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Shadow Draftin’ 2019

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The return of an annual tradition.

2019 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

Morning, all. Do you know I actually stayed up and watched that whole shitty game last night? Now, I’m not going to sit here and talk about how tired I am or anything; I only sleep about five hours a day anyway, so it’s not as if I’m wiped out more than usual. However, it’s the principle of the thing. I stayed up extremely late to watch my team lose in typically garbage fashion, and I feel I’m owed at least a little complaining time.

Alright, complaint over. Team sucks, no fun, West Coast, blah blah blah.

Anyhow, what I’m going to do here today is revive an annual tradition I have neglected the past couple years. Several people have requested I go back to the shadow draft concept, and I am happy to oblige. I got away from doing these not because of a lack of interest on my part, but because the recap posts had this habit of getting exponentially longer as time went on and I had full crops of shadow results to check back on year after year. To address that issue, but still go back and look at these, I will try to put together retrospective posts on one year of shadow results at a time sometime this offseason. Hopefully that will make it so I can actually get around to these without it being such a daunting, time-consuming task that I barely get started before other topics and other articles demand my attention instead.

So with that said, I’ve got a couple of conditions I’m going to impose here that haven’t really been formal before. I’m going to run through the first ten rounds of the draft, making picks in place of the Cardinals. I will not be picking any of the same players they did, even if the player in that spot might otherwise have been my choice. In the past, I’ve often gone with the same pick as the team, but the thing is, that makes for far less interesting analysis. The point of these shadow drafts, after all, isn’t to try and beat or outdo the team; they have dozens of people and millions of dollars, and you can’t really compete with that.

The point, rather, is to try and think through the same choices the club is making and come up with some other approach that can serve as a discussion starter about particular players or philosophy in general. Picking the same player as the club does not accomplish that, ergo I will formalise the no-same-picks rule that I have intermittently held to in the past. In practice, that doesn’t really affect this year’s draft much; I like Trejyn Fletcher a lot, but overall I probably wouldn’t have made many of the same selections at all. (Maybe Connor Thomas?) In the past, though, it would have changed quite a lot. Last year, for instance, my two favourite players at the spot in which the Cardinals picked were Nolan Gorman, the high school third baseman whom they actually selected, and Ethan Hankins, a high school right-hander from Georgia. Ultimately, I think I probably would have gone with Gorman, as the power potential and hitterness were too much to pass on. However, given the rule I’m establishing this year, Hankins would have been my guy. (And I would have been perfectly happy with that pick so far, though Gorman has absolutely been a faster mover.)

Next, I will try to make my picks somewhat realistic in terms of signing bonuses, but I’m not going to be slavishly devoted to the math. There are players I am going to pick here who will almost certainly not sign, because they fell to a part of the draft where they will not be paid enough to forego college. I’m still going to make those picks, even knowing the players will be in school rather than the minor leagues, because I really just want to see how a portfolio of players assembled with the best information I have and personal preference will look in a few years. Therefore, I will be tracking Drew Gilbert’s progress at Oregon State, rather than in the minors, but I’m okay with that. I took this lesson from picking Zack Collins way back when he was a high school catcher, and headed off to Miami rather than signing with either a real MLB organisation or my imaginary club. I still felt like it was worth tracking the player to see how things went, and what sort of development may have been made. That said, I will try to make the draft class mostly signable, at least with some rough math.

Finally, I will be making my selections only considering players actually on the board. No shenanigans about assuming that because I passed on player x, he would have gone to team y so that I can pick the guy they actually selected just because I like him. This is not a butterfly effect sort of thing here. Just the players actually on the board.

With all that in mind, I’ll try to keep the picks themselves somewhat brief. I know, I always say that, and never accomplish it, but I really will try, and maybe we can all get out of here in under 2500 words.

Let’s rock?

