The Cardinals had four picks on day one of the 2014 MLB Draft, and somewhat surprisingly, the scouting team went RHP (college), RHP (high school), RHP (high school), and RHP (college). Considering the amount of pitching already in the organization, this came as a surprise to many fans. Well, despite having two more days of the draft to focus on, scouting director Dan Kantrovitz graciously provided me with a position statement regarding the organization's first four picks:
"I didn't imagine we would get four RHPs today but am really excited about these four. It's really interesting because they are so different but still all of them seem like quintessential Cardinals—the type of players that will do well [on the field] as well as be liked by fans."
First and foremost, I thank Mr. Kantrovitz for taking the time to provide me with a statement to use in this post. From my perspective of the interaction, it sounded like he may be willing to provide us with more detailed information on some of the Cardinals' picks after the draft is complete, so be on the lookout for that.
In the meantime, let's try to wrap our thought process around these picks as we head into day two of the draft. Earlier this week, fourstick penned his farm inventory post on starting pitchers. Looking back over the post, his very first sentence possibly casts some light on what occurred last night, in my opinion at least:
"From the top to the bottom of the full season leagues the Cardinals are loaded with pitching talent, but especially from the left hand side..."
According to fourstick, seven current minor league starting pitchers have a prospect grade of B or better. Of the seven, four of them are right-handed. This may seem like "plenty" going forward, but when you take a closer look at the names, you quickly realize that the most heralded prospects are left-handed: Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, and Rob Kaminsky.
Sure, there's über-prospect Alex Reyes, but his Age 19 season has been anything but consistent, and like it or not, there will always be a level of unpredictability associated with him as he develops on the farm. There's Tyrell Jenkins, who, equipped with health, confidence, and a heavy sinker, could be a fast-riser this season, but coming off a (thankfully non-joint-related) shoulder injury, this is no guarantee. Then there's Zach Petrick and Nick Petree who have had similar rises through the system over the past two years. Both could find themselves contributing to the big league club in some manner in the not-so-distant future, but I wouldn't consider either to be top-end of the rotation pitchers at this point.
Plus, with the increasing prevalence of Tommy John injuries and post-surgery health still somewhat uncertain, I don't blame the organization for stockpiling "exciting" right-handed arms, especially now that the gems of the farm, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, have graduated on to the big leagues. Regardless of talent development or mechanics, there are zero guarantees that any of these four will stay healthy enough to reach the big leagues some day. Thus, with the team in a relatively good position in terms of pitching depth at the big league level, I believe it was the perfect time for the organization to take some chances as they look to the future.
Were these the four righties I would have rolled the dice on, though? That remains to be seen, and to be frank, that's the beauty of the MLB Draft. I trust the red baron with just about anything when it comes to prospect analysis, and he had some pretty strong opinions on the first two picks—Luke Weaver (#27) and Jack Flaherty (#34)—but particularly the Weaver pick. However, at the same time, I trust Kantrovitz and the rest of the Cardinals' scouting staff as well. They've done pretty well with scouting pitchers in the past, and I'd like to see these four in a Cardinals uniform before I jump to any rash conclusions. We've yet to hear RB's take on the other two picks, so in the meantime, I will embed some videos and provide some brief thoughts on each pitcher.
Ronnie Williams (American HS, Florida)
On first glance (four pitches in the video), the throwing arm of this wiry righty appears to have quite some life to it. According to this article by Rob Rains, Kantrovitz considers Williams an "electric athlete" and stated that his fastball velocity was up to 96-97 MPH according to team scouts. Williams will be a long-term project, but he will be a fun one to watch as he develops as a professional and grows into his body. Fans that live near low-level Cardinals affiliates will want to make the trip to the stadium to watch this kid pitch. Trust me.
Andrew Morales (UC-Irvine)
This six foot righty has had quite the career at the Junior College and NCAA levels. Does he project as an impact starting pitcher in the big leagues some day? I'm not all that sure about that, but he averaged 7.52 strikeouts per start this year at UC-Irvine, which, all things considered, is pretty impressive. Most analysts believe this pick was made in order to free up enough money to keep the team's 34th overall pick, Jack Flaherty, from choosing UNC. Either way, Morales's team (#3) takes on #1 Oklahoma State tonight at 8:30 PM CST in the Super Regional, but Morales isn't available to pitch until Saturday. Saturday's game is scheduled to start at 9:00 PM CST, and I have a pretty good feeling a lot of Cardinals fans will be watching that one closely.