Another great write-up from BigJawnMize about potential draft prospects for the Cardinals -- I am not a prospect expert so I love to read these and then pretend I know things when I talk to other people!
Sorry I meant to have this up a day or two earlier, but I got a little into the weeds putting this one together. There are a couple reasons for this. First, this is the most important group to scout and draft well. If you look at the top 20 minor league players, year after year it is dominated by international signings and high school drafted hitters. This is one of the groups where future franchise players come from. Second, this is the hardest group to scout. The error bars are often from future all-star to washout for the same prospect...Elijah Green I am looking at you.
Scouting is a sample size problem.
If you watch high school baseball enough you will notice that there are more high school pitchers considered top 5 round talent then there are high school hitters any given year. This isn't because there is a fewer number of talented hitters. It is because it is more difficult to scout these hitters. I think this is primarily due to sample size.
There is a truthism out there that video killed scouting departments. When teams like the Astros started grading scouts they realized that it was basically a pareto distribution, where approximately 80% of the future value was being scouted by the top 20% of the scouts. The goal became to get your best scouts as many samples of a player pitching or hitting as possible. The easiest way to do this was to use high definition video as a tool to filter where your best scouts spent their time and in turn reduce the size of scouting departments. Though video still presents a problem. For a high school pitcher you can go set a camera up for 1 game and get 80 samples of pitches thrown. For high school hitters it would take approximately 20 games to get an 80 at-bat sample. Then if a team actually got an 80 plate appearance sample, how many of those appearances will be against advanced velocity or breaking balls. So scouting hitters really becomes about taking a small sample size and applying an educated guess.
Remember Mookie Betts was the 300 ranked high school player in his draft. This shit is hard.
What we are looking for - High School Hitters
Size - For hitters on a scouting report I want to see someone that is over 5’-10". High School Hitters need to be above 175 when drafted with the projection of adding 20-30 pounds to the frame.
Athleticism - For pitchers we are looking for great athletes because pitching is an athletic endeavor with lots of moving parts. For hitters it is more dependent on where they are playing on the diamond. We want great athletes for up the middle defenders and then grade on a sliding scale as you move down the defensive spectrum.
Swing Mechanics - So a major league swing is just right around 350 milliseconds from heel plant to contact. Just a hair over a third of a second but considering that the ball out of a pitcher’s hand to the plate is around 450 milliseconds, the hitter has about 100 milliseconds to make a decision. This leads to two problems: a player needs to have a quick enough swing and start his swing at the last possible moment to increase the amount of time he has to make a decision on what pitch is being thrown. When I worked in the game I broke down high speed video to measure swing speed. I can’t do that here so I am just using instincts. I also can’t tell you if he is starting his swing too soon but there are clues on video. One clue is extension, if a kid is extending his arms and hitting a ball a foot in front of the plate then he is likely starting his swing too soon. I want to see kids not use extension but more develop power through body rotation, this allows them to pull their hands close to the body on inside pitches and still hit the ball off the barrel. When you watch video try to see how kids handle inside pitches in games and batting practice.
I also like to listen to batting practice to hear how many balls a kid is actually barreling. It is a key skill to be able to consistently put the barrel of the bat on the ball and you can often tell this just by sound.
Defense/Arm/Legs - Defense is the easiest thing to scout if you see a player play everyday. Otherwise it is hard because you probably will only see a handful of chances for a player in the field. I like to watch fielding practice because it is a better indicator of arm strength than fielding ability. Running speed is just a stopwatch at this point.
So the theme of this year's draft is the number of former players that have sons in the top 10.
Dru Jones - Son of Brave’s great Andruw Jones we don't need to worry about him too much. He will be gone at the latest by pick #3. I think scouts are over rating his hit tool. There is a lot to like here but there are other guys in the top 10 I would rather take with the first pick.
Temarr Johnson - Handler of velocity. Destroyer of breaking pitches. I have questions about his size and athleticism but don’t make a mistake near the zone - it is going to the wall. I am linking the video so you can judge which hitter you rather have Johnson or Jones. I think it is really obvious.
