In case you haven’t heard the news yet, both Michael Girsch and Randy Flores were given contract extensions yesterday. When I say given, what I really mean, is earned because both figures have played crucial roles in keeping the Cardinals consistently competitive.
It’s harder to analyze what Girsch has brought to the organization since he works under and with Mozeliak, but Flores’s contributions are easier to identify. And he’s made quite a few contributions in the draft.
Let’s recap some of his best picks.
2016 - Dylan Carlson (Comp A), Dakota Hudson (Comp A), Zac Gallen (3rd Round), Tommy Edman (6th Round)
That’s a 2-3 WAR starting outfielder with the potential for more, a starting pitcher with a career 3.61 ERA, another starting pitcher who had a 4.3 WAR season in 2022, and an infielder worth 5.6 fWAR this year.
Two or those players look like long term Cardinals, while one was used as trade bait to get a highly regarded (at the time) power bat.
Also, let’s not forget about Daniel Castano (19th Round) and Andy Young (37th Round) who have both seen time in the majors as late round picks. In fact, Young was a part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade.
Not many teams get value out of their 37th round selection.
2017 - Scott Hurst (3rd Round), Kramer Robertson (4th Round), Jake Walsh (16th Round), and Kodi Whitley (27th Round)
This was a tough draft for the Cardinals. It was the year that they faced punishment for the Chris Correa hacking scandal and lost their first two selections. That also left them with a tiny bonus pool to use.
As a result, the team focused heavily on college players with their first few selections and wasn’t able to grab any real impact players.
Still, Hurst and Robertson have both debuted while Jake Walsh is a promising relief prospect and Kodi Whitley used to be. The two arms, taken late in the draft, provide the most hope for future production.
2018 - Nolan Gorman (1st Round), Brendan Donovan (7th Round), and Lars Nootbaar (8th Round)
Flores didn’t actually find a ton of value at the top of this draft as his competitive balance picks through the 6th round didn’t really pan out.
There’s still time for players like Griffin Roberts (CBA), Luken Baker (Comp 2), Mateo Gil (3rd Round), and Nick Dunn (5th Round) to develop, but 4th round pick Steven Gingery retired after throwing just 0.2 professional innings and 6th rounder Edgar Gonzalez has already been released.
It doesn’t matter where the value comes from, though, just so long as it comes. Gorman, Donovan, and Nootbaar all look like key pieces for the future (or maybe strong trade bait) and finding two regulars in the middle rounds is mighty impressive.
Let’s not forget that Mateo Gil helped bring Arenado to the Cardinals, so there’s value in him too. This draft also brought in Kyle Leahy, who is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League but hasn’t had the best results.
2019 - Zack Thompson (1st Round), Andre Pallante (4th Round), Connor Thomas (5th Round), Pedro Pages (6th Round), Jack Ralston (7th Round) and Chandler Redmond (32nd Round)
This draft brought in two key members of the 2022 bullpen, who could both have starting potential going forward. Beyond them, Connor Thomas and Pedro Pages both spent 2022 in Triple-A and are now competing in the AFL.
Chandler Redmond notably hit for the home run cycle this year. and though his production dipped this season, he’s been a productive hitter in the past. He has MLB potential and could be one of the few 32nd round picks to play in the majors.
Let’s not forget about Jack Ralston either. He didn’t pitch much this year because he was hurt but he had a 36.3% strikeout rate, 3.49 ERA, and 3.19 FIP in High-A last year. He could be a breakout arm in 2023.
2020 - Jordan Walker (1st Round), Masyn Winn (2nd Round), Tink Hence (CBB), Alec Burleson (2C), Ian Bedell (4th Round), and L.J. Jones (5th Round)
Do I need to say anything? We all know how successful this draft was. Three top 100 prospect. The best pitcher in the system. An uber-athletic shortstop with a cannon for an arm. Potentially the best prospect in all of baseball. This draft had it all.
No team got more out of a 5 round draft than the Cardinals and Randy Flores.
L.J. Jones had a 114 wRC+ in High-A this year and Ian Bedell looks promising if he can stay healthy, but those two, fine prospects in their own right, are overshadowed by the trio of Walker, Winn, and Hence.
This is a draft that looks like it could set the Cardinal up for years to come.
2021 - Michael McGreevy (1st Round), Joshua Baez (2nd Round), Gordon Graceffo (5th Round), Alec Willis (7th Round), Mike Antico (8th Round), Alex Cornwell (15th Round), and Andrew Marrero (18th Round)
It’s still too early to know who the best prospects are from this draft but McGreevy and Graceffo could be solid starters and Joshua Baez demolished Single-A pitching this year (171 wRC+). For early round picks, it’s hard to be unhappy so far.
Alec Willis hasn’t pitched much (12.1 IP in his career) but he’s been dominant when he’s been on the mound and Mike Antico has a protypical leadoff man profile after pairing 67 stolen bases with a double digit walk rate in 2022. Those are solid middle round picks.
