92OT

Power Trio Round out Day 2

The Cardinals believe they have plenty of arms, at least if the first ten rounds of the 2018 Draft are any indication. Rounds 8-10 saw St. Louis add more power to the system and each one comes from a strong baseball program.

Lars Nootbaar may very well end up a fan favorite simply due to his name. It also helps that the University of Southern California standout has a family tradition to uphold. His brother also went to USC and is currently in the minors, so the power-hitting outfielder already has a connection to the pro game. He was also teammates with Jeremy Martinez in college, so the Cards may have gotten some inside info.

With the last pick of Day 2, the Birds on the Bat went back to the Coastal Carolina pipeline after snagging Wood Myers last year. This time they went much bigger, taking the massive 6’7″ first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. The senior slugger was on the National Championship team for CCU in 2016 and never missed a beat the last two years. And with Luken Baker recovering from an injury, Woody may have a chance at joining his former teammate in Palm Beach before the summer is over.

Not to be outdone, the 9th round selection from Dallas Baptist is no stranger to the Draft process. Matt Duce caught the attention of the Mets last year from behind the plate as New York selected him in the 14th round. He senior year wasn’t as productive overall, but St. Louis snagged him as the first backstop taken in this years’ draft.

Tomorrow the main event will most likely be right away as the 11th round traditionally is where teams try to sway those that may be on the fence about whether or not to go to college or potentially back for another year. The Cardinals stayed away from the Junior College ranks thus far but look for a few to hear their names called before all 40 rounds are concluded.

All told it has been a fascinating two days already, as the pitching rich franchise selected only two healthy pitchers and three total thru 11 picks. They also kept mainly to the college ranks and specifically juniors who have already finished out their seasons. It is the first time in recent memory that St. Louis didn’t grab at least one player still actively fighting for a berth in the CWS.

Both of the high school bats selected could partner up on the left side of the infield as now the process of getting everyone signed begins. The two seniors snagged will help offset the money needed to potentially go over the 100k slot starting tomorrow as well as guaranteeing that everyone taken today becomes Cardinals this summer. Long gone are the days of being able to draft and then wait out the process especially as State College and Johnson City open up right around the corner.

There won’t be as many updates tomorrow, but I will provide as much info as possible on signings as well as any surprises that pop up along the way. Happy Yadi and Carlos day as well, what a perfect ending to a great two days!

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Back to the Grind

St. Louis certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on a type of ballplayer but if a poll was taken, a vote for grinders would most definitely make the final cut. The Cardinals added two more of this type in rounds 6 and 7 while also potentially saving money needed to ensure all of the picks are signed.

Edgar Gonzalez and Brendan Donovan are simply gritty players who just happen to be perfect for the Birds on the Bat. It also helps that as college juniors, both were selected high enough to make the decision fairly academic in pursuing their dream at a minor league affiliate to be determined later this month.

Gonzalez has plenty of upside as either a starter or reliever who garnered First-Team All-Mountain West honors for Fresno State. The righty struck out 17 in one start this season and could be line to close out some games this summer.

If Donovan’s college sounds familiar, that’s simply because South Alabama was more than just number ten pick Travis Swaggerty. Donovan plays all over the diamond, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he was the next Greg Garcia someday.

With three rounds left today, the Cardinals have yet to take a college senior or junior college pick, setting up for a wild end to Day 2.

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Returning to the Cape

Some things are pretty much deal breakers as far as how you rank prospective draftees for the Cardinals. If you have shown an ability to hit with a wood bat, for instance, that checks off a very important box. Meet Nick Dunn from the University of Maryland, the most recent St. Louis Draft pick and already a proven commodity with the lumber.

Dunn could very well be the double play partner with Delvin Perez when State College opens the season, as he already made two All-Star teams in the Cape Cod League and should sign quickly. His bat will dictate how fast he moves as lefty-hitting middle infielders are rare but for a fifth round selection – the Cards have aced their picks so far today.

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St. Louis Selects Injured Ace

Continuing a couple of trends from yesterday, the Cardinals used Round 4 on their first left-handed pitcher of the Draft. They also must hope that Steven Gingery has thrown his final pitch for Texas Tech, as that will be the only way he signs with St. Louis.

Much as in the case of Luken Baker, the Birds on the Bat are betting that injuries made their selections possible and starting a pro career with a dedicated team sways the decision. It is a risk for sure but one that certainly could pay off in the long run.

Gingery dominated the Big 12 last season, earning Pitcher of the Year honors before tearing his UCL back in February. MLB still ranked the California native at #69 overall, meaning the Cards are banking on being able to save some money today in order to sign him.

