The excitement of Draft Day feels similar to the start of Hot Stove action with the main difference being June almost always brings promise. December typically offers highs and lows depending on the season, but only an occasional head-scratching move in the first round can dampen the mood of adding new hope to the ranks. With the Cardinals about to add to the game’s best farm system, the top two picks are in focus today with an eye on possibly finding the next Wacha already in the organization.
All of the following views come from an arm-chair scout as I have not had the good fortune of seeing any of the top arms in action. And while I do think it is possible for St. Louis to end up drafting a position player (shortstop anyone), my money is squarely on at least one of the seven names below wearing the Birds on the Bat. Due to the joys of technology, there is almost no such thing as a surprise prospect. The Cape Cod League still ranks high on the Cards’ list as are a number of high school showcases.
No matter which direction the club decides to take, one certainty will play out Thursday when a couple of names get the call every young boy dreams of from the time they can swing a bat. Potential beats out playing time as St. Louis proved last year, and the opportunity to find yet another top of the rotation arm grow as other teams look to make the splashy pick. The Cardinals’ brain trust will stick to their plan but only 18 picks stand in the way of knowing just how good the summer can be for State College or Johnson City.
Of course, the rest of the picks are important too, and the dramatic first pick can be debated only so long until #28 gets announced. Much like with last year’s haul, the new rules put planning at a premium so expect the unexpected. Reports continue to swirl about who may fall due to a variety of reasons so feel free to add to this list in the comments or tell me I’m nuts!
Prospects are not created equal and now just seems like the perfect time to dig into the high school ranks. Before looking at the Fab Five high school hurlers, however, two college southpaws have also put themselves into the discussion. Once considered a top pick, Indiana State’s Sean Manaea has not been able to maintain the same level displayed last summer on the Cape. He is a Scott Boras client as well and could prove an expensive investment, making for an interesting option at either pick. On the other hand, polished Gonzaga junior Marco Gonzales consistently has been tied to St. Louis in mock drafts and could be plugged into a full-season role quickly.
While both LHP present ‘safer’ picks given their pedigree, many moving parts have to fall into place for one or the other to be on the board. If the Cards are thinking about going the left-handed route, there is a pair of talented high school athletes who project to help from either the mound or the batter’s box. Trey Ball is the more heralded of the two but also positioned to go anywhere from the top ten to maybe the end of the first round. He stands at least 6-5 and projects as a strong option to stay in the rotation or transition to the outfield. The Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year has committed to the University of Texas and won’t come cheap, something that could allow him to drop within range of #19.
Perhaps the wildcard in the race for the 28th pick, St. Louis prep star Jake Brentz took the unconventional method towards the draft. He didn’t play his senior year, opting to strengthen his resume in Iowa with a wood-bat league. The two-way player signed with Missouri but mainly for his bat given the short amount of time on the mound. Brentz could also appeal to a number of teams looking to utilize the power arm from the left side. While other lefties are sure to be drafted in the first round, a trio of high school arms has caught my attention for very different reasons. The first, Devin Williams, has two things in common with Brentz as he is a fellow University of Missouri recruit who hails from the Cards’ backyard. Williams also ranks in the top 50 of Baseball America’s Prospects with a good chance of being snatched up before the 2nd round.
There are long shots and then there are hail mary passes that typically wind up on the ground. My final pair belong in this category, strictly from the lack of buzz that normally surround St. Louis draft picks. Every once in a while a couple players come around that just seem to have ‘it’ even though the fit may not make sense. Hunter Harvey screams that to me, right down to the fact that his father was a big league closer. I appreciate that they have had a plan from the start and let teams know that turning pro was the No.1 option. Of course that could backfire, and the Cardinals rarely gamble when drafts are concerned.
As the saying goes, there is an exception to every rule, and Kohl Stewart certainly fits that bill. It appears Texas A&M has locked up another star, this one of the two-sport variety. Stewart would be the gamble worth taking in my opinion, since he would surely get top billing in the readjusted Top 1o list. With as many as four more graduating off to play under the Arch, Stewart may be the one player who could bump into the top 3 from what many consider a down year. It should be a pipe dream that the future quarterback even makes it out of the first five picks, but I can always dream of having a third Texan flamethrower drafted with the 19th pick, right?
Well, if the loyal three have made it this far, it is time for the reward. Tomorrow brings much excitement for the PH8 family, and it will be way better than seeing St. Louis catching royalty past and present tossed by a punk. With the final draft preview before Thursday’s big day, I get to look at my favorite part and that is only a sliver of the fun. Puzzles were never much fun for me, but I always did enjoy building teams. The above links for State College and Johnson City already have some of the holes filled in, so I get to do the rest. The one gap I look forward to the most, though, has nothing to do with the draft.
Former 2nd round pick Jordan Swagerty recently hit the mound again in Florida, as his recovery from Tommy John surgery provides yet another story line to follow this summer. He already has experience at Springfield and could provide a nice spark in a variety of ways for a few different Cardinal rosters. Check out his progress here and then get ready for the new PH8 experience!