. He really should have been off the board before the 21st round, and so I have to wonder if he’s really signable here. Hopefully he is, because while he doesn’t have huge stuff, he features a solid three pitch mix and excellent command of the strike zone.
The fastball sits around 88-89, and there’s a little deception in Owen’s delivery. He throws a curveball in the low- to mid-70s with good depth and a nice fading changeup that he sells well off his arm action. A person could prefer either of his two offspeed pitches and not really get an argument from me, as both are quite solid. All of his pitches play up because of his ability to hit spots and pitch to the edges. In short, Jack Owen is a Crafty Lefty, and you have to say it so you can hear the capital letters. He’s also ridden modest velocity and two good offspeed pitches to a strong track record of getting SEC hitters out.
via Prospects Live:
Rd. 22, #665: Zade Richardson, C, Wabash Valley College (IL)
A junior college freshman who caught Antoine Kelly, one of my personal cheeseballs from this draft, Richardson has a wide base of tools, but what stands out most is his offensive potential. He’s got plus raw power, plus plate discipline that allowed him to walk more often than he struck out this spring, and even better speed on the bases than most catchers. There are big questions about level of competition and all, of course, but he’s also just nineteen and has a lot of athletic potential. Behind the plate he features a strong arm, but beyond that I don’t really know enough to say how the glove is.
Rd. 25, #755: Alex McFarlane, RHP, Habersham High School (GA)
A pure arm strength pick, McFarlane has a risky arm action, a frame with a lot of room to add, and a fastball that already pushes 94-95 in short stints. He’s one of the younger high schoolers in the draft, as well, still just seventeen (edit: he turned eighteen yesterday), and will occasionally show some feel for spinning the ball. I’m not sure he’s signable here, and he needs a rework of his delivery if he is, I think. Still, picking a skinny seventeen year old with big radar gun readings in round 25 isn’t a bad idea at all.
via 2080 Baseball:
Rd. 28, #845: Tyler Peck, RHP, Chapman University
Peck is a senior out of a Division II college. In other words, not exactly prime draft real estate. However, his is a case of patience paying off, as he has matured into a really intriguing pitcher over the past couple years. Peck is a not-selling-jeans draftee; he’s a relatively thick 6’1” and 215-220 pounds, but he can push his fastball into the mid-90s and has a nasty slider. He’s mostly been a starter in his college career, but I could see a move to the ‘pen jump-starting his minor league run up the ladder. Already a high-strikeout guy, concentrating his stuff into 15-20 pitches at a time could be a burst of rocket fuel.
Rd. 30, #905: Cameron Dulle, RHP, Mizzou
I scouted Cam Dulle in high school. In fact, he went to Oakville, just a few miles away from my friend Luke’s mom’s house. That was something like five years ago, which is hard to believe. Dulle ended up staying at Mizzou longer than might have been expected; he’s actually a fifth-year senior who missed substantial time early due to injury. (I honestly don’t remember if he just hurt his arm or actually had TJ surgery. I’ll have to check.) That being said, Dulle is a potentially useful relief arm, with a low-90s fastball and a really solid cutter at about 88. He also throws a bigger slider in the low-80s, but tends to get lazy with it, allowing the pitch to get slow and loopy. The cutter is legit, though.
via Erik Carlson:
Rd. 34, #1025: Ben Baird, SS, University of Washington
I really, really liked Ben Baird coming out of high school. I scouted him back in 2016 as a potential top-five round type pick as a high-end athlete who could stick at shortstop long term and had plus or even plus-plus bat speed. The swing itself was really ugly, with no lower body at all and a tendency to chop down on the ball, but the raw athletic gifts Baird possessed were impossible to miss.
So why is he being picked three years later in the 34th round? Simple: Ben Baird cannot hit. At all. That swing has completely sabotaged his baseball career. No power, little contact, no patience. Baird needs a complete teardown of his swing before he can even think about being a useful player, and he’s not going to get that in college. The good news is, all the other stuff is still good, including a plus glove at short. But this is a long-term project with a pretty meager chance of success.
via The Prospect Pipeline:
The Cardinals finished off the draft with several high school picks who are almost guaranteed not to sign, including Chris Newell, a high school outfielder committed to Virginia who has some of the best raw offensive tools in the entire draft. The Cards don’t have enough extra wiggle room in the budget to sign a guy like Newell, sadly, but I guess it’s worth taking a shot anyhow just in case.
So what do I like about this group of draftees overall? Well, the Cardinals went mostly for high-strikeout pitchers this year, with only a few contact manager types thrown in here and there. Most of the pitching picks had either premium velocity or one great pitch, usually accompanied by control issues or a lack of size or some other issue that kept the kid in question from being a more highly ranked prospect. This is how you build a pipeline of future relievers, in all likelihood, but that’s not the worst thing in the world. There were a few interesting hitters scattered throughout the class, but this draft was mostly about reestablishing a depth of pitching talent that had fallen off for the Cards the last couple years. It’s definitely not my favourite draft group, but there was pretty clearly a plan in place that Randy Flores’s department then executed.