Bud Selig, the man in charge of not only the draft, but all of baseball, in fact. Really inspires confidence, eh?
With the MLB draft just mere hours away, I thought I might try to roundup at least a few of the names I think the Cardinals just might be interested in calling. These aren't all first-round guys, by any means; in fact, most of them aren't first-rounders. But they are
all players who fit into the direction the Cards have hinted they'll be looking to draft this year.
So don't think of this as any sort of projection or prediction thread; these are just some players I think it would be worth looking out for.
Going into the draft this year, the Cardinals have publicly stated they're planning on trying to focus on left-handed pitching and speed. Now, the left-handed pitching is pretty straight-forward, but the speed thing is less so. Does this mean they've got a big sheet of 60 yard times and are just going to be calling players off it? Of course not.
You don't really draft for speed in baseball; unlike football, speed alone doesn't really accomplish all the much. But when you're looking for a player with great physical tools and potential impact athleticism, speed isn't a bad place to start looking. So when I read the Cardinals are looking to draft speed, I read that as, "We're looking to bring some more athletic players into the system."
The Cards have also professed an affection for power, which isn't really news. So you're looking for players who can hit for power, you say? Inconceivable! I suppose next you'll tell me the sun is planning on rising in the East tomorrow!
Anyhow, enough of my babbling. Down to brass tacks, as they say.
Griffin Murphy, Redlands East Valley HS (California)
Murphy is a high school lefty who made some waves early this spring on the showcase when he showed a maturing frame, increased velocity, and a tighter curveball than he had in the past. His results in the actual season have been up and down, though, as he's been unable to maintain the momentum he built with his showcase appearances. Still, he has a fastball that has been clocked up to 93 mph at times, a sharp curveball, and a change-up with plenty of future potential. He'd make an excellent supplemental first-round pick.
Sammy Solis, University of San Diego
I really like Solis, who reminds me a bit of the Indians' Jeremy Sowers coming out of college. Like Sowers, Solis works with a solid lefty repertoire, works from a lower arm slot, and relies on command and intelligence to get outs. Also like Sowers, he isn't overpowering and has to be fine with his command to avoid getting hit. Another excellent option for the supplemental round.
James Paxton, Grand Prarie Air Hogs (Independent)
Paxton's fight with the NCAA is fairly well-known by now, and he's played independent league ball this year in order to showcase his arm. He still has big-time velocity, touching 97 at times, but still is raw in terms of command and secondary stuff. It's tough to get a read on where Paxton will go; a team looking for a signable power arm could take him as high as the back end of the first round. For my money, he's a nice option in the supplemental first or somewhere in the second round.
Jesse Biddle, Germantown Friends HS (Pennsylvania)
Jesse Biddle may have the most talent of any left-handed pitcher in this year's draft, and that includes Drew Pomeranz, who will likely go in the top 10. Biddle does have a strong college commitment, though, and will likely be tough (read: expensive), to buy out of that. He already features a low-90s fastball and curveball that can get swings and misses; he needs sharper command and a better changeup, but the upside for Biddle is sky-high. If teams think they can sign him, he'll be a first-rounder easily. If not, he could fall quite a ways.
Kyle Richter, Santa Margarita HS (California)
Kyle Richter isn't likely to go as high in the draft as these other guys, being more of a 3rd to 5th rounder, but I really like him. He's got enough fastball for a lefty, but will make his money with a plus changeup that has excellent action already and could still get better down the line. I'm a big fan of his mechanics, as well, as he has a nice arm action and a good follow-through that I think will help protect his arm. For my money, he could be a real steal in the middle rounds.
Athletic Position Players
Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
I think Wilson is sort of the holy grail for the Cards in the draft this year; he brings top-shelf athleticism to a system sorely lacking in impact talent. With few players in the Cardinal minor leagues projecting to play right field long-term, Wilson would be the absolute perfect pick for them. The downside is a strong commitment to Stanford; if he can't be signed away from it, you wasted a pick, and if he can, there's a pretty good chance some other team is going to believe they can sign him too and take him before 25.
Gary Brown, OF, Cal State Fullerton
I'm not a big fan of Brown, but the Cardinals said speed, and he certainly has that. Brown is a plus runner, both on the bases and in the outfield, where he uses his legs to run down anything and everything hit toward him. I'm not a believer in the bat, but he could certainly have value as a defensive-minded outfielder down the road somewhere. He'll likely go earlier than he should.
Kyle Parker, OF, Clemson
A favorite player of my friend Erik Manning from Future Redbirds, Parker is a star in both baseball and football, and would present an intriguing draft package in the supplemental round. Because he's a two-sport athlete, any bonus paid to Parker could be spread out over a five-year period, meaning he could be not only an injection of upside, but a relative bargain as well. If the Cards could finagle him at either 46 or 50 I would be thrilled.
Delino DeShields, Jr., Norcross HS (Georgia)
Yes, he is the son of former Cardinal second baseman Delino DeShields, and yes, he does play baseball an awful lot like his father, for better and for worse. DeShields has little in the way of power, and an arm that compares favourably to overcooked rigatoni, but just barely. On the other hand, he has very good speed and excellent instincts in all phases of the game, as you would expect from a former player's offspring. I'm not real high on DeShields, who I think will be drafted much higher than he should be thanks to his bloodlines.
Mitchell Shifflett, OF, Cosby HS
Mitchell Shifflett is likely the fastest player in the entire draft this year, having been clocked as fast as 6.11 seconds in the 60 yard dash. (That's elite NFL kick return speed, in case you were wondering.) He's still raw in most other facets of the game, though, so any pick of Shifflett would largely be made on the projection of development down the road. He does have a nice, balanced swing and wiry strength, so he could certainly have gap power eventually, but probably never much in the way of over-the-wall pop. Still, it's tough to argue with a guy who has the speed to create so readily on the basepaths, and who by all reports can cover more ground than any human being has right to in the field. He's a mid-round sort of pick, most likely, and certainly presents intriguing athleticism.
Brett Eibner, OF/RHP, University of Arkansas
Now Eibner is a really interesting case. He's a two-way player, and most teams seem to prefer him as a pitcher (as do I), but he has insisted he wants to hit as a pro. As a hitter, I'm not a fan of his approach at the plate and the like, but he does offer plus power already, a sweet swing, and pretty good speed, to tell the truth. If the Cardinals were to come on the clock at 25 and find none of their top targets are still available, could they possibly consider Eibner's present and future power/speed combo? Tough to say, but the more I think about it, I'm actually starting to come around to the idea.
Those are just a few names that jump out at me when considering the direction the Cards have professed to be going in this year's draft. Whether or not they end up with any of the players on this list is anyone's guess. Not too much longer until we find out now, though...