Temarr Johnson - Video
Jackson Holliday - Better hair than his father. Will be off the board by pick #5.
Elijah Green - Son of Pittsburgh tight end Eric Green. Looks like he should be playing safety in the NFL. This is a high error bar player. He has the largest chance to be a long term franchise player due to his size and power, but also has a decent chance of never making it if his contact skills never develop. This is an example of a player starting his swing too early, making him vulnerable to off-speed pitches.
Cam Collier - Son of journeyman utility player, although I remember him mostly with the Brewers, Lou Collier. I am putting Cam in here because he is basically a high school kid playing JUCO so he could focus more on baseball. All the athletic ability you would ever want in a player but the swing has some issues where his lower body will get separated from his upper body turning him into a slap hitter. The swing is just inconsistent, but flashes a plus power stroke. Will be gone prior to the Cardinals pick.
Cole Young - This has to be the most generic baseball player name I can find. Perfect Game's database has no less than 8 Cole Youngs in it. Might be there when the Cardinals pick. Personally I don't think he has a carrying tool that will propel him to be an above average major league player. He raked the Perfect Game circuit in 2020 but not so much in 2021. Even though his hit tool is rated plus on the scouting reports, I don't think it will translate. Cole's swing is a lot about extension and I suspect he will swing over advanced breaking balls. Pass.
Jett Williams - I love this kid's swing. I love this kid's hit tool. I love this kid's athleticism. But this is where size matters. He is small and does not project to add much in height or weight. I hate to do player comparisons but he is Kolten Wong as a high schooler. I think he will play in the show and be really productive for 6 years. But as soon as he is injured or loses a little athleticism to age he will be done. But let's remember Kolten provided a ton of value for a #22 pick.
Justin Crawford - Son of Rays’ great Carl Crawford. I have seen mock drafts where he goes in the top 10 and mock drafts that don’t even have him in the first round. If he isn't there at 22 it likely means that one of the premium college players is falling.
Size: 6’-3", word on the street is that he added 20 lbs of muscle over the last year so that would put him in the 195 lb range. I could see him playing at 210 and carry all of his athleticism going forward.
Athleticism: Oozing athletic ability. Likely one of the best athletes available in the draft. Should be a fixture in centerfield for years to come.
Swing Mechanics: We are starting to get to players where I don’t have video of them hitting against good breaking balls, so it is going to be guess work on telling if a kid is starting his swing too early. What I can tell from his videos: he is barreling up a ton of balls; he is hitting the ball close to the plate, so likely not starting his swing early; and he handles inside pitches by pulling his hands close to his body and using his body to generate power. Sometimes his swing gets a little long but he is a high schooler, I don’t expect everything to be grooved.
Defense/Arm/Legs: He is one of the best athletes in the draft with a great arm and great speed. He is a future plus centerfielder that will stay there long term.
Verdict: I think he is a top 10 talent that is being undervalued because he hasn’t shown a ton of power. That even changed some as he gained weight and demonstrated the ability to drive the ball this spring. There is still some projection on the frame that will allow him to flat out get stronger and hit for more power.
Justin Crawford - Video
Tucker Toman - I was going to go into more depth on Tucker but I don’t like him. Apparently I would be backed by half the scouting community as he is a really polarizing player. He has good size but is an average athlete. He is one of these swings that appear to start too early and rely on extension to generate power
Henry Bolte - So I hadn't heard of this guy until I saw him on the Baseball America and MLB rankings in the 40 range. He showcased in the Area Code games, so I have less info on him than if he played in the Perfect Game circuit. He is a late bloomer that I actually like:
Size: 6'-3" at around 200 lbs. He has good size for an MLB outfielder.
Athleticism: Looks to be an excellent athlete with plus speed and a plus arm. Likely sticks in centerfield at the next level.