Round 1 — Pick 19

Cardinals select: Zack Thompson, LHP, U. Kentucky

A-Cards select: Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy

The Cards went with a college pitcher, and what should be a fast-moving one at that. I’m looking longer-term and picking the guy who might have been my favourite arm in the whole draft. I considered Daniel Espino here also, but his delivery and slightly down stuff this spring are at least yellow flags, and I feel like Malone is the more well-rounded pitcher. He actually went to the Diamondbacks at 33 and signed for slot money ($2.2 million), so I don’t think I would have had any trouble at all getting him signed, maybe even for the $3 million deal Thompson signed with the Cards. Regardless, this was the guy I hoped the Cardinals would draft, so I’m taking him here with no hesitation.

I also considered Gunnar Henderson here, as I think he has a very high upside, Greg Jones for his crazy athleticism and developing bat, and Kody Hoese for being a beast at the plate.

Round 2 — Pick 58

Cardinals select: Trejyn Fletcher, OF, Deering HS

A-Cards select: Matthew Lugo, SS, Carlos Beltran Academy

I really wish T.J. Sikkema had made it to this pick, so I could have just stayed with my pre-draft favourites list, but the Yankees nabbed him with a competitive balance pick. (This is where the Goldschidt deal once again haunts my dreams...)

Anyhow, this pick for me really came down to a couple players. Brandon Williamson, a tall, hard-throwing lefty from TCU, Antoine Kelly, a hard-throwing lefty from an Illinois community college, and Lugo, a high school shortstop with an intriguing bat out of Puerto Rico were the primary contenders. Ultimately I decided a position player would be a good idea here, so I went with Lugo. Grae Kessinger, middle infielder from Ole Miss, was a consideration as well, though he felt more like a third- or fourth-rounder to me, and Lugo has a little more upside, I think. Kessinger was surprisingly taken by the Astros one pick ahead of Lugo, who went to Boston with pick 69. It’s not a guarantee Lugo stays at short, but I think the bat and offensive approach make him a plus at either of the middle infield spots. He also signed for $1.1 million, a little under my slot at 58, so I shouldn’t have to go over like the actual Cards did for Fletcher.

Round 3 — Pick 96

Cardinals select: Tony Locey, RHP, U. Georgia

A-Cards select: Jake Sanford, OF, Western Kentucky

I wrote about Sanford before the draft; he’s the dude with the huge power potential and plus speed from Nova Scotia who had to kick around the juco circuit awhile in order to get noticed. The Cards took a polished college righty — think Mike Mayers, basically — while I took a shot at a huge star with way more questions. Sanford ultimately went to the Yankees with pick 105, giving them yet another monster power bat of the future. I strongly considered Erik Miller here, the lefty from St. Louis by way of Stanford, but I ended up on the superlative athlete rather than the arm I really like. Also, if I’m role-playing this, I’m crossing my fingers on Miller sliding, and then letting loose a flood of expletives when he goes to the Phillies at 120, just ahead of my next pick.

This also gets back to my pre-draft pref list. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

Round 4 — Pick 125

Cardinals select: Andre Pallante, RHP, UC Irvine

A-Cards select: Derek Diamond, RHP, Ramona HS (CA)

Derek Diamond is not signing. He will go off to Ole Miss, and I’ll bet he’s great there. I love this kid, even if the industry was always lighter on him than I thought it should have been. So I’ll follow him as a college kid, and we’re going to treat this as if I could have found room in my imaginary budget to bring him in as a fourth rounder.

Round 5 — Pick 155

Cardinals select: Connor Thomas, LHP, Georgia Tech

A-Cards select: Drew Millas, C, Missouri State

I really like what the Cardinals did with this pick, but I love Millas’s offensive and defensive upside. I cannot believe the organisation was not on him, even picking another college catcher over him a round after this. Incredibly frustrating, but I’ll take my unusually athletic switch-hitting catcher all day every day. (Though he’s probably not a switch-hitter in my organisation. That right-handed swing just isn’t doing him any favours.)

He also signed with the A’s for just 170K in the seventh round, so I’m thinking I can save a little bonus toward slot here. Getting one of your favourite players for cheaper than expected is a good feeling.

