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2020 Draft Preview No. 13: Final Favourites and a Draft Board

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Draft day is finally upon us, so here’s a bunch of words about an imaginary world.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Previews Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Draft day is finally here, everybody. Actually, I should probably amend that; the first round of the draft day is finally here. And that represents a bit of bad news for us, because as exciting as all those extra picks the Cardinals have this year are (okay, it’s two, but they’re still tied for the most picks total), they will only make one selection tonight. The draft will run only through the first 37 picks this evening, with the remainder occurring tomorrow. Why MLB decided to shorten the broadcast everyone actually cares about so much is beyond me, other than the fact that baseball just can’t stop shooting itself in the foot with success.

So anyhow, the draft will officially begin tonight, finish up tomorrow, and we will have some actual, meaningful baseball news to talk about very soon! I mean, sort of.

Here’s what I’m going to do: rather than trying to write something fancy as an introduction, then put my picks into a list toward the end, I’m just going to jump right in to my personal draft board as imaginary GM-slash-scouting-director for the day. This is how I would run the draft if I were running the draft for the Cardinals, and any and all analysis or opinions I have to express will be expressed within the draft positions themselves. Make sense?

Note that these are my picks, rather than what I feel the Cardinals will do specifically. Talking about the players I like and why, or what sort of strategy I might employ is, I think, more interesting and useful than simply trying to predict a bunch of picks, or read the minds of the pros. That being said, I’ve tended to be on board with most of what Randy Flores has done as head of the scouting department, and I’ll mention any insights I think I might have into the Cardinals’ thinking as we go.

Let’s rock....

Round 1, #21 Overall

The Pick: Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke

First Alternate: Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina

Okay, so let’s start off by saying that imaginary scouting director Aaron, much like I’m sure real scouting director Randy will be, is keeping all options open for this pick. This is the player I’m officially taking based on what I think will most likely be available, but there are some names I’m watching who could fall, and that might very well change what I would do.

First off, there is a trio of elite high school pitchers this year, all expected to go in the first round, but I think there’s a very good chance one of the three will end up still on the board by the time the Cardinals pick. The players are Mick Abel, Nick Bitsko, and Jared Kelly, and I covered all three of them together in one post here. I don’t know which of the three will still be on the board here, but just going by the numbers I expect one of them will slip to pick 21. Obviously, I don’t feel equally about all three. If it’s Bitsko, I would very likely pick him over my ‘official’ selection(s) here. If it was Abel, it would be about a coin flip, I think. If it’s Jared Kelly, I would almost certainly pass and take Jarvis or Mlodzinski instead.

The other player I’m really watching to potentially slip is Ed Howard, the high school shortstop from Illinois. Howard has top ten overall talent in terms of his ceiling, but there has been some concern over a shoulder issue that teams may or may not worry could hurt his ability to throw long term. The Cardinals have been very willing to pivot to talented players who fall to them unexpectedly, and Howard would very much represent that exact sort of player. He would be this year’s version of Nolan Gorman falling to 19 due to swing and miss or positional concerns, or Delvin Perez falling due to PED/weight/strength concerns. Yes, I’m including Perez to show how this strategy can go wrong, but long term it’s a sound strategy. If Howard made it to 21 I probably couldn’t pass on that ceiling, even with some concerns over an injury.

In the end, though, I’m going with players I’m relatively sure will be available at 21, and the strength of the pool where the Cardinals are picking will like be of the college pitching variety. Both Jarvis and Mlodzinski are guys I really love, and it’s as close a margin between them as I can imagine, honestly. I think in the long term Mlodzinski might have a little higher ceiling because I think the fastball is better and I really like the curveball he seemed to be reincorporating this spring, but Jarvis is currently the better pitcher, and the overall repertoire is very much in the same neighbourhood. Mlodzinski’s stuff might be ~10% better, but Jarvis has already shown the kind of command and results that you’re really projecting when talking about Mlodzinski. I could totally go either way on this pair, but in the end I’m erring right now toward the guy who’s already done it and had more success, whereas Mlodzinski was really good on the Cape last summer, but has never had similar success anywhere else. There’s also the secondary matter of Jarvis being slightly old for the class, which is a mark against him, but also makes me think he might take a deal slightly less than slot value, freeing up my imaginary department to take more chances elsewhere. (And no, I do not feel good about even hypothetically gaming a person’s bonus money, but the slotting system is what it is, and I have to be honest about it.)

