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The Draft Day Two Roundup

Ten rounds of the draft are now in the books. So let’s talk about what the Cards got.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals

The second day of the draft has come and gone, and the Cardinals made eight selections yesterday. It had the feel of a vintage experience of sorts; the Cards’ draft list this year looks like one of those late aughts Jeff Luhnow drafts, or maybe an early Dan Kantrovitz. In the universe, it’s turtles all the way down. In the draft this year, it was college righties all the way down.

Let’s just get right into it, shall we? After all, the draft will start back up again in a few hours, with a couple of really interesting rounds before we head off into the weeds for real.

Rd. 3, #96 Overall

Tony Locey, RHP, Georgia

6’3”, 235 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Tony Locey fits the profile of a power pitcher pretty much to a T. He’s big and physical on the mound (think Lance Lynn), and he throws hard. He’ll push his fastball up to 96-97, though he generally sits more in the 93-94 range, and he complements the heater with a solid-average slider that could use some work to be more consistent. When he stays on top of the slider it can be effective, but he gets loose with his command and over on the side of the pitch too often.

Beyond the one-two punch of fastball-slider, Locey has a pretty limited repertoire. He throws a curveball that is pretty bad, and a changeup that’s really bad. That shallow arsenal would seem to point him toward relief work, as would his below-average control and ability to repeat his delivery.

On the other hand, while his delivery isn’t consistent, it is the delivery of a starting pitcher, I believe. His timing is really good, and when he keeps his body in line and under control he gets really nice plane on the fastball coming toward the plate. I sort of see Locey as a binary: either he irons out his delivery and improves his command enough to become a starter, or he ends up washing out as a fringe talent who never excels even in relief. Swapping out his changeup for a splitter would seem to be a good idea to me, and maybe just scrapping the curve altogether. The real improvement is going to have to come mechanically, though, if Locey is going to reach his ceiling of a number threeish starter.

Not a big fan of this pick, honestly. He’s got velocity you can’t teach, though, and while he may walk a batter, he doesn’t give up much in the way of hits.

via Vincent Cervino:

Rd. 4, #125 Overall

Andre Pallante, RHP, UC Irvine

6’0”, 200 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I like this pick, but I don’t love it. What Pallante has that I do think makes him an attractive pick here is one truly outstanding pitch, one good enough I actually think relief work makes more sense for him long term. Whereas I think Tony Locey will either mature into a starter or wash out, Pallante I think could boil his repertoire down, distill it, and turn into a dominant force in the late innings.

The pitch Pallante throws of which I am so enamoured is his fastball, which is actually this hard natural cutter that parks around 93 but can run up into the mid-90s. It both looks faster than it is and has a jagged little cut to the gloveside that makes it extremely hard to square up. He’s just as effective against lefties as righties due to his ability to work to the first base side of the plate, getting inside on left-handed hitters and sawing them off.

To be fair, Pallante has other pitches as well, including a slider that gets plenty of swings and misses but which he struggles to throw for strikes. He also throws a pretty good curveball and a mostly-rumoured changeup, meaning he actually does have a wide enough repertoire to remain a starter. However, since this is my opinion only, I see reliever when I look at him. The delivery is interesting, with a high glove that has some Tyler Clippard to it and a jab at the back that causes Pallante to be a little late. There’s definitely some deception there, though, so I wouldn’t mess with it too much.

Long term, I see a pitcher who could pare his arsenal down to just cutter/slider and be a real weapon in short stints. If he is to continue on as a starter, he’ll have to improve either the curve or the changeup.

via Baseball America:

Rd. 5, #155 Overall

Connor Thomas, LHP, Georgia Tech

5’11”, 160 lbs; Left/Left

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Now this pick I am a big fan of, even though the player is, admittedly, not one who jumps off the page in terms of raw stuff. Connor Thomas is not big, he doesn’t throw hard, and he was better his sophomore season at Georgia Tech than he was this spring. So why do I like him?

Simple: this dude knows how to pitch.

Thomas has some of the best command in all of college baseball, with an ability to never get too far outside the strike zone, but not get hurt by throwing too many strikes, or too many fat pitches, either. He works from 86-90 with his fastball, and throws it from a low arm slot that creates good running action on the pitch. Probably his best offering is a slider that he’ll manipulate to be bigger or smaller as needed, and tends to have almost 11-to-5 break at its best. He rounds out his repertoire with a solid-average changeup he locates very well. I liked T.J. Sikkema a lot as a secondish rounder; I like T.J. Sikkema lite as a fifth-round selection.

Thomas has a fantastic, low-stress delivery that I believe should make him very durable despite his small stature, and enough pitching acumen I could see him adding a pitch in pro ball to help give him another weapon. He was good this season, but his sophomore year was one for the ages, as he put up a strikeout to walk ratio of over ten to one pitching in the ACC.

