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Reviewing the Cardinals first five picks from the 2018 Draft

MLB: Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals had 41 picks in the 2018 Draft with only three of those players appearing in MLB games thus far. Had it not been for the drafting of Major Leaguers in both the 7th and 8th round the ‘18 would’ve gone down as a very poor one for the organization. Below we are going to break down the team's first five picks from the draft as well as the two big league players they selected later in the draft.

Round 1, Pick 19 - Nolan Gorman - IF

Despite selecting the third place NL Rookie of the Year finisher well after the selection of Gorman, the success of this class hinges on what the former top prospect can become. His ceiling is a 40-home run lefty who can hit in the middle of any lineup. Although, as shown in his struggles in his rookie year his floor is very low. He flashed some positives in his debut season including an xSLG of .476, which would’ve ranked 22nd in the MLB had he qualified as well as an xWOBA of .341 which would’ve been tied for 41st. But, on the flip side he struck out 103 times in 283 at bats. Over a 600 at bat season, that’s roughly 218 strikeouts which would’ve led the league by a large margin last season.

Gorman though is still only 22 and won’t turn 23 until May 20th of this year meaning the former first round pick has plenty of time to develop as a player.

Competitive balance A, Pick 43 - Griffin Roberts - RHP

Injuries have hampered Roberts’ ability to develop as a pitcher. Over the past 2 seasons he’s been placed on the injured list 3 times, one of which was of the 60-day variety. He’s appeared in just 26 games over that span, 23 of which came last season. In 2022 he pitched to a cumulative 9.25 ERA to go along with 26 walks in 24 ⅓ innings pitched. Roberts is no longer a young prospect as he is 26 meaning if he is going to turn it around it has to come in the 2023 season.

Round 2, Pick 75 - Luken Baker - 1B

Over the course of his Cardinals tenure Baker has been a player who has proven to have some pop, but that’s just about it. In his four seasons in the organization, he has 61 home runs with an average of .249 and an OBP of .321. In his first full season at AAA last year the slugger had a triple slash line of .228/.288/.394 which he paired with 21 home runs. The 25-year-old last appeared in the team's top 30 prospects at the end of the 2021 season where he came in at 20th overall.

It is not completely out of the question that we see Baker get called up if a few of the team’s hitters were to go down at the same time. However, it is difficult to assume that he will have much of a positive impact at the MLB level due to how poor his AAA numbers were.

Round 3, Pick 95 - Mateo Gil - 3B/SS

Gil is already in his third Major League organization since being drafted in 2018. The shortstop was traded to the Colorado Rockies along with Austin Gomber, Elehruis Montero, Tony Locey and Jake Sommers for Nolan Arenado and cash. At the time of the trade MLBPipeline had the 3rd rounder as the 21st prospect in the team's organization. Gil, who now plays for the New York Mets after being claimed by them off waivers has yet to show much of anything at the dish. He has a career triple slash of .252/.316/.393 in addition to 24 home runs and 12 stolen bases. Largely uninspiring numbers for a player who has 4 years under his belt and was taken with a top 100 selection. He has yet to make it past A+ ball, although he is still 22 meaning he has plenty of time to still develop as a player. Unfortunately, though it is unlikely that Gil will become anything more than a depth minor league player.

Round 4, Pick 123 - Steven Gingery - LHP

Gingery retired in 2021 as he only threw ⅔ of an inning for the organization and then never pitched again. He underwent a second Tommy John surgery with the team which likely played a part in his retirement.

Notable later picks

Round 7, Pick 213 - Brendan Donovan - UT

To get Brendan Donovan in the 7th round pick was a steal. The utility man finished third last year in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Importantly, his analytics back up his overall season. His xBA of .266, which was in the 80th percentile, fell only .015 points below his actual number. His xWOBA of .339 (75th percentile) was just .010 points lower than his actual wOBA. Additionally, Donovan was in the top 12th or better percentile in strikeout percentage, whiff percentage, chase rate and walk percentage. All of which are numbers rookies traditionally do not thrive in. Donovan did not impact the ball well, but when your contact rates are as high as his it is not imperative to have high average exit velocities. Regardless of where Donovan plays in 2023 for the Cards, he will be an extremely valuable piece.

Round 8, Pick 243 - Lars Nootbaar - OF

Nootbaar only had 290 total at bats, but he made the most of them with rock solid analytics across the board. The 25-year-old was in the 10th best percentile for average exit velocity, 92nd for chase rate and 98th in walk percentage. He is also in the 80th or better in hard hit percentage, xWOBA and barrel percentage. On top of that his xBA of .247 was significantly better than his .228 batting average. It is uncertain as to what role Nootbaar will play for the Cardinals in a relatively crowded outfield. Although, there is a chance that with a strong spring training, he can win an outfield spot or the teams DH gig.