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2019 Draft Preview No. 14: Final Favourites and Preview

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Morning of the draft, here’s a roundup of some related stuff.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Good morning, all. Draft Day is upon us once again, with the festivities kicking off tonight on MLB Network and MLB.com at six p.m. Eastern time. As usual, I’m running late this morning, and so I will try to keep this brief if I can.

The Latest Mocks

There have been so, so many mock drafts released recently, and most are probably useless. However, sometimes you get a little idea of what direction a team is leaning in, so let’s read some tea leaves.

  • In the latest mock over at FanGraphs, McDaniel and Longenhagen (great law firm name), have the Cards projected to take Will Wilson, a shortstop out of NC State, with their first pick. I’ve heard Wilson’s name a lot, and the Cardinals do like Wolfpack alumni, so there could be some smoke here. Personally, Wilson likely wouldn’t be my guy, but I do like him better than nearly any of the other college shortstops we could be looking at this year. They’ve also got Georgia’s Aaron Schunk listed as a possibility in round two, which I do not like at all.
  • At MLB.com they have the Cardinals mocked as taking Logan Davidson, shortstop from Clemson. (Yes, you’re seeing a pattern here.) Davidson isn’t bad, and fits pretty well in this range, but I like Wilson a touch better, and even Braden Shewmake, the almost-certainly-a-second-baseman with the magic wand contact skills out of Texas A&M. Davidson is a big, physical kid to play up the middle, but he does bring thump. Even so, I’m not as in to this as Wilson.
  • Keith Law’s latest mock (subscription required), has the Cards taking Will Wilson, same as FanGraphs. He also mentions Maurice Hampton, high school outfield with loud tools, and Gunnar Henderson, a high school shortstop who has had a lot of helium this spring. I didn’t get around to writing up Henderson, so I assume he’ll be the pick. Short version: lefty hitter, plus bat speed, intriguing power, big for the position (6’3”), has the arm to move to third and may very well need to. I like Henderson but I don’t love him. Mo Hampton I’m a fan of; he’s a two-sport athlete who would need to be bought away from playing football and baseball both at LSU, and has massive upside. Honestly, he still wouldn’t be my first choice of the players available on Law’s board, but he’s an exciting project, er, prospect.
  • Mike Axisa at CBS Sports has the Redbirds going with George Kirby, a right-handed pitcher out of Elon Universtity, another guy I didn’t get to on my spreadsheet. Kirby has a Miles Mikolas-y sort of feel to him as a four-pitch guy with plus velocity and unbelievable control, but so far he has yet to show a similar deficiency in terms of strikeouts. He mentions Will Wilson and Kody Hoese as backup options to Kirby if he’s off the board. I would be fine with any of those options, really.

So pretty obviously, either people are hearing Will Wilson’s name buzzing about from sources, or they’re all just saying Wilson’s name and creating an echo chamber. Like I said, the Cardinals do seem to like NC State guys, so it wouldn’t surprise me to know there’s some truth here.

It’s interesting to me that we’re hearing so much buzz about college shortstops, though it’s entirely possible that’s simply what the draft seems to be offering at the point the Cardinals pick. This draft is lousy with up the middle college bats, particularly in the middle to back part of the first round. Ergo, if you pick nineteenth, there’s a good chance the best player on the board at that point is going to be a collegian, and play either shortstop or third base.

Draft Needs

Okay, let me preface this section by simply saying: you always try to take the best player on the board. If you like a particularly type of player or thin, you’re better at developing a certain type or have a big gaping hole in the system and two players are ranked right there together on your board, then it’s okay to to pick according to those factors. But you’re always trying to simply get the best guy you possibly can, according to your own internal calculus. (Of course, once you get past about the top ten in the draft, it’s extremely, extremely subjective who the best player on the board is.)

That being said, the Cardinals right now are in an odd position, one in which they find themselves with a real dearth of pitching prospects in the system, but tons of hitting talent. They are ridiculously deep right now with third basemen. They have a shortstop at the big league level locked up for the long haul who you aren’t going to be looking to replace in all likelihood. Outfield is still a position of real strength for the organisation long term.