In true Cardinals fashion, it doesn’t stop there. 15th rounder Alex Cornwell’s 5.14 ERA is a bit misleading considering his 3.21 FIP and 3.13 xFIP. He gave up a lot of hits (.390 BABIP), hence the high ERA, but he has solid strikeout and walk rates (25.5% and 6.5% respectively).
Finally, Andrew Marrero is an interesting arm who had a 37.7% strikeout rate and 2.90 FIP in 35.1 Single-A innings. He’s still a little wild and he repeated the level, but he’s an interesting relief arm who could be a name to watch.
2022 - Cooper Hjerpe (1st Round), Brycen Mautz (2nd Round), Pete Hansen (3rd Round), Jimmy Crooks (4th Round), and Victor Scott (5th Round)
It’s impossible to separate prospects here since there’s barely an production to parse through. I liked the Hjerpe pick a lot and I’m excited to see him take the mound next year and I think each of the next two pitchers could be solid arms as well.
For those players with production, Crooks and Scott had strong professional debuts. The former OBPed almost .400 and finished the year with a 150 wRC+ in just under 100 plate appearances. He seems to have an advanced bat, which is a luxury for the Cardinals since there aren’t too many plus hitting catchers in the system right now.
The latter seems like he could fit into the Mike Antico mold. Scott is a speedy center fielder who had a nearly 17% walk rate and 13 stolen bases in 142 plate appearances. I like his profile a lot and I’m excited to see him play more.
Randy Flores is an expert drafter. Since 2016 he has selected Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan, and Nolan Gorman who were all key players for the 2022 Cardinals. He also added Dakota Hudson, Zack Thompson, and Andre Pallante to the pitching staff.
At the current moment, Flores has done a much better job of finding talented hitters than major league pitchers. Hence, Graceffo, McGreevy, and Hjerpe could all balance out the perception, but he has brought a wealth of hitting talent into the system.
He can’t get all the credit, though. It’s one thing to identify talent but it’s another to develop it. The Cardinals player development system deserves a lot of credit for churning out players who help the team stay competitive year in, year out.
The 2020 drafts looks like it could be a truly transformational draft for the team. Not transformational in the sense thatit will turn the franchise around, but transformation in the sense that it could provide the team with many of it’s key players for the future.
The 2018 draft looks similar, but in a lesser sense. It has the potential for 3 quality starters.
For the most part, it looks like Randy Flores has channeled his inner early 2010s San Francisco Giants, finding the most success in even years. The 2016, 2018, and 2020 drafts each look better than the 2017 and 2019 events with the team pulling multiple quality starting-caliber players in each of the three even year drafts.
There’s still a long way to go before we can fully evaluate the 2021 and 2022 drafts, but they have given the team a desperately needed influx of pitching.
Another trend is that Flores has been incredibly successful in rounds 5 through 10. Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan and Lars Nootbaar all came into the organization in those rounds while Jack Ralston, L.J. Jones, Mike Antico, and Alec Willis all have the potential to be contributors down the road.
Yet, it doesn’t stop there. Flores has done a good job of finding quality relief prospects like Andrew Marrero, Jake Walsh, and Kodi Whitley in the later rounds. Chandler Redmond and Alex Cornwell could help diversify that portfolio as well.
To me, that’s the thing that’s been the most impressive about Flores.
He’s great at drafting key players in the early rounds, but he’s also great at squeezing out value where other teams can’t find it.
That’s a strong mark for the player development system too.
Finally, the last thing I notice about Flores’s drafting habits is that he targets loud tools, especially early in the draft. Look at his recent drafts again. There are some LOUD tools there.
Jordan Walker - power
Masyn Winn - speed/arm
Joshua Baez - power
Tink Hence - velocity/curveball
Nolan Gorman - power
But, again, he’s not just a one-way drafter. He’s also taken some arms who sit in the mid-to-low 90s and trusted the player development staff to find a few extra ticks. The highest profile examples of this are Andre Pallante and Gordon Graceffo.
That’s a great example of scouting and player development being aligned, which is one of the things I really want you to get out of this article. It’s one thing to notice a player has a few ticks left in him. It’s another to squeeze it out of him.
It’s also one thing to be able to squeeze it out of a suitable pitcher but not be able to find one. The Cardinals are an example of being able to both find the players with more in the tank and get it out of them, and that’s as good as it gets.
Not every organization develops players the same way so it’s important to know what you, as an organization, are good at in order to draft players that can be successful in your organization.
Nothing is baseball operates in a vacuum. Pitching is dependent on defense, hitting is dependent on pitching and opposing defense, and scouting is dependent on player development.
Flores has done a great job because he’s kept that part of the organization aligned. And because he’s really good at scouting and drafting players too. Which is kind of his job.
He’s more than earned his extension and it’s a huge win for the Cardinals to lock him up for a few more years. After his recent success as a scouting directior, I am starting to wonder when another team may try to poach him to be their GM.
Until that happens, though, you can be sure that the St. Louis Cardinals farm system will consistently be a strength.