The margin for error with Thomas is always going to be very thin, simply because he lacks the velocity to get away with mistakes on the mound. I think he’s an excellent bet at this point in the draft, though. I don’t know if Georgia Tech is one of the college programs that uses weighted ball training or anything, but if there’s any way Thomas could add two or three ticks to his fastball it could make an enormous difference.

via Perfect Game Baseball:

Rd. 6, #185 Overall

Pedro Pages, C, Florida Atlantic

6’1”, 220 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I do not like this pick. Drew Millas, the extremely athletic catcher from Missouri State, was still on the board, and the Cardinals went with Pedro Pages, not extremely athletic.

Okay, I’ll get to the positives: Pages has a big throwing arm that allows him to post good pop times, and he has the reputation as a tremendous leadership presence. He’s also one of the more patient hitters in college baseball this year, as he walked in over 16% of his plate appearances this spring.

He needs to get into better shape, and there’s not much power to speak of. Decent hitter, good catch and throw guy. There is some offensive upside because of the patience. I like him less than Jeremy Martinez, a very similar player drafted out of USC a few years ago who simply hasn’t hit for any power whatsoever in pro ball.

Rd. 7, #215 Overall

Jack Ralston, RHP, UCLA

6’6”, 205 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Now we’re back on track. Another pick, another college pitcher.

I like Jack Ralston. He’s got tremendous plane on his fastball, and a devastating changeup. He can work the heater around 92-93, with maybe a little more in the tank as he continues to mature, and his change comes in unusually firm in the upper 80s. He throws from a very high arm slot that gives both pitches hard downward plane, and makes them extremely difficult to distinguish between.

Yes, that is the scouting report on Michael Wacha. It is also the scouting report on Jack Ralston. Hopefully without the chronic shoulder issues that have derailed Pac-Man’s career the past several years.

Ralston’s third pitch is a hard curveball that could still use a little more work in terms of command, but has real upside. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ralston is how much he improved over his time at UCLA. He came basically out of nowhere to help anchor the pitching staff of one of the best college teams in the nation this year, after being a complete afterthought in 2018 and not even pitching in 2017. He’s technically a senior, classified as a redshirt junior, and should come a little below slot to help find a little extra wiggle room in the bonus pool.

via UCLA Athletics:

Rd. 8, #245 Overall

Logan Gragg, RHP, Oklahoma State

6’5”, 190 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I’ll be honest: I know next to nothing about Logan Gragg. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him throw a pitch, because I don’t think I watched any Oklahoma State this year. He transferred to the Cowboys after a couple years at a community college, has already had Tommy John surgery, and was bad this year. On the other hand, the one thing I do know about him is he has seen his velocity jump up since surgery, and is working into the mid-90s now. That’s all I’ve got on him.

I put out an email to a guy I know who I believe has covered OSU, but I haven’t heard back. Obviously, this is a tough time of year for people in the scouting industry, so I’m not surprised. If I get any more info I will update everyone later, but for now I’ll leave this as a pure arm strength bet on a guy with room to add to his frame.

Rd. 9, #275 Overall

Todd Lott, OF, Louisiana-Lafayette

6’4”, 235 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Todd Lott is, in fact, related to Ronnie Lott, the NFL Hall of Fame all-purpose secondary beast known primarily for his time with the San Francisco 49ers. So we’re looking at athletic bloodlines right off the bat.

As a player, Lott was, prior to this spring, kind of a mess. He’s always had tons of athletic talent, but in 2018 as a sophomore at Louisiana-Lafayette he struck out nearly 42% of the time. You look at him, and he looks like an impressive power-speed guy, but then he steps to the plate and turns into one of those Gashouse Gorilla guys trying to hit Bugs Bunny’s changeup.

That all started to change this spring, though, when Lott managed to cut his K rate all the way to under 15%, while bringing his walk rate up over 10%. He hit seven homers and stole twelve bases in sixteen tries in under 200 plate appearances. In other words, Todd Lott this spring started to look like a baseball player.

Lott represents an interesting kind of bet, as he was an impressive athlete and physical presence even back in high school, but is only now beginning to really excel at his chosen sport. Essentially you have a guy who was an early bloomer physically, but possibly a late bloomer on the field. If everything comes together for Lott he could be a 20/20 guy, probably cut from the Randal Grichuk mold in terms of plate discipline, but he has the speed to play a quality corner outfield spot to bring value as well. His breakout this spring is intriguing, but the track record of success is so short it’s really tough to say just yet what sort of player he could evolve into.

via Cox Sports Television:

Rd. 10, #305 Overall

Jake Sommers, RHP, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

6’2”, 190 lbs; Right/Right

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Sommers was a two-way player in high school, as highly thought of as a shortstop as a pitcher, but since getting to college has only pitched so far as I know. He’s bounced between the rotation and bullpen for UWM, serving as the team’s closer this spring. He’s got a zippy fastball in the 92-95 range and a good curveball. Nice extension out front of the mound from what little I’ve seen. I don’t have a ton of detail on him. He’s another senior, so should save on the bonus pool.

So what do I think of this group? I’m pretty meh on the whole thing, to be honest. There’s not a ton of upside here, I don’t think, although I admit I like Ralston really well for where they got him, and could see Pallante ending up a serious force late in games down the road. Overall, though, the first ten rounds of the draft did not bring nearly the kind of upside into the system this year that I was hoping for. Obviously I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like this is a class that could fizzle out badly.