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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – St. Louis Cardinals
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by St. Louis in 2016
5 – Delvin Perez
19 – Dakota Hudson
70 – Connor Jones
79 – Jeremy Martinez
151 – Dylan Carlson
160 – Zac Gallen
165 – Walker Robbins
179 – John Kilichowski
245 – Tyler Lancaster
347 – Vincent Jackson
386 – Austin Sexton
419 – Spencer Trayner
467 – Andrew Knizner
Complete List of 2016 St. Louis Cardinals Draftees
This is the twelfth published draft review. Beyond that, I’ve more or less finished about half of the league’s draft reviews that should see the light of day sooner rather than later. In other words, while I don’t have a complete in-depth idea of what every team in baseball did this past draft, I think we’re now far enough along this process to start making some overarching observations about the 2016 MLB Draft as a whole. That in mind, it’s safe to now point out that the gap between what the Cardinals managed to do with their 2016 draft and what the rest of the league did is substantial. There are a lot of “it” teams in baseball these days — many of which are plenty deserving of the mantle, the most recent World Series champions being at or near the top of the list for most observers — but I still think that the Cards deserve the top spot as the best run team in the sport. All other candidates have enough advantages (terrible seasons that have led to high picks, crazy international spending and financial freedom to make personnel mistakes, big dollar free agents to supplement their core), but the Cardinals track record over the past decade plus is pristine. They just keep chugging along without little to no dip in overall output along the way.
This high praise got me thinking about how I’d go about justifying that claim to a neutral third party who loves baseball but doesn’t much care for the draft or long-term player development minutiae. To test how strongly I felt about the Cardinals’s recent track record of excellence, I fired off a quick email to a big baseball fan friend who literally knows nothing about the MLB Draft. My attempt to sum up what the Cardinals did as succinctly as possible…
Their first two picks were high school hitters who won’t turn 18-years-old until October and November respectively. Both hit really well in the GCL. Then they took a pair of college pitchers. I love one and like the other, but the important thing here is the plan they clearly had: combined the two got 56 ground balls, 9 line drives, and 6 fly balls in their debuts. That’s a 79% GB-rate on batted balls. They took up-the-middle college hitters in the fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Let me throw some lines at you. First, there’s a .325/.419/.433 with 32 BB/16 K in 235 PA. Then we have a .286/.400/.427 with 48 BB/29 K in 310 PA. Finally we get a .319/.423/.492 with 21 BB/21 K in 222 PA. Those ain’t college numbers, those are the pro debuts of those three picks. Their eighth round selection was a Tommy John recovery gamble that could pay off big.
They took a college hitter with this career line: .374/.446/.600 with 64 BB/32 K. They took a college player who did this in his draft year: .444/.502/.639 with 25 BB/15 K and 30/32 SB. Their tenth and eleventh round picks look like rock solid long-time big league contributors. They went with intriguing upside guys in the twelfth (HS), fourteenth (college), and sixteenth (JUCO) rounds, and did so by getting talent from everywhere.
And on and on and on I could have gone. This is a great draft. Don’t believe me? Read on…
1.23 – SS Delvin Perez
I love Delvin Perez (5). A few words from May 2016…
The MLB Draft: go big on upside or go home, especially early on day one. And if you’ve got the smarts/guts enough to do just that, then make it a shortstop when possible. And if you’re going to gamble on a high risk/high reward shortstop, make it as young a shortstop as you can find. And if that young shortstop also happens to have game-changing speed, an above-average to plus arm, plus raw power, and a frame to dream on, then…well, maybe Delvin Perez should be talked more about as the potential top overall prospect in this class then he is. I know there’s some chatter, but maybe it should be louder. What stands out most to me about Perez is how much better he’s gotten over the past few months. That, combined with his youth, has his arrow pointed up in a major way.
The Perez supporters – myself included, naturally – obviously believe in his bat, but also believe that he won’t necessarily have to hit a ton to be a damn fine player when you factor in his defensive gifts and plus to plus-plus speed. That’s part of what makes drafting a highly athletic shortstop prospect with tons of youth on his side so appealing. Even if the bat doesn’t fulfill all your hopes and dreams, the chances you walk away with at least something is high…or at least higher than at any other position. It gives players like Perez a deceptively high floor.
I like his scouting capsule quite a bit…
SS Delvin Perez (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico): plus bat speed; plus range; plus raw power; easy plus to plus-plus speed; above-average to plus arm; good athlete; good approach; lots of tools, lots of skills, lots of question marks developmentally and off-field; RHH; 6-3, 165 pounds
That’s a lot of pluses. A sampling of names I’ve personally heard when asking around about Perez over the past few months…
Jonathan Villar, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Crawford
Comps are hardly the be-all-end-all, but, hey, not a bad outcome among the group. Probably my favorite comp — and one I’m kicking myself for not thinking of pre-draft — is Jose Reyes minus the switch-hitting. I think Perez is a superstar in the making. Writing about him is difficult at this point because he’s so talented and so young that coming up with any kind of concrete analysis would feel like little more than guesswork as of now, especially in light of his pre-draft PED issues. My short version — “superstar in the making” — is about all I can come up with based on what I’ve seen, heard, read, and intuitively feel. The rare bit of brevity here will be more than made up for with some longer reads below…
1.33 – OF Dylan Carlson
This may change by the time you read this, but if you Google Dylan Carlson (151) then you get the list of Dylan Carlson information one might expect when you Google Dylan Carlson along with a surprise Wikipedia link for Michael Ohlman on the sidebar. I guess technically if you click that link it isn’t really about Ohlman, but it’s still funny to me. One day Carlson will take back over his sidebar. That’s the kind of fearless prediction you can only get on this website. Cherish it.
That preemptive diversion was meant largely to distract from the fact that I don’t have a whole lot to say at this point about Dylan Carlson than you probably already know. Carlson is a really easy player to fall in love with and the Cardinals picking him earlier than many (like me!) expected — he signed an underslot bonus, to be fair — has many (like me!) falling into the “well, if a smart team like the Cardinals liked him then he must be better than we thought…” trap that can often infiltrate post-draft analysis. I can admit that I’m a little bit guilty of that here, but St. Louis putting a first round stamp of approval on the “second round version of Kirilloff” (my pre-draft note from a team official) was far from the only reason this pick looks like a winner as we sit back and reflect on November 7th.