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Hard to argue against taking a high school SS who was taught the game by a former big leaguer, especially when that player is your father. Mateo Gil won’t be an easy sign in the third round, but maybe one current TCU player and a certain alumni can convince him to join the Cardinals.

Or it is possible that his dad, Benji, just might need a phone call from a couple of his former teammates from the 2002 World Series team to help lead the way to St. Louis. Something tells me that Yadi’s brothers have better things to do, but then again, I am certainly biased.

Matt Carpenter has always been a proud Texas Christian alum, so maybe that isn’t the best approach either. Hmm, well I am out of ideas at this point unless Luken Baker wants to just carry Gil with him to Florida. Either way it is another high upside pick by the Birds on the Bat, something that is quite refreshing to see.

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Stacking the Deck

No matter your preference, it is always fun when new players are added to the organization. That can mean via trade, free agency, or even an international signing but the excitement about learning how the player found their way to the Cardinals will top my list every time.

St. Louis more than any team in the National League Central has overcome more hurdles when it comes to drafting and still keeps finding players that make a difference. Only the Cards and Yankees can boast what I found to be an utterly amazing stat that just shows how different organizations do business. New York obviously has the money to acquire or sign just about any player (Stanton) but also the longevity as a winning franchise to not have to rely on the draft for talent.

In the modern draft era (since the calendar hit 2000), the Birds on the Bat join the Yankees as the only other club not to have made a selection in the Top 10 of the draft. Think about that for a minute – as good as front office staffs are and the mileage that scouting departments put in, it takes more than luck to find the hidden gems or even ones that fill rolls in the minors. Every year there will be a few top players that slip for whatever reason, and this may again end up being the model chosen by both teams.

The main difference that sets the two model franchises apart outside of market obviously has to be getting the player signed. New York can afford to go big and possibly miss out on a player, but the same can not be said under the Arch. That does limit options to a degree, but the Cards proved in 2016 that they found the model needed headed into this draft season. Holding three selections the first day, St. Louis will be quite busy reading the boards and hoping everything goes to plan.

Looking back at the landmark draft from two years ago, Delvin Perez was that guy too hard to pass up when he fell. Will the same thing happen again and if so, what’s the strategy for finding the money in order to make it a perfect Day 1? The most likely outcomes have already been debated plenty of times in the War Room for the Cardinals, so this is my best guess at figuring out the equation.

Theory One

Given how deep this draft has developed for picking three in the top 75, St. Louis will be able to decide how to proceed when one or two of the top rated players falls to 19. Much like in 2016 with Perez, the preferred method was to use the 2nd selection on a ‘safe’ pick where the team already knew how much under budget the player would take. Dylan Carlson might not have been rated as a first round talent, but it was a smart play for both sides. Finishing out the round with a monster signing like Dakota Hudson was basically hitting the draft lotto, but those rarely happen multiple times.

Theory Two

This will be called the back-up plan simply because one other team has the exact same set-up as the Cardinals did two years ago. Play close attention to how the Royals draft given that they have four of the first 40 picks and will see five total additions to the system by the end of day one. Oh, and Kansas City first goes on the clock at #18 so they could very well play spoiler to the entire start of the night.

Theory Three

My preferred method of attacking the draft has to be ignoring who falls initially and sticking with the board. That simply means not drifting from the chosen path and taking the best rated player who you know will sign at or below the 3.2 million mark. While there is a fairly large gap between picks, Cleveland and Tampa Bay will have joined the Royals in making at least three selections already which puts St. Louis in the driver’s seat. Look for a highly-rated prospect with a fairly significant price tag to be available before the second round begins, and the Cardinals ready to pull the trigger.

As far as how the board looks, that is truly anyone’s guess at this point. While everyone seems to have a college hurler already destined to be the first pick, the fast-moving pitchers can wait a round or two in my opinion. Give me a player who slots at a position of need (first or third base), already apt at connecting with a wood bat and call it a win. So basically if St. Louis announces Seth Beer with the 19th pick, I will be MIA the rest of the week.

Instead, it would be absolutely amazing to see an under slot deal with Wichita State’s Greyson Jenista or former target Cadyn Grenier with the saved money going to the other first day selections. If anything has been proven the last decade, it is that the Cardinals will use all their resources right up to the loss of an ever-important pick in order to maximize the returns.

After missing out on much of the fun last year, it means even more to see how the drama unfolds with a variety of methods at work. Will the high school talent win out in the end or have some clubs decided the sticker shock isn’t worth it after all? The time for debate has all but passed as the Tigers are on the clock so let the madness begin!

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Feeling a Draft

For one week every June, the clock stops as far as the games go at least in this tiny corner of the Conclave. As much as the season can feel like a grind even to the most faithful, now is the time for hopes and dreams as the Rule 4, or first year player, Draft takes center stage Monday.