Round 6 — Pick 185

Cardinals select: Pedro Pages, C, Florida Atlantic

A-Cards select: Drew Gilbert, LHP, Stillwater HS (MN)

Here is my second pick that isn’t going to sign; Gilbert ended up lasting until 1049th overall and being picked by his hometown team the Twins. He’ll attend Oregon State this autumn.

Me, though, I’m taking my last big chance at paying a kid here, most likely, and I think I can find room in the budget to do it. I’ve come in right around slot or even a touch under on most of my picks so far, so I’m betting I have the flexibility to get both Diamond and Gilbert under the umbrella here in Aaron Land. Gilbert is unbelievably talented, but also very undersized, and teams just didn’t believe enough in the body to buy him away from the Beavers, apparently. I’m a believer, and taking a risk. I’ll have to save money on a couple more picks from here to round ten, but I’m okay with that.

Round 7 — Pick 215

Cardinals select: Jack Ralston, RHP, UCLA

A-Cards select: Drew Parrish, LHP, Florida State

I love the selection of Jack Ralston, and if it weren’t for my rule I would be tempted to just make him the pick here. However, I’m going for a different college pitcher, and taking another undersized lefty who can really pitch in Drew Parrish. Parrish has one of the better curveballs in college baseball, and if he were 6’2” instead of 5’11” would have probably gone in the third round. He was bitten by the home run bug his junior season at Florida State, but everything else in his repertoire is way too good for this spot. He went to the Royals at 229 and signed for slot exactly.

Round 8 — Pick 245

Cardinals select: Logan Gragg, RHP, Oklahoma State

A-Cards select: Austin Bergner, RHP, U. North Carolina

Bergner was a pretty big deal way back in 2015, when he was a high school junior lighting up the scouting world. By the time draft day 2016 came around, his stuff had ticked down slightly, there were concerns about his funky short-arm delivery, and a strong commitment to North Carolina caused him to slide down to the ninth round, at which point he headed off to campus.

His college career, unfortunately, did not go especially well. He was a starter exclusively for the Tar Heels his sophomore and junior seasons, but I feel like his future is probably in relief work. His delivery is still very deceptive, and he still features a three-pitch mix that for whatever reason has not gotten much in the way of results up to now. The velocity isn’t quite where it was in high school, as he no longer pushes up to 95, sitting more in the 90-93 range, but the changeup is still intriguing and I wonder if shorter stints and wood bats might not change the outlook for him.

Round 9 — Pick 275

Cardinals select: Todd Lott, OF, Louisiana-Lafayette

A-Cards select: Alec Gamboa, LHP, Fresno CC

Here’s where I start saving money. Alec Gamboa went to the Dodgers at 281 and signed for $17,500, saving them over 130K relative to slot. I actually like Gamboa as a pitcher; he’s a typical crafty lefty type, and a solid athlete overall to boot. Good ability to throw strikes with three pitches, and he helps me out with getting the rest of my class to fit in to the bonus structure.

Round 10 — Pick 305

Cardinals select: Jake Sommers, RHP, U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee

A-Cards select: Zac Ching, SS, Virginia Commonwealth

The Sommers pick was a smart one for the real Cards, as they got a college closer with solid stuff for just 10K, saving them a big chunk of bonus money. I’m going in a similar direction, but choosing another Dodgers pick in Zac Ching, an undersized middle infielder from VCU. Ching has the defensive chops to stay up the middle, I think, but the bat is going to be a question mark. He’s a patient hitter, but has never shown much power up until this year and doesn’t have the contact skills to make it as a zero-power guy. Still, he signed for just $2500; I feel like I could toss him double or triple that and still save so much that it helps me out immensely elsewhere. Plus, I actually like him as a player.

So there it is, folks. Feel free to debate the merits of this class, my writing as whole, my spelling of various words, or any potential mental defects you might detect in me. Also feel free to put together your own hypothetical pick board, even just the first few rounds, so we can all compare what sort of approaches each of us might take were we to find ourselves in Randy Flores’s chair tomorrow.