Carlson is a hitter first and foremost, but his well-rounded skill set gives him a chance to be a major asset both offensively (average speed, solid athleticism) and defensively (average arm, impressive instincts and first-step quickness) beyond what he should hopefully do in the batter’s box. Carlson as a first base prospect is plenty interesting, but, like Alex Kirilloff, his value as an all-around ballplayer jumps way up if he can play an average or better left or right field. The fact that the Cardinals have aggressively pushed him as a center fielder at the onset of his pro career seems to be a good sign about his early defensive progress as an outfielder. All of this non-bat talk is just icing on the cake. It’s Carlson’s ability as a hitter that will make or break him in the pros. St. Louis clearly believes it’ll make him and I’m in no position to disagree. Carlson is one of those young guys that gives off the simultaneous vibe that, yes, he was put on this planet to hit and doing so comes natural to him in a way that teammates are secretly jealous of while ALSO being one of those clearly dedicated athletes that will work both hard and smart to accomplish seemingly any goal set before him. Carlson is both a natural and a grinder. That’s a heck of a combination. I didn’t poll enough people to make this a scientifically significant study, but the next person I talk to that doesn’t think Carlson will hit his way to a starting big league role will be the first. Kid can hit.
Of course, the kid isn’t really a kid; in fact, Carlson is the old man of the Cardinals first two high school picks. The Cardinals first first round pick Delvin Perez won’t be 18-years-old until the end of November; Grandpa Carlson just turned the big one-eight last week (10/23). Sometimes a team drafting super young for their class early round prospects means something and sometimes it’s a coincidence. I have a strong hunch that the former is true in the case of the St. Louis front office knowing what’s up, but can’t say that for sure just yet. A trend of two isn’t really a trend at all, especially when you look at last year’s Cardinals first round pick, Nick Plummer, and his slightly older than his peer group age. But then there’s Bryce Denton, another early round high school pick from last year, who becomes yet another point in favor of the young for his class trend being an actual trend. Inconclusive, is the only real conclusion I have right now. Makes me wonder why this paragraph is even seeing the light of day…
1.34 – RHP Dakota Hudson
Asked a fairly simple Dakota Hudson (19) question back in April 2016…
Are we sure he isn’t the best college pitching prospect in the country?
Ask a simple question, get a simple answer. College pitchers ranked ahead of Hudson come draft day: one. Only AJ Puk stood in the way of Hudson finishing his junior season as the best college pitching prospect in the country. That might not seem that interesting or impressive, but consider where Hudson started the year. From October 2015…
Hudson is the biggest mystery man out of the SEC Four Horsemen (TM pending…with apologies to all the Vandy guys and Kyle Serrano) because buying on him is buying a largely untested college reliever (so far) with control red flags and a limited overall track record. Those are all fair reasons to doubt him right now, but when Hudson has it working there are few pitchers who look more dominant. His easy plus 86-92 cut-slider is right up there with Jackson’s curve as one of the best breaking balls in the entire class.
The strapping righthander from Mississippi State came into his junior year coming off a sophomore season spent exclusively in the bullpen and with a grand total of 33.0 college innings under his belt. My point here isn’t to highlight the fact that Hudson was some out-of-nowhere unknown nobody (he wasn’t), but rather the kind of precocious talent who survived and then thrived the as he learned how to be a major college starting pitcher in the SEC on the fly. As such, I think we’ve only scratched the surface as to how good he can really be. Check out this man’s stuff: explosive fastball (90-96, 98 peak), breaking ball with legit plus upside, a hard 86-92 cut-slider that’s already a plus pitch, and a nascent mid-80s changeup with the chance to be a fine pitch in its own right. His current flaws (fastball command, occasionally wonky mechanics, some inconsistency with the breaking ball) are all likely fixable with some clever coaching, something he’s sure to get with the Cardinals. I don’t say this lightly, but it’s ace upside. How many pitchers in this class can you really say that about?
On top of that, Hudson’s batted ball profile is a thing of beauty to fans of democracy. MLB Farm has him giving up 21 ground balls, 3 fly balls, and 2 line drives in his first 13.1 innings of professional baseball. That’s incredible. I put him on the Jeff Samardzija/Taijuan Walker/Jake Arrieta spectrum before the draft (FWIW heard absolute worst case scenario Blake Treinen after the draft), and I don’t see why he can’t at least achieve the minimum outcome (competent big league starting pitcher like Walker, who I still very much believe in as something more than that) as of now. If that’s the “downside,” then what’s the upside? I’ll stand by the Cy Young kind of upside that Arrieta has shown as being a very real potential outcome for Hudson. If we look at that comparison more literally, that would put Hudson in High-A (like Arrieta in 2008) to start his first full pro season next year. Considering that’s the same level that Hudson finished his 2016 season, I think that’s a very safe bet. The bar at A+ is 113.0 innings worth of 9.56 K/9, 4.06 BB/9, and 2.87 ERA ball. I’d say that’s very doable as well. Arrieta’s career has taken its fair share of twists and turns — development is nonlinear, development is nonlinear, development is nonlinear — so the literal career path comparison thing we’re doing here isn’t ideal, but it’s baseball and prospects and it’s supposed to be fun. Imagine Hudson as the next Arrieta (minus the Baltimore drama) is a lot of fun. I think he reaches those peaks and becomes the biggest steal of the draft.
2.70 – RHP Connor Jones
If you liked Dakota Hudson’s batted ball profile, then you’ll probably also get a kick out of what Connor Jones (70) did in his debut. How does a mix of 35 ground balls, 7 line drives, and 3 fly balls sound? Think the Cardinals might have a type? As if Cardinals fans needed another reason to like the picks of Dakota Hudson and Jones, one could very easily imagine a Chicago Cubs draft room filled with front office types milling about anxiously hoping, wishing, and praying for either guy to fall to them with their first pick. Neither guy made it to the third round, so the ground ball loving Cubs had to settle for Thomas Hatch instead. Interestingly enough (to me at least), my quick math had the junior season version of Jones (68.90%) and Hudson (68.57%) as two of the three (along with TJ Zeuch) most ground ball-y (I wanted to say “groundballingest,” but it just doesn’t look right) pitching prospects in the 2016 college class. If I had expanded that list to include more top pitching prospects, I surely would have thrown Hatch’s name into the mix. As it happens, I did the math on Hatch’s college GB% after the draft when I did the Cubs draft review. Wouldn’t you know it was almost identical (68.3%) to Jones and Hudson? Not only are the Cubs and Cardinals heated rivals on the field, but they also seem to be in direct competition for the same type of pitchers on the amateur market. Pretty cool.