Round 2, #54 Overall

The Pick: Drew Bowser, 3B, Harvard-Westlake HS

First alternate: Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windermere HS (FL)

Second alternate: Isaiah Greene, OF, Corona HS (CA)

As you can probably guess from the fact there are three high school players listed here, this is the spot where I’m choosing to take a shot at a high-ceiling, tough signability guy. Bowser is my favourite of the group, and one of my favourite hitters in the entire draft, and he’s exactly the sort of swing for the fences I’m looking to take here. I think he will almost certainly still be on the board, but it’s also possible he’s not signable at all due to a strong Stanford commitment.

I covered Carson Montgomery way back at the beginning of this process, before we knew 2020 was going to be such a bizarro world year, and he remains one of my guys. I tend to think he’ll get picked before this spot — or at least he should — but given he’s in a riskier demographic it’s also possible he’s still on the board. Tough to say, really; MLB.com’s board has him at 34, and FanGraphs has him at 31, so based on talent and scouting he should go earlier.

If both of my targets here are gone, I’ll move on to Isaiah Greene, who I unfortunately did not get around to covering this spring, but is a very exciting talent all the same and a guy I really like. He’s a plus-plus runner and natural center fielder who has good bat control and a smart approach to hitting already. The power is the concern, as he’s not really a physically big guy, but there’s solid bat speed to dream on for the future. He’s pretty raw as a player currently, but had made real improvements over the last calendar year, and I think would have pushed his name further up boards had the season gone on.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Comp. Balance Round B, #63 Overall

The Pick: Anthony Servideo, SS, Mississippi

First alternate: Austin Wells, C/1B, Arizona

This pick and the one at 70 really kind of work in tandem. Actually, I suppose all three picks from 54-70 are kind of related, but with 54 I’m really focusing on taking a shot at a specific type of player, whereas 63 and 70 I’m choosing from a group of guys and trying to read the tea leaves on who I might have to take at 63 to avoid not having the chance at 70.

With that in mind, I’m grabbing my favourite college shortstop here, because his name was moving steadily up boards early in the spring and I just don’t know how long he’ll last. Now, MLB’s board has him way down at 110, but FanGraphs has him pegged at 68, and I think that’s much more the range he’ll end up going, particularly with the advantage of being a college player in a year when I suspect those guys will get a bump up the board.

Now, a note about my alternate pick here: Austin Wells is not actually a direct replacement for Servideo should Servideo be unavailable. If I got to this pick and Servideo were off the board, I would actually most likely simply pivot to the group of pitchers I’m considering at my next pick, and it would just end up being an extra pitching-heavy crop of players. Wells, though, is this really interesting case. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore, which considering the rules this year makes me think there’s very, very little chance of signing him. However, he’s also one of the best hitters in college baseball, and I’m placing him here with the understanding that if I feel like I’ve got extra bonus room from Bryce Jarvis up top or if I have to go a little more conservative with my second pick, I might very well pick up the phone and see if I could get a number from Wells’s representation that made sense. He’s not a catcher long term, most likely, but could probably handle part-time duties there while also seeing time at first base and DH, maybe a little left field here and there. Basically you’re talking about a Kyle Schwarber type of player, and I would absolutely be willing to take a shot on a guy who can really hit and might offer me some intriguing positional flexibility.

via Keanan Lamb:

Compensation Round, #70 Overall

The Pick: Jared Schuster, LHP, Wake Forest

First alternate: Ian Bedell, RHP, Missouri

As I said above, I basically have a pool of college arms I really like that I’m considering between picks 63 and 70. I took Servideo at 63 because I’m nervous he won’t make it much beyond that, but if in real life I had good info I thought he would be, I could easily swap picks 63 and 70, go pitching earlier and Servideo here, or take two pitchers if he goes off the board earlier than I think.

It’s essentially a group of about six pitchers I like here, all of whom should go somewhere within about a 20-30 pick range, depending on which teams like them specifically, etc. The pitchers are:

  • Jared Schuster, LHP, Wake Forest
  • Sam Weatherly, LHP, Clemson
  • Nick Swiney, LHP, North Carolina State
  • Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan
  • Ian Bedell, RHP, Missouri
  • Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State

I should point out Erla could be a money-saving pick here as a redshirt junior; I would probably only go that direction if I were taking a run at Austin Wells with my previous pick and needed some more wiggle room in the budget. I like all of the guys in this group within basically a rounding error, but Schuster has the best secondary pitch of all of them in his changeup (and throws hard, though the arm action does concern me), and I think Bedell would have been substantially higher on draft boards had he pitched all spring, so those guys edge out the others for me just slightly. Criswell is a guy I didn’t get around to covering, but really really like. Up to 96 at times with the fastball, good slider and changeup, tunnels everything well. He’s got kind of an awkward thing going on with the landing foot in his delivery where he lands with it pointing halfway between home and first, and I wonder if that costs him some extra command.