With all the recent prospect graduations to St. Louis, an influx of talent just might carry me all the way past the All-Star break and right to the trade deadline. That’s another story altogether, however, so let’s dive into what we know first and then hit on some possible additions.

2017 left much to be desired as far as adding impact talent to the system, given that a scandal and signing Dexter Fowler all but decimated the pool for the first ten rounds. This year is back to normal, even after forfeiting the second round pick as compensation for Greg Holland. Not only do the Cardinals still have three selections on Day 1, but the track record and deep class both bode well for a potential marquee pick.

New rules prohibit losing a first round draft pick, and that means the Birds on a Bat slot into a very familiar position with their top selection. This year will mark the fourth time since 2009 that the 19th pick resides under the Arch, and each of the first three made their debut for St. Louis in short order.

Shelby Miller was by far the highest touted of the trio, but he is also the only one currently injured and on his third team. Marco Gonzales never could catch a break with the Cardinals but has found new life in the Seattle rotation. Michael Wacha seemingly has been in the St. Louis rotation since he was drafted but in truth doesn’t turn 27 for nearly another month.

The other connection for all three besides filling a need on the mound was that at the time they were picked, each vaulted to the top of the prospect mountain. Miller sprinted thru the minors and was quickly joined by Wacha and then Gonzales who were both taken, in part, because they were identified as quick risers who didn’t need much seasoning. This year the 19th pick won’t ascend to the top spot, only because Alex Reyes owns it until he graduates (hopefully this summer).

When taking a quick look at the MLB Top Prospect list, the big thing that stands out next to all the turnover has to be the Memphis flavor at the top. Each of the top 10 has spent time on the Redbirds’ roster which signals that new blood is desperately needed in order to replenish a system in danger of aging out. And because the baseball Gods are looking out for my best interests, 2018 will go down as one of the most stacked and confusing drafts at the same time.

There truly is no reason to pay much attention to the mocks because the only consensus has become a lack of consistent votes pretty much starting at the top for a few reasons. Instead of looking at just best available player or fit for the system, a new normal has started to sweep across the game for better or worse. In a draft where there are so many players rated similarly, the deciding factor may end up being how much it will cost to get a signature on the dotted line.

Miller ‘fell’ to the Cardinals back in 2009 in part due to concerns that his price may be too high and as a high school phenom, he held all the leverage. Now the game is drastically different, and few teams have a system set up to succeed much like the one in St. Louis. While it appears from the outside that picking in the late teens and early 20’s every year has been a detriment, that hasn’t stopped the scouting department from pulling the right strings more times than not.

In order to get a feel for how impressive this class of prospects is, just look at a few numbers. Just using the best 50 out of MLB’s Top 200, ten college pitchers made the list with all but the top two potential fits for the Cards. Flipping over to prep arms, this is really where things get interesting as 12 names are almost interchangeable. Right there with the 19th selection, St. Louis can continue the trend and take a highly rated pitcher seemingly destined to toe the rubber at Busch Stadium in the next couple of years.

But wait a minute, is it a foregone conclusion that Randy Flores and the rest of the scouting department will take the best arm on the board? Personally, the track record plus sheer number of quality hurlers does seem to make it harder to overlook, or maybe that is what sets the Cardinals apart from the competition. Out of the 13 college bats waiting to see how high they are taken, nine are realistic options to be available once St. Louis owns the clock.

That leaves 15 of the hardest to judge talents left, as high school position players outside of the top 1% take the longest to develop and are also the biggest risks of the bunch. Just look at the 2015 draft, where Nick Plummer was selected by the Cards 23rd overall and one selection before Walker Buehler, a potential future ace for the Dodgers. Another way to see it then if looking at just high school talent, the Braves took a RHP from Canada with the 28th pick who already made his big league debut this season.

Plummer missed a season due to injury and has struggled to make consistent contact while repeating the same level in 2018. He is no longer listed on the Top 30 for St. Louis and given the outfield depth around him, another highly drafted bat may push him to another organization in the near future.

The biggest takeaway I found while doing the pre-draft research had to be that a surprise at the top can and will happen. It seems like yesterday that the first draft I got to really cover after Iraq was the 2007 one where everyone on the message boards (pre-Twitter) was up in arms that the Cardinals bypassed Rick Porcello for some Oklahoma high school shortstop. I had to smile when I saw that the Tigers (who drafted Porcello) brought up Pete Kozma earlier this year and then DFA’d him when Miguel Cabrera was activated from the DL.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and prepare for the craziness to start as I will be digging up everything I can on the newest members to the BOTB fraternity!