Swing Mechanics: The reports say his swing will need to be rebuilt. His swing needs some work but I am not sure it will take a total rebuild. What I see on the videos is a swing that is inconsistent and sometimes gets long. He is hitting the ball close to the plate. He doesn't appear to be starting his swing too early. He is relying on the rotation of his body not on extension to develop power. He appears to have plus power that could develop into plus plus power.
Defense/Arm/Legs: Great athlete that looks like he will stick in center with a plus arm. Appears to have plus speed.
Verdict: This kid is a sleeper. I will admit he has a high error bar but he looks like he could develop into a great player. There is just a ton of upside here. I get a bit of a Rays pick kinda feel here.
Henry Bolte - Video
Sal Stewart - Someone should just draft this kid and pencil him in as your starting first baseman in 3 years. If he is around in the 2nd round I would strongly consider taking him the power and hitting potential is just so strong.
Size: He is a future first baseman sized at 6'-1" and 220lbs. Currently plays 3b but he could size out of that position.
Athleticism: Again baseball athlete. Currently plays third. Let's face it you are drafting a first base masher here.
Swing Mechanics: So again a swing that looks a little inconsistent. It can be long but it doesn't look like he is starting it too soon and the reports say he does damage on breaking balls. His hands look super quick.
Defense/Arm/Legs: Looks perfectly capable of playing third but I am thinking this kid is a masher at first. Doesn't appear to be particularly fast.
Verdict: I think he is a future masher at first base. I think he is a great value in the third round. I had to use this link for the MAFIA jersey, it is a little too on the nose for South Florida.
Sal Stewart - Video
Malcolm Moore - So this guy is currently a catcher that isn't enough of an athlete to stick at the position and it might not matter. This is another future first baseman that looks like he will mash. He has super quick hands and barrels everything up. Again if you are willing to draft less athletic future mashers then this is your guy. I prefer Stewart above because I think he will have a longer career because of overall better athleticism.
Roman Anthony - I have seen a couple mock drafts where the Cardinals pop this guy in the 2nd round. I could see the team taking a college pitcher in the first and popping a high school bat in the 2nd.
Size: He is the perfect size for a future MLB outfielder at 6'-3" and currently 195 lbs. Should be able to add 20 lbs easily and play in the 215 range.
Athleticism: Maybe not the peak athlete that some of the top players in this class are but a very good athlete. Future might be as a corner outfielder not a centerfielder.
Swing Mechanics: The sound of his bat makes me think he barrels a lot of balls up. He swings through some breaking balls so starting his swing too early. But his swing is quick so I think he might actually be able to develop a good hit tool. If he does then this is a 30 HR corner outfielder.
Defense/Arm/Legs: So a good athlete but maybe not at the level to play center in the show. Has a decent speed and a good arm so should be fine on the corners but needs the bat to develop that type of power.
Verdict: Might be a bit of a helium guy. I am not sure that I would take him in the 2nd round. He made more contact this spring against good high school competition but struck out a ton on the summer circuit last year.
Roman Anthony - Video
Ryan Clifford - Not sure where this kid would play. Good hitter but fringy athlete that might not even be able to man a corner outfield position. Bat first high school corner outfielders need to go to college.
Mikey Romero - Too small. No power potential. Pass.
Cameron Smith - Sleeper pick here. Good size. Good but not a great athlete but looks like he could handle third at the next level. I really like his swing. Looks like he should be able to hit with power. Throwing a link in because I like this kid.
Cameron Smith - Video
Ike Irish - I am digging for sleepers at this point. I have seen Irish rated in the 150 range in the draft. I think this is low. Out of all the high school catchers he actually has a chance to stay behind the plate and actually hit. If I could get a high school catcher like this in the 5th round range I would do it.
Nicola Perez - Thin 6' frame that might be able to fill out. Looks like he barrels the ball pretty well with a good swing generating more power than you would expect.
Estevan Moreno - I just walked down the street to see this kid play for Montini Catholic. Corner bat type player that will do better to go to college and prove his hit skill.