The above gets at Connor Jones as an idea. What about Connor Jones the actual real life living, breathing pitcher? Since the Virginia righthander has been a pretty big deal for a long time now, we’ve got a pretty long history with the Cavaliers star to draw from. Let’s start way back in high school with his quick scouting capsule. From June 2013…
RHP Connor Jones (Great Bridge HS, Virginia): 88-92 FB with true plus sink, 93-95 peak; average 77-82 SL flashes plus; above-average upside with 78-82 CU; everything sinks; ground ball machine; plus command; 2013: 90-94; FAVORITE; 6-3, 190 pounds
If we fast-forward all the way to the present day, we can compare the Jones of three years ago to the Jones the Cardinals selected this past June. Here is the decluttered version of his most recent scouting snapshot…
Virginia JR RHP Connor Jones: 87-94 FB with crazy movement and plus sink, 96 peak; above-average 82-86 cut-SL, flashes plus; average 76-82 CB, doesn’t throw it often; 83-88 split-CU, flashes plus; complete four-pitch mix; good athlete; holds velocity well; 6-3, 200 pounds
The evolution of Jones was impressive, even when accounting for his already physically and emotionally mature start. Fastball ticked up a bit, but retained the same insane movement. Slider firmed up some as well and added some cutter action. Change morphed into a truer splitter, but continued to serve the same purpose. Added a curve that he rarely used as much more than a show-me pitch. Command, pitchability, and athleticism remained strong points. What’s not to like about this guy? Let’s keep digging. Next step, March 2015…
Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka.
Very optimistic! And such generous comps, too. Things are rolling now. How were things in October 2015…
Jones, the number one guy on a list designed to serve the same purpose as the one created over seven months ago, hasn’t actually done anything to slip this far down the board; competition at the top this year is just that fierce. I like guys with fastballs that move every which way but straight, so Jones’s future looks bright from here. His mid-80s splitter has looked so good at times that he’s gotten one of my all-time favorite cross-culture comps: Masahiro Tanaka.
Some acknowledgment that the college pitching class was crowded at the top with a lot of good but not great options, but still generally positive about Jones’s outlook. Who wants to bet I keep pounding that Masahiro Tanaka comp into the ground in February 2016…
I’m 100% buying what Connor Jones — the Virginia one, not Tyler’s lefthanded Georgia teammate — is selling. I’ve mentioned it before, but I get an unusually high number of comps on him from enthusiastic scouts. My hunch is that it has something to do with his exciting mix of ceiling (number two starter?) and certainty (very polished, very professional) that gets those guys going. I still love the cross-cultural Masahiro Tanaka comp for him.
I’m so predictable. More of the same in April 2016…
Connor Jones represents the best cross-section of upside and safety in this year’s college pitching class. Assuming non-catastrophic injury, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t wind up at least somewhere around a big league starter. That’s about where I’d put his reasonable upside as well: solid big league starting pitcher. There’s a chance for more, of course, due in large part to his dynamic one-two offspeed combo of an upper-80s splitter and a low- to mid-80s slider. I’ve comped him to Masahiro Tanaka at the highest of high ceiling projections, so, yeah, I like him. Future mid-rotation arms are tremendous real life assets, but fairly boring in fantasy land.
At least past-me gets more to the point about Jones’s value being tied heavily to his unique blend of upside and safety. It was hard at this point in the process to see Jones as anything but a useful big league starter down the line with the upside being a mid-rotation or better type. Some, however, were starting to get a little stuck on the first part there: “anything but a useful big league starter.” Everybody loves (or should love) a useful big league starter, but there’s plenty of room for those of us who want more than useful. Depending on your contextual expectations, useful can either be a compliment or an insult. It’s meant as a compliment here, but could very easily be spun as a negative by those who question Jones’s upside. In fact, later in the month we kind of went there…
I’ve gone back and forth on Jones a few times throughout the draft process. For as much as I like him, there’s something about his game doesn’t quite add up just yet. He checks every box you’d want in a near-ML ready starting pitching prospect, but it’s hard to get too excited about a pitcher who has never truly dominated at the college level. My big question about Jones is whether or not he has that second gear that will allow him to consistently put away big league hitters in times of trouble. His stuff is perfectly suited to killing worms; in fact, his sinker, slider, and splitter combination has resulted in an impressive 65.25 GB% in 2016. But he’ll have to miss more bats to be more than a back of the rotation starter at the highest level. His K/9 year-by-year at Virginia: 6.55, 8.77, and 6.79. Those aren’t the kinds of numbers you’d expect out of a guy being talked up in some circles as a potential top ten pick and first college pitcher selected in the draft. This evaluation of Jones is a little bit like the scattered thoughts on Corey Ray shared above in that it highlights how tough it can be when you’re one of the top prospects in the country. Potential top half of the first round prospects get nitpicked in a way that mid-round players never will. Jones, like Ray, is an excellent prospect, but because a) everybody already knows the top two dozen or so “name” draft prospects are excellent and continuously talking about how great they are is tired, and b) the greater investment in top prospects necessitates a more thorough examination of their total game, getting picked apart more than most comes with the territory.
There it is. The K/9 bomb was finally dropped. I’m way too lazy to do the work myself and far too unimportant to crowdsource the information otherwise, but I have a pretty strong hunch from doing this for years that not too many college starter pitchers who enter pro ball coming off a full (103.2 IP) junior season with a K/9 as low as 6.25 have had much sustained success in big league rotations. Strikeouts aren’t everything and Jones’s ability to generate ground ball outs by the bushel need not be ignored, but it’s hardly controversial to suggest that good big league starting pitchers universally share the ability to consistently get swings and misses in key situations. If Jones wants to be a “good” big league starting pitcher (i.e., more than an up-and-down four or five), then he’s almost certainly going to have to miss more bats. We’re admittedly setting a high bar to illustrate a point, but of the top twenty starting pitchers (by FIP) with at least 50 IP in 2016, only six did it without striking out a batter per inning. The lowest K/9 of any pitcher in the top thirty was Matt Harvey at 7.38. Second lowest? Masahiro Tanaka at 7.44. Hmm…
I don’t doubt that a guy with Jones’s stuff, smarts, and work ethic can keep improving as a professional and reach the modest version of his ceiling (back-end starter) sooner rather than later. I also wouldn’t dare shut the door on him fulfilling the higher end of those earliest projections (number two, maybe a three) with continued progress. Real upside with a very high floor. That’s a heck of a pick late in the second round.