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Taking Stock of the Flock

If you have spent any time browsing the Conclave or any of our sites before the merger, none of my posts the next month will come as a shock. Just in case you stumbled upon this one in any number of various ways, thanks for reading and pull up a chair – you are gonna be here awhile.

As a baseball fan, there truly isn’t a part of the year where nothing happens. Sure you can ignore the month of October if your team fails to make the postseason but even then, the games are exciting and thoughts of how to get to that level are never-ending. At the very same time, everyone has a favorite part of the season as well and that time has arrived for me!

A few weeks from today, three more teams will begin play for the Cardinals, starting their path to the Arch. The logistics of how we get to that point are fascinating to watch unfold, and this year I have decided to share my thoughts along the way. So buckle in, grab your favorite adult or caffeinated drink, and let’s see where the 2018 campaign will take us.

Much has already been written about the current state of the top affiliate for St. Louis, although injuries have diminished the quality of play in Memphis. I will leave the recaps to Daniel but optimistically, something needs to happen sooner rather than later to turn around a troubling trend in the National League Central. Thankfully, the Redbirds have been blessed with an absurd amount of talent, with more than a few possibly getting trading to help push the Cardinals into a postseason series.

Three positions in the upper minors are absolutely stacked for the Birds on the Bat, quite honestly making it a priority to be as heavily involved as possible in any talks before August. This isn’t just a way to make the Major League club better, however, since for a number of productive players – a trade might be the only way to get a promotion. While tracking Alex Reyes’ start down in Memphis, it became even more apparent that some changes need to be made this summer or the 40-man issue won’t be pretty starting in December.

Starting pitching rightfully gets most of the attention as St. Louis features an insane amount of options. Look how deep the roster is now, and then take a gander at who hasn’t been called upon yet. Austin Gomber was briefly a big league option who would be in many rotations every fifth day and was possibly the fifth starter in Memphis to open the year. Dakota Hudson and Ryan Helsley formed two thirds of the Triple H law firm this spring with some kid named Hicks, and they quite possibly could be battling for the top prospect spot as well as a September call-up when everything is said and done this summer.

Springfield and Palm Beach have also seen the benefit that a logjam of pitching offers and as Memorial Day approaches, don’t forget Peoria in the conversation either. Even with all the injuries and moving pieces, each rung of the Cardinal ladder has performed. If you don’t believe me, just check the standings and see that no affiliate for St. Louis is below .500 with more reinforcements to come.

It would be easy to stop right there and say a package with a few top arms has to be enough to get a bat, but that’s not even close to being the complete story. As good as the starters have been across the board, I would argue that it is the play of the outfielders that should be getting just as much attention. Oscar Mercado was added to the 40-man roster last Winter and truly needs to get his shot in the Majors. But unless the entire starting outfield for the Cardinals lands on the disabled list, it will take a trade to make it happen.

Mercado has watched Bader and O’Neill leave their flanked positions next to him as well as watch Randy Arozarena get more love in the prospect rankings. Before Adolis Garcia took a step back offensively, he was getting looked at for a promotion given his tools. For the former shortstop, the only thing that Mercado can do now happens to be exactly what is needed and other teams will come calling. One of his current teammates isn’t on the 40-man roster but needs a change of scenery just as badly.

Patrick Wisdom should never have returned to Memphis after leading the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title last fall, and the Cardinals even tried to help it happen by not protecting him in the Rule 5 draft. All Wisdom has done is rake at a level where he has nothing left to prove and no promotion to be had. Some team surely could use a power bat that can handle either corner infield spot, but that team sadly won’t be St. Louis it appears.

Last but not least by a wide margin, the most important position for the Cardinals also has the greatest amount of depth. Wait, wasn’t the starting pitching depth and absurd amount of outfielders already covered you say? The spot I am referencing is behind the plate, where two of the best ten catching prospects in the sport are looking up to a future Hall of Famer who won’t be retiring until he is good and ready.

Carson Kelly just was activated off the disabled list and that means Andrew Knizner probably heads back to Springfield even though the Texas League has proved to be no match. Once Yadi Molina returns then the real questions will start, especially as the trade deadline quickly approaches. There can be only one heir apparent, and Knizner has the bat to challenge Kelly’s glove. In a perfect world, both could share the duties, but prospects who sit on the shelf too long never age well.

This summer is shaping up to be an increasingly crazy time, and we haven’t even touched on the draft yet! But have no fear, I have plenty of time to cover all the angles that the Cardinals may go as well as looking at how Johnson City and State College fill out their rosters. Enjoy the long weekend, as it appears the Holland experience won’t be celebrating the holiday after all.

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What an Encore for Reyes

Hard to ask for anything better out of the Memphis game, which will leave people talking