On the other hand, the pitching situation in the minors is fairly dire. The club’s recent focus on high school hitting athletes has pulled those early draft pick resources away from the pitching side, which is where the club excelled for so many years. Particularly now, with the graduations of Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson this year, the Cards are very bare in terms of pitching toward the top of their org ranking.

What the Draft Offers

As I said, this draft is absolutely loaded with college hitters, particularly up the middle. Tons of college shortstops, of nearly all stripes. The high school athletes are notable as well, though not nearly so well represented as the collegians. Several two-sport types are hanging around the first round discussion, and a couple two-way players as well. (Though it looks like Spencer Jones will get to Vanderbilt after all if the latest scuttlebutt is accurate.)

Personally, I feel the high school pitching of this draft is getting short shrift, because I happen to think this class could be fantastic in a couple years. The college pitching really does mostly suck (with a few notable exceptions), but the arms on the high school side deserve some love that I’m not sure they’re getting. I feel like it’s a really deep, and really exciting, class overall.

Final Favourites

Here, in no particular order, is a list of some of the players I am most enamoured of in this draft. These are not all first rounders, and there are two names (Kody Hoese and Antoine Kelly), I didn’t even manage to fit into writeups. Nonetheless, here we go.

  • Brennan Malone, RHP
  • Josh Jung, 3B
  • Kody Hoese, 3B
  • Daniel Espino, RHP
  • Hunter Barco, LHP
  • Maurice Hampton, OF
  • Braden Shewmake, MIF
  • Erik Miller, LHP
  • TJ Sikkema, LHP
  • Drew Millas, C
  • Greg Jones, SS
  • Drew Gilbert, LHP
  • Antoine Kelly, LHP
  • Derek Diamond, RHP
  • Jake Sanford, OF

Now, those are most definitely not all first round type players. They are, however, guys I feel confident about. There are a few others I could toss on here too, but that’s enough names, I think.

My Pref List

Given where the Cardinals are going to be drafting, I feel like pitching may very well be their best play. I could certainly see them going with a college shortstop as a lot of the mocks have, but when they go on the clock at nineteen, unless someone drops unexpectedly, I feel like the player on the board I’m going to like most is going to be a pitcher.

At nineteen, I like Brennan Malone a lot if he’s there. Quinn Priester is a good choice also, depending upon whom you prefer. I’m a big Daniel Espino fan as well, though he’s had a bit of an up and down spring.

On the other hand, either Josh Jung (unlikely to be available), or Kody Hoese (likely to be), could provide a quick further infusion of offensive firepower to the system. Yes, they both play third base, but a third baseman can also be a fantastic first baseman should things work out that way.

It’s obviously tough to work out who will be available in the second round, but given where players are ranked I would be very excited about T.J. Sikkema. It’s also where I would at least start thinking about Jake Sanford, though I believe you could nab him in the third round.

If we’re looking at the first, say, five rounds, and you’re asking me to pretend I’m the guy making the picks for the Cardinals, my board might go something like this:

Rd. 1 — Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (FL)

Rd. 2 — T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Mizzou

Rd. 3 —Jake Sanford, OF, Western Kentucky

Rd. 4 — Drew Gillas, C, Missouri State

Rd. 5 — Derek Diamond, RHP, Ramona HS (CA)

I could see myself substituting Drew Gilbert, small lefty extraordinaire, for either Gillas or Diamond. I feel like I added a ton of pitching talent with these picks, though Diamond will probably not be cheap to buy away from Ole Miss. It’s a shame the Cardinals don’t have extra picks this year; I feel like they could really use the bonus flexibility to good extent.

Okay, folks. That’s enough. Draft begins at seven Eastern six Central, coverage an hour before. I’ll just leave this thread as our chief discussion area for the draft and related things, and I’ll try to be around this evening to chat if at all possible. I’ll also get the Cardinals’ two first-day picks written up tonight as soon as possible.

See you soon, everybody.