3.106 – RHP Zac Gallen
Zac Gallen (160), sick of all the attention paid to Hudson and Jones by certain batted ball enthusiasts who shall remain nameless, went out in his pro debut and struck out 15 batters in 9.2 innings pitched. Who needs ground balls when you’re sitting people down at that clip, right? Gallen isn’t quite that kind of pitcher — to be fair, THAT kind of pitcher doesn’t really exist outside of Aroldis Chapman — but he did see his K/9 increase every season while in Chapel Hill. From 6.54 to 7.93 to 9.44, Gallen’s steady improvement as a strikeout pitcher was reflected by his improved out-pitch (cut-slider) and consistently awesome command. Gallen is pretty much the low-upside/high-floor college starting pitcher straight out of Central Casting. His fastball won’t wow anybody velocity-wise at 88-92 MPH (though I swear I’ve personally seen it up to 94 as a starter and even higher than that as a reliever…can’t confirm either peak and my exact notes have turned to dust), but he commands it exceptionally well. Between the fastball, cut-slider (a deadly offering that can hit any number on the radar beginning with 8), and a pair of average softer pitches (mid-70s curve, low-80s change), Gallen can roll through even the toughest lineups multiple times when he’s hitting his spots. A few older notes on Gallen, first from March 2016…
It’ll be really interesting to see how high Gallen will rise in the real draft come June. He’s the kind of relatively safe, high-floor starting pitching prospect who either sticks in the rotation for a decade or tops out as a sixth starter better served moving to the bullpen to see if his stuff plays up there. This aggressive (pretend) pick by Boston should point to what side of that debate I side with. Gallen doesn’t do any one thing particularly well — stellar fastball command and a willingness to keep pounding in cutters stand out — but he throws five (FB, cutter, truer SL, CB, CU) pitches for strikes and competes deep into just about every start. There’s serious value in that.
And then from April 2016…
Gallen’s profile seems like the type who gets overlooked during the draft, overlooked in the minors, and overlooked until he’s run through a few big league lineups before people begin to get wise. That’s all entirely anecdotal, but sometimes you’ve got to run with a hunch.
One thing that strikes me as potentially notable — though I suppose technically this is actually notable and not potentially notable since here I am noting it — is St. Louis’s tendency to gravitate to pitchers who have shown consistent depth of offspeed stuff in addition to their proclivity to target ground ball arms like Dakota Hudson and Connor Jones. “Legit four-pitch mix” is a phrase that comes up in both Jones’s and Gallen’s scouting profiles. Jones and Gallen — especially Gallen — are pitchers who get results based more on the sum of their stuff than any individual component. Stylistically, pitchers like Gallen bring me back to the age-old (probably) question that I’ve personally struggled with for years: do you like Pitcher A with his two knockout pitches and a fringey (or nonexistent) third pitch OR do you prefer Pitcher B with his four average-ish pitches? Neither Jones nor Gallen quite fit that Player B archetype as perfectly as I’d like to really hammer home this point — Gallen is the closer of the two, but I think his cutter is too good to call it simply “average-ish” — but you get the general idea of what the Cardinals like to target on draft day.
4.136 – C Jeremy Martinez
On Jeremy Martinez (79) from April 2016…
Jeremy Martinez is another catcher who has been described to me as “good enough” defensively, but that’s an opinion my admittedly non-scout eyes don’t see. I wrote about him briefly last month…
I’ve long thought that Jeremy Martinez has been underrated as a college player, so I’m happy to get a few sentences off about how much I like him here. Martinez was born to catch with a reliable glove and accurate arm. His offensive game is equally well-rounded with the chance for an average hit tool and average raw power to go along with his standout approach. His ceiling may not be high enough for all teams to fall in love, but he’s as good a bet as any of the college catchers in this class to have a long big league career in some capacity or another.
Then he went out and hit .325/.419/.433 with 32 BB/16 K in 235 PA for State College. Defensively, the man threw out 17 of 37 (46%) potential base stealers. That’s after hitting .376/.460/.563 with 19 BB/12 K in 213 AB at USC in his junior season. It might be time to accept the fact that Martinez can really play. I think it could be a 50 bat, 55 power, and 55/60 overall defender. That’s really enticing by itself, but when you add in his exceptional track record as a disciplined hitter (71 BB/43 K at USC) equally skilled with both getting ahead early in counts and hitting with two strikes, then you’ve really got something worth getting excited about. Between Carson Kelly, Martinez, and Andrew Knizner, the Cardinals don’t have to worry about life after Yadier Molina one iota going forward. Must be nice.
5.166 – OF Walker Robbins
On Walker Robbins (165) from May 2016…
If we’re going to pair Rizzo and Cantu together, then why not do the same for Christian Jones and Walker Robbins? The two lefthanded bats have very similar offensive ceilings. In a fun twist, Robbins, a legitimate pitching prospect with a fastball that ranges from 87-92 MPH, takes the place of Joey Wentz in this updated top five. Wentz, as many know, is a lefthanded pitching prospect all the way, but that wasn’t always the case. There were some fools (e.g., me) who thought his pro future would come as a slugging first baseman. Maybe there are some out there that think of Robbins more as a pitcher – I haven’t talked to any, but I’ve learned not to make assumptions with low-90s lefties – but at this point I’m pretty comfortable with him as a single-digit round hitting prospect. That’s some nice prospect symmetry right there.
Anyway, much like Jones, Robbins can hit. His power is real, he’s an excellent athlete, and he’s right around average with most of his run times. Also like Jones, the only real question I have with Robbins being where he is on this list is whether or not a pro team will challenge him with some outfield work after signing. I’d be fine with that, obviously – he can run, he can throw, and it’s not my money – but it would be kind of a shame to not have him play first base at the next level. I haven’t personally seen all of the players listed below, but of the ones I have, he’s easily the most impressive defender at first. It’s not the same as being a plus defender at catcher, center, or short, but it’s not nothing.
It’ll take time, but I believe in Walker Robbins as a power bat, defender at first, and athlete. Will he make enough contact to make all those good things matter? You got me, but that’s why he fell to the fifth round. That said, there’s not a 133 pick difference between his upside and Dylan Carlson’s. Getting both within the draft’s first five rounds (in addition to a potential star SS, two rock solid big league pitching prospects, and an advanced college catcher who is a clear potential successor to Yadier Molina behind the plate) is a major win for the Cards. Fans of twenty-nine other teams should be jealous.
6.196 – SS Tommy Edman
On Tommy Edman from April 2016…
Edman’s bat is more my speed thanks to his strong hit tool, good understanding of the strike zone, and ability to make consistent contact even when down in the count. I’ve given in to those who have long tried to convince me he’s more second baseman than shortstop, but there’s still a part of me who thinks he’s good enough to play short. For a guy with realistic ceiling of big league utility man, I can more than live with that kind of defensive future. If I really stuck to my guns here then you’d see Edman over Morrison, but for now I’ll defer to the overwhelming consensus of smarter people out there who let me know (nicely, mostly) that I was nuts for considering it. I guess the big takeaway here for me is that either player would be great value at any point after the first five rounds.
All’s I know is a sixth round pick hit .286/.400/.427 with 48 BB/29 K in 310 PA for State College, and that ain’t not bad.