Round 3, #93 Overall

The Pick: Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, Lakewood HS (CA)

First alternate: Harold Coll, SS, Statesboro (GA)

Yes, I’m taking another shot here at a higher-ceiling prep type, with Ricky Tiedemann’s exciting left arm my first choice. (Seriously, this draft is ridiculously heavy on left-handed pitching.) There’s definitely a split on where Tiedemann should go; MLB has him at 92, while FanGraphs has him all the way down at 146. I’m not sure what those guys don’t like about him, but suffice to say I fall much more in line with the MLB.com guys on this particular player.

If Tiedemann is gone, I’ll pivot to a kid I didn’t get around to covering named Harold Coll, a high school shortstop out of Georgia. Coll is under six feet tall, but he’s build like a running back and has really intriguing power potential in his wrists. I think he sticks at shortstop long term, with a plus-plus arm and speed that’s just a touch above average. There’s head movement in his swing I don’t love, but that’s the sort of thing that can be worked on. I might be more inclined to go Coll’s direction here if I don’t get a guy like Bowser or Servideo earlier on, as well, though those things probably shouldn’t factor together in my mind.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Round 4, #122 Overall

The Pick: Zavier Warren, SS/2B, Central Michigan

First alternate: Justin Fall, LHP, Arizona State

I’m a believer in Warren’s on-base ability and approach to the craft of hitting, and I think he could end up either a very solid second baseman or a four to five position utility player down the road. He did catch in high school, which is interesting, but only insofar as he could be the emergency catcher for a team, I think.

My alternate here is a guy out of Arizona State I didn’t cover. Justin Fall is a big (6’6”), lefty with a sneaky 91-95 mph fastball, a pair of pretty good secondaries in a slider and changeup, and not much of a track record of actually being a good pitcher. He was at a juco for two years before transferring to AZ State for this crazy cut off spring, so I’m definitely betting on him turning the stuff into production down the road, but also acknowledging he’s a very risky bet to place.

Round 5, #152 Overall

The Pick: Tyson Guerrero, LHP, Lower Columbia CC (WA)

First alternate: Will Klein, RHP, Eastern Illinois

Second alternate: Blake Dunn, OF, Western Michigan

This was a tough pick for me to make, mostly because it’s the last one and I know I’m not getting any more bites at the apple. I ended up going with a pitcher from a juco whose stock I think would have risen had the season gone on this spring. My alternates were Blake Dunn, a premium athlete who may not hit that I covered not long ago in these pages, and a pitcher I didn’t cover but really like named Will Klein. Klein is a big, physical righty who worked mostly as a reliever his first two years at Eastern Illinois but moved into the rotation this spring and worked 92-95 with his fastball and flashed a really good curve. The repertoire is pretty limited right now, so there’s definitely reliever risk with Klein, but he also touched 99 in a wood bat league last summer throwing in short stints, so it’s possible a move back to the ‘pen could give him a big boost in terms of stuff.

via D1Baseball.com:

It was a strange spring, without a doubt, but we made it to Draft Day all the same. You may notice that a ton of my picks on this board come specifically from my Persons of Interest posts; that was basically because as the spring went on I realised I hadn’t gotten around to many of my favourite players, and since nothing was happening to create movement, I just threw all the guys I like into a couple posts in order to get them done. It’s not the way I usually approach draft coverage, but as I said, it was a weird spring.

I’ll be around this evening to talk some draft stuff and to write up whoever the Cards take in round one. As for the rest of the draft, rather than me making a mad dash to write a scouting report on every player they take as soon as possible, we’re going to spread out the coverage a little this year, seeing as how this is the first real news that has popped up in weeks, and I won’t be bogarting the draft as I usually do. So I’ll probably have some wrap up thoughts on Sunday, but in the meantime the rest of the staff will take advantage of actual new stuff to write about.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this year’s draft coverage. It was tougher than usual, both due to a lack of new info and baseball and also a simple lack of motivation on my part. I won’t lie; the spring of 2020 was not great for my mental health in general (as was the case for a whole lot of people, I know), and writing about baseball, even future baseball, was a slog this spring in a way I’ve never really felt before, other than in early 2013 when things in my real life conspired to change the way I felt about both writing and baseball. This spring, though, was rough. I hope everyone made it through relatively unscathed, and fingers crossed there are better days ahead. Enjoy the draft, everyone, and I’ll talk to you all again soon.