The Stanford middle infielder turned Cardinals prospect’s strong debut was undeniably impressive, but not altogether unfamiliar. Drew Jackson had a similarly thrilling debut last year after being picked in the fifth round last year by Seattle (.358/.432/.447 with 30 BB/35 K and 47/51 SB) before coming back to Earth in 2016, so, you know, these things can happen when we’re dealing with relatively small samples. The pre-draft evaluation on Edman (“realistic ceiling of big league utility man”) shouldn’t be changed much just because of his hot professional start. Still, I’d rather see a fast start than a slow one, so if you’d like to feel a little extra enthusiastic about Edman as a ballplayer going forward based on those 310 stellar plate appearances, then far be it from me to rain on your parade. I will say that the pairing of Edman and the Cardinals feels like a perfect marriage. Envisioning him as a pesky hitting utility infielder (already annoying enough to the opposition in that role) who takes the opponent’s fan base frustration up a million notches when he inevitably gets called upon to start for stretches due to injuries elsewhere at various points over the next decade without missing a beat offensively for whatever star he’s replacing (Delvin Perez, maybe?) is just too easy. Easier than parsing the meaning of that monster of a sentence, I’ll bet.
7.226 – C Andrew Knizner
On Andrew Knizner (467) in December 2015…
JR C Andrew Knizner is a fascinating prospect who doesn’t quite fit the mold of what one might think of a potential top five round college catcher. Defensively, he’s still very much out of sorts as a relatively new catcher but his athleticism and willingness to make it work could be enough for teams willing to take the long view on his pro future. Offensively, he’s a high contact hitter with excellent plate coverage and power that has a chance to be average or better as he continues to add strength. I tend to give players new to a demanding defensive position the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible, so I’m fine with riding out another half-season or so of shaky defense behind the plate before beginning to ask the question whether or not Knizner has what it takes to be a catcher full-time in the pros. Almost no matter what transpires on the field this year, I can’t see a team drafting Knizner high enough that he’s signable with the intention of at least continuing to try him as a catcher for the foreseeable future. He’s good enough in other areas that it’s not quite a catcher or bust proposition for him, but that depends on how high one’s expectations are for him at this point.
Knizner split his time pretty evenly between first base and catcher at Johnson City in his debut. He also went out and hit .319/.423/.492 with 21 BB/21 K in 222 PA. I’ve had many people who have seen Knizner play in short looks come back completely unsold on his defense behind the plate. I appreciate firsthand accounts like that, but I find it telling that so many of these observations are the quick-hitter type. For whatever reason, Knizner’s defense is particularly difficult to judge when viewed only through the prism of a single game or series. The newness of playing the position is too often dismissed by those who are already convinced he can’t do the job, and the incremental progress he’s made defensively — the definition of slow and steady, emphasis on slow — is worth keeping in mind. I think Knizner has shown enough already to warrant serious consideration as a long-term catcher defensively, a personal view reinforced by his athleticism and arm strength. As an average or better defender behind the plate, Knizner has a chance to be an above-average all-around player. This is the type of college catcher (i.e., one with clear starter upside) worth taking a chance on here.
8.256 – RHP Sam Tewes
On Sam Tewes in mid-March 2016 before news of his announced TJ surgery was official…
Tewes’s arm (up to 95, good CB) and size (6-5, 200) is too good to pass up even with the rocky start. Even if his recent elbow discomfort ends in something unfortunate, he’s still the most talented player on this roster and best pro bet going forward.
And then later in March 2016 when we knew it was coming…
I always make a point to say that these are conceived as pre-season rankings that attempt to reflect the larger body of work rather than recent performances. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. Sam Tewes is a walking, talking exception as he was dropped a whopping one whole spot after news broke that he’ll be undergoing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday (March 31, 2016). His immediate draft future is obviously in doubt as he’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of rehabbing as a professional versus doing so as a redshirt-junior next season at Wichita State. I wouldn’t consider him signable as of now – guys with multiple years of eligible left are challenges from the start and the injury clouds up his future even more – but I’d sure as heck be on him this spring trying to figure out if there’s a reasonable number he’d agree to. His ability is undeniable. Tewes feels like the kind of guy the Red Sox pick late and convince to sign an overslot deal on while fans of all other teams slap their heads thinking “Why couldn’t we have thought of that?”
It says something both about Tewes and the rest of the Missouri Valley 2016 collection of pitching that I’d still take him second out of the group even with the bum elbow. Tommy John surgery should really drop you more than one spot, right? Maybe I’m overrating Tewes, underrating the rest of the Missouri Valley pitching crop, or making too many assumptions about the simplicity of Tommy John surgery; I’d accept any arguments against his placement, but will hold firm on his ranking just off the top spot for now.
Tewes went under the knife on March 31, 2016. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from taking a shot on the big (6-5, 200) righthander’s big (88-94, 96 peak) fastball and big bending curve. Add in a hard slider with promise and a nascent changeup, and you can see why St. Louis would be willing to get Tewes into their organization even with the injury. I love this pick. Tremendous upside — could see Tewes continuing to start in the pros, but the fallback as a dominant late-inning reliever isn’t so bad either — if it works out with minimal risk (an eighth round pick and only $100,000) if it doesn’t. Really can’t say enough about how much I like this one.
9.286 – OF Matt Fiedler
So much of post-draft analysis (in all sports) boils down to “well, they drafted a lot of the guys I ranked highly, so GREAT DRAFT!” or “they are clueless because their picks don’t correlate to my own board at all.” Neither of these responses are wrong per se (if you took the time to create a board you value, then you shouldn’t throw it out just because it didn’t line up with the reality of the actual draft), but, at best, I think we can call that kind of analysis incomplete. Judging a draft should be done in a more curious way. Approaching selections with the attitude of “I wonder why they did this” rather than viewing picks only through a singular (maybe right, maybe wrong) pre-draft valuation results in a far more interesting and useful overall thought exercise for writer and reader alike.
St. Louis took Minnesota RHP/OF Matt Fiedler in the ninth round. Fiedler was on my radar as a promising mid-round relief type (88-92 FB, good mid-70s CB, low-80s sinking CU), but, as an offensive prospect, I didn’t think the Gophers star was much more than a solid college bat. The Cardinals saw things differently. Without overreacting too much to his fantastic 220 PA pro debut, I can admit that I may have overlooked Fiedler’s power/speed upside (.166 ISO as a junior/31 for 36 SB his last two seasons in college) while also failing to give the two-way player enough of a break when it came to his solid but unspectacular (41 BB/48 K career) plate discipline (wholly anecdotal, but this is something that a lot of two-way guys see a positive bounce in the pros). Fiedler remains in a position where he’ll have to hit his way to the big leagues, but he’s off to a better start than most of his 2016 draft peers.
10.316 – 3B Danny Hudzina
On Danny Hudzina from March 2016…
Hudzina is a similarly talented hitter – more hit than power if we’re comparing him head-to-head with Lynch – who gets the edge because of his fascinating defensive versatility. I asked a few smart people about his long-term defensive home and each response gave me a new position to consider. Most preferred him at his present position of third base, a spot where he is really good already. Others thought he was athletic enough to handle short in a pinch, thus making his future position “utility infielder” more so than any one permanent spot. I also heard second base more than once, which made sense considering he has prior experience there. He also has experience behind the plate, so speculation that he’ll one day return to the catcher position will always be there. That was the most intriguing response, not only because of the idea itself (hardly a novel thought) but because of the conviction the friend who suggested it presented the thought (i.e., it wasn’t like he said that’s what should happen with him, he was saying that a switch to catcher will happen to him in the pros). Despite the certainty of that one friend, I’m still on the third base bandwagon with the idea of him being athletic enough to handle any infield spot (including third catcher duties) in play. All in all, offensively and defensively (wherever he may wind up), I think Hudzina has a big league skill set.
And then Hudzina went out and hit .408/.470/.564 with 26 BB/12 K. His combined junior and senior season walk to strikeout ratio: 40 BB/28 K. Hudzina is such a Cardinal it’s not even funny. Productive, patient hitter? Check. Multi-position defensive versatility? You know it. High marks in makeup, work ethic, and coachability? Like you really had to ask. As I said in March, Hudzina has a clear big league skill set. I think it’s more of a matter of “when” and not “if” he gets that far. For a $3,000 tenth round pick, that’s pretty awesome. Love this selection.
11.346 – LHP John Kilichowski
John Kilichowski (179) has a long history here on the site. Let’s dive in beginning in April 2015…
Ferguson’s stumble this season has opened the door for draft-eligible sophomore (he’ll be 21 in May) LHP John Kilichowski to slide in as Vanderbilt’s third best 2015 pro pitching prospect. He was great as a freshman last year (8.61 K/9 and 1.57 ERA in 23 IP) and has continued to do good things in 2015 (44 K/11 BB in 37.2 IP). His fastball isn’t an overpowering pitch (86-92), so he wisely leans on a pair of average or better offspeed offerings (mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) to help him miss bats. Good stuff, solid track record, relatively fresh arm, and plenty of size (6-5, 210) all coming in from the left side? Nice. Statistically he’s had a very similar season to teammate rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer, yet another potential early pick off the Commodores staff. Pfeifer can’t match Kilichowski’s size or track record as a starter, but his fastball is a tick faster (94 peak) and his curve a bit sharper. How much of that can be attributed to his fastball/curveball combo playing up in shorter outings – in fairness, though he’s pitched out of the bullpen exclusively this season he almost always goes multiple innings at a time – or just having flat better stuff is up for the smarter area guys to decide. I give Kilichowski the edge for now based on what I know, but I can see it being a coin flip for many.
We actually could have started even further back in time. Here was Kilichowski’s HS scouting notes…
LHP John Kilichowski (Tampa Jesuit HS, Florida): 86-88 FB, 90 peak; solid CU; 73-76 CB with plus upside; 6-5, 185 pounds
He added thirty pounds, a few ticks to his fastball (86-92, 94 peak), and continued to refine his offspeed stuff in his three years as a Commodore. Not too shabby. Let’s check in on what we said about him in October 2015…
Vanderbilt pumps out so much quality pitching that it’s almost boring to discuss their latest and greatest. Kilichowski (and Sheffield and Bowden and Stone) find themselves sandwiched between last year’s special group of arms and a freshman class that includes Donny Everett and Chandler Day. The big lefty has impeccable control, easy velocity (86-92, 94 peak), and the exact assortment of offspeed pitches (CB, SL, and CU, all average or better) needed to keep hitters off-balance in any count. It’s not ace-type stuff, but it’s the kind of overall package that can do damage in the middle of a rotation for a long time.
And then again in May 2016…
Kilichowski excelled last season with nearly a strikeout per inning thanks to a legit four-pitch mix, above-average command, and impressive size on the mound. He’s only pitched 11.0 innings so far in 2016, so evaluating him will necessitate taking the long view of his development over the past few seasons.
It would be easy to look at Kilichowski’s injured-marred junior season as the reason why St. Louis could land a potential mid-rotation big league starting pitcher in the eleventh round for a reasonable ($200,000) price. It would also be correct. This is a heck of a pick by the Cardinals. Is ending each pick’s section with a variation on that theme getting tiresome yet? Too bad!
12.376 – SS Brady Whalen
All else equal, I root for just about every player to sign a pro contract. I say that because a) money is good, b) playing pro ball can open up lots of doors later in life even if actually playing the game doesn’t work out, and c) both the NCAA and the American college system in general are scammy at best and criminal at worst. This robs me of three years worth of evaluation time, so the pro leaning comes from a rare unselfish place. Still, there are certain players in every draft class that you can’t help but wonder “what if” about. Between the increased scouting exposure, risk mitigation, and personal growth one could expect a prospect to make over three calendar years, Brady Whalen could have come out of Oregon as a first day pick in 2019. Instead, the Cardinals took a chance on the toolsy 6-4, 185 pound prep shortstop from Washington in the twelfth round and managed to get him signed for about the same bonus they paid their fifth rounder. Whalen wound up playing a lot of second, a little bit of third, and a teeny tiny bit of shortstop in his debut. My notes on him before the draft were pretty straightforward: “steady glove, accurate arm, plus frame.” It’s pretty to envision a best case scenario of Whalen continuing to fill out and becoming a true power threat (the swing is there) while maintaining enough athleticism to play regularly at either second (a terrifying sight for incoming base runners), third (if his arm can handle it), or an outfield corner.
13.406 – OF Shane Billings
Shane Billings was a pre-draft FAVORITE for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, let’s go to his 2016 numbers at Wingate: .444/.502/.639 with 25 BB/15 K and 30/32 SB. That’ll play. Beyond that, he’s a plus runner with enough instincts to stick in center, decent pop (maybe a double-digit homer guy at his peak), and an average arm. It’s a rock solid fourth outfielder package with a slim shot at more if he keeps hitting.
14.436 – OF Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson’s (347) pro debut strikes me as pretty much the perfect kind of Vincent Jackson line: .233/.318/.357 (19.0 K% and 8.5 BB%) with 16/23 SB. You get a little bit of everything that makes Jackson such a fun prospect (power, walks, speed) and some of what caused him to slip to the fourteenth round (hit tool, strikeouts, general unrefined skill set). I’ve been bullish on the Tennessee senior for quite some time as you can see from these January 2015 notes…
The current number two to the top ranked Stewart is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is an outstanding athlete with considerable tools — in particular, his power stacks up quite well with Stewart’s and his plus speed blows him away — who has yet to blow scouts away at Tennessee. Inconsistent performance or not, his size and skill set evoke comparisons to two-time All-Star Alex Rios, a lofty comp at first blush but a little more palatable when you remember Rios’ earliest scouting reports and slow to manifest power as a young professional. Jackson’s blend of size, speed, raw power, athleticism, and defensive upside (above-average arm and range at present) combine to make a pretty enticing prospect. In other words, he’s also pretty good.
Of course, if that’s not far back enough for you we can always go way back to his Luella HS days when I called him a “big personal favorite as hitter” with “average speed,” a “strong arm,” and the chance to “hit velocity.” Those were the days. Jackson is a funky player to project because, while still plenty athletic and a fine runner, he’s a bit too big at 6-4, 200 pounds to fit the classic center field mold. If he’s a corner guy (he is), then the pressure on the bat goes up substantially. In what may be a cop-out, Jackson seems like one of those players who will either have the light bulb go off in a big way in the pros (potential regular in left or right) or top out as a AAAA player.
15.466 – 2B JR Davis
On JR Davis from way way way back in February 2014…
Zach Alvord, formerly of Auburn and Tampa, is still well-regarded by many, but don’t sleep on JR Davis, a redshirt freshman ready to make his mark.
I guess I’m guilty of sleeping on him some as the steady hitting of Davis over the years (including junior season marks of .347/.422/.438 with 24 BB/24 K) got lost in the shuffle in the two and a half years since that initial mention. There’s clearly enough with Davis offensively to work with, so my mental line of questioning of him now moves to the defensive side of the game. As a second base prospect, Davis will have to keep on hitting as he did in his debut (.333/.362/.457 in 196 PA) to remain a realistic future big league option. If he can slide around the infield some, then his path to a long career as a utility player gets that much clearer. For what it’s worth, I’ve been told that his arm and present actions might limit it to second base as an infielder, but center field remains an intriguing viable option down the line. The name Cesar Hernandez has come up as a potential comp to his overall skill set. Now let’s go full circle in what I promise is 100% a coincidence. Turns out I’ve thrown out Hernandez as a comp on my site once before. Wouldn’t you know it was in the exact same post AND the exact same paragraph that I pulled that opening quote from? Keith Curcio got the comp then — still kind of like that one, to be honest — and Davis gets it now. Full circle.
16.496 – C Tyler Lancaster
You have to have some really impressive secondary offensive skills to hit .148 in 64 PA in your debut and still wind up with a non-disastrous 84 wRC+. That’s what a 12.5 BB% and a .185 ISO did for Tyler Lancaster (245) in his first taste of pro ball in 2016. Lancaster’s success as a hitter in pro ball will be contingent on him continuing to pile up walks and extra base hits. Insight like that is why I get paid the big bucks, folks. There was about a 50/50 split on his long-term defense prospects behind the plate based on those I’ve checked with; needless to say, if he can stick behind the plate AND hit as hoped, he’s a potential monster. Have to love that kind of upside in the sixteenth round. Even if it doesn’t work out — or if it works out to a lesser degree: maybe Lancaster catches but the bat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be or maybe he shows up as a hitter but has to move to first — it’s a great gamble. For what it’s worth, while I don’t know which of those three positive outcomes Lancaster will take, I’m bullish on him following one of those paths to the big leagues. I think he’s a regular at either first or behind the plate eventually.
18.556 – RHP Austin Sexton
There are tons of pitching prospects on the fifth starter/middle relief bubble drafted every June — see the very next pick if you don’t believe me — so an interesting study that I’ll never personally get to would be to find a way to isolate what variables keep a guy starting and what pushes a pitcher to relief. We all know there are certain barriers of entry that some teams look for in future starters — the requisite three-pitch-mix, ability to command said mix, specific height/weight benchmarks and the supposed stamina associated with them — but there are still certain x-factors beyond those that separate starters from relievers. I only have theories to offer at this point, but one that I often come back to is weighing more heavily the importance of a difference-making pitch. This is hardly a revolutionary thought, but I needed a way to introduce Austin Sexton’s (386) outstanding changeup as a potential difference-making pitch. Sexton’s change is a consistent above-average offering. It’s the biggest reason why I think he could stick in the rotation for a long time to come. The fastball is fine (88-92, 93 peak) and his breaking ball (78-80) flashes, but it’s the changeup that could carry him to a long-term role pitching every fifth day in the big leagues.
19.586 – LHP Daniel Castano
Daniel Castano did enough over his three years at Baylor to warrant this comment along the way (or, more specifically, from April 2016)…
Daniel Castano is a lefthander with size, some present velocity (87-92), and a pair of offspeed pitches (78-83 CU and 72-76 CB) that could be average or better pitches at the pro level.
Add some encouraging GB% tendencies to that profile and it’s a decent looking fifth starter, um, starter kit. Like any pitcher with that profile, the bullpen looms as a potential better (and more likely) option. I think that’s probably where Castano winds up unless he starts missing more bats as a starter. Still solid value in the nineteenth round.
20.616 – 1B Stefan Trosclair
Stefan Trosclair is an interesting potential utility player depending on how viable an option St. Louis sees him at infield spots other than first base. He spent the vast majority of his debut for the Cardinals organization at first, but also saw a few innings at both second and third. I think he’s probably a good enough athlete to pull it off, but that’s admittedly a far easier position to take as an outsider with no skin in the game. Any prospect can theoretically play anywhere until you see the ugliness that is, from personal experience, Cody Asche at second base or Ryan Howard in left field up close and personal. If Trosclair can make it work at any spot other than first base in a part-time role, he could hit himself into a big league bench job. If not, well, we all know how high the offensive bar is at first base.
22.676 – OF Mick Fennell
Mike O’Neill 2.0 was the description I got when asking around about Mick Fennell. That’s a lot of fun right off the top. Further elaboration led to a “Mike O’Neill with actual power” upside comp. That’s even better! O’Neill, long a favorite of the analytics crowd (guilty!), has never been able to turn the corner from minor league fascination to useful big league player due largely to a lack of consistent in-game power. I’m not in a position to speculate on whether or not Fennell has the power to break that big league glass ceiling — not that a lack of insight has ever stopped me before! — but, hey, I’ve heard good things. That has to count for something, right? And that .374/.446/.600 college career line (with 64 BB/32 K in 597 AB) certainly doesn’t hurt. For entertainment purposes only, here are the respective pro debuts of O’Neill and Fennell…
.283/.387/.380 with 15.2 BB% and 11.6 K% and 112 PA
.256/.366/.331 with 12.2 BB% and 8.8 K% and 147 PA
O’Neill had a .098 ISO, Fennell had a .074 ISO. Hmm. We’re talking minuscule samples in the grand scheme of things, but a (flawed) data point is still a (flawed) data point. Fennell is such an easy prospect to root for. The man’s K% in his college career is 4.6%. That’s just incredible. I’ve done no studies linking low college K-rates and professional success, but I’d have to think that overall numbers like Fennell’s AND the low K-rate have to mean something, level of competition be damned. I’d draft a guy out of any level but Little League who has hit .374/.446/.600 with 64 BB/32 K in his career in the twenty-second round every single time. Even though this was Randy Flores first draft as the man in charge, this is such a classic Cardinals pick.
This has nothing to do with anything, but, despite living almost all my life in the great state of Pennsylvania, I never knew that the California University of Pennsylvania’s nickname was the Vulcans. That’s awesome. I’m getting a t-shirt.
Oh yeah, we can’t forget the back flips.
24.736 – LHP Anthony Ciavarella
Anthony Ciavarella is an undersized lefty with a solid fastball (87-92) and a quality curve. He’s been decent when it comes to missing bats in his career (7.99 K/9 in his senior year at Monmouth) and his control has always been a strength, so maybe you get a matchup lefty down the line here.
25.766 – RHP Spencer Trayner
I think Spencer Trayner (419) has a future in a big league bullpen. He’s got a low-90s fastball (95 peak), average or better breaking ball, and a split-change that can get him loads of swings and misses when he’s feeling it. Toss in three solid years pitching out of the Tar Heels bullpen and the athleticism you’d expect from a former middle infielder, and you’ve got yourself a good looking relief prospect.
26.796 – RHP Eric Carter
Eric Carter is too old. Eric Carter is undersized. Eric Carter is too reliant on his fastball. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eric Carter keeps sitting people down. As a senior at Louisiana, he had a 12.07 K/9 and 1.84 BB/9 in 44.0 IP. In his pro debut, Carter did this: 10.32 K/9 and 1.59 BB/9 in 22.2 IP. There are reasons to temper that enthusiasm some — add on his fly ball tendencies to that list of red flags — but I’ve always been bullish on guys who can just plain miss bats. It doesn’t hurt that Carter has a low-90s fastball (up to 94) and an inconsistent, underutilized curve that is nasty when on. Those positives outweighs the negatives, especially in the twenty-sixth round.
27.826 – RHP Mike O’Reilly
Mike O’Reilly pitched really well (9.83 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9) in his draft year at Flagler. Mike O’Reilly pitched really well (8.55 K/9 and 1.13 BB/9) in his first year as a professional. Can’t ask for much more than that.
29.866 – RHP Noel Gonzalez
One could probably ascertain that the Cardinals have been on Noel Gonzalez for a while now. That’s a safe assumption with just about any draft pick, but Gonzalez’s path from Bellevue (same school as Leland Tilley, thirty-second round pick) to Lewis-Clark (NAIA school that is always loaded) surely kept many Cardinal eyes on him over the past few seasons. That’s all I’ve got.
31.946 – 2B JD Murders
I don’t have much on JD Murders that isn’t already out there. He’s a fairly sure-handed defensive middle infielder with above-average wheels, sneaky pop, and some feel for contact. Any high school prospect signed after the tenth round is a good get in my book.
32.976 – RHP Leland Tilley
Leland Tilley went 10-1 with 9 saves in just 25 appearances for the Bellevue Bruins in 2016. That’s crazy, right? A closer with ten wins? Definitely not something you see everyday. That fits a pitcher like Tilley, a funky righthander with a delivery unlike anything most opposing hitters have ever seen. He used that delivery, a low-90s fastball, and a pair of usable breaking balls to put up the kind of numbers (9.53 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9) to get noticed by the pros. I like taking shots on relievers with unorthodox windups at this point in the draft.
33.1006 – 2B Caleb Lopes
When a guy hits .427/.521/.641 with 30 BB/10 K and 9/10 SB in 206 AB, you pay attention. In fact, Caleb Lopes inspired me to shoot off a quick email to a pal about how great his debut. It may or may not have sounded a little something like this…
You want an absurdly deep sleeper? No? TOO BAD. Get to know Caleb Lopes. Cardinals took him with the last pick in the 33rd round. That was pick 1006 overall. College shortstop who split his time in the pros at second (where the Cards announced him on draft day) and third. He hit .427/.521/.641 with 30 BB/10 K and 9/10 SB in 206 AB at West Georgia. Young for his class, too. Only turned 21-years-old this past July. Then he hit .336/.488/.420 with 30 BB/24 K and 2/2 SB in 175 PA in his debut at Johnson City.
This is what I email friends about. Unrelated, I don’t have many friends. Also unrelated, want to be friends?
34.1036 – RHP Jonathan Mulford
Adelphi University has had a player drafted in five of the eight drafts that I’ve covered since starting the site in 2009. That’s pretty impressive and something I never would have guessed in a million years. Jonathan Mulford is the latest Panther to get his shot in the pros. He had a solid senior year (8.47 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9), a fastball up to 93 MPH, and a nice curve. All in all, he’s worth a follow.
36.1096 – RHP Robbie Gordon
Pretty good year for Robbie Gordon. First no-hitter in Maryville history. First perfect game in Maryville history. First ever draft pick to come out of Maryville. First ever player from Maryville to play affiliated professional ball. And, if all that wasn’t enough, Gordon was actually pretty damn good in his debut. I mean, he was a 23-year-old with a solid low-90s heater and advanced changeup doing his thing against teenagers in the GCL, but it still counts for something. I can’t say I expect a whole lot out of a Division II pick with fine but hardly overwhelming career numbers (8.37 K/9 and 3.11 BB/9), but they can never take away 2016 from him.
37.1126 – 3B Andy Young
Andy Young made a mockery of the GCL in his admittedly short stay there: .323/.500/.452 with 7 BB/3 K in 43 PA. He then went to State College and hit comfortably above-average (.261/.322/.398 and 115 wRC+ in 182 PA) the rest of the way. Not a bad debut at all for the potential utility guy, especially when you factor in positive notes on his glove at 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF. I’m comfortable with putting a big league ceiling on Young based on that defensive versatility and a rapidly improving bat. The latter began in his senior season at Indiana State. His overall numbers stayed similar on the surface, but Young managed to almost completely flip his BB/K ratio into something far more palatable (30 BB/27 K) as a senior. The small sample pro debut stats quoted above give some credence that Young’s offensive bump is real and can be sustained. If that’s the case, then maybe the Cardinals really did turn a thirty-seventh round pick into a future useful big league player. Not bad.
38.1156 – RHP Robert Calvano
Robert Calvano didn’t pitch enough (6.2 innings in 2016, 5.2 innings in 2015) to get on my radar, but obviously the Cardinals saw enough in him over the years to take a late-round shot.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jeremy Ydens (UCLA), Aaron Bond (San Jacinto JC), Jackson Lamb (Michigan), Josh Burgmann (Washington), Pat Krall (Clemson), JC Crowe (?), Cade Cabbiness (Seminole State), Matthew Ellis (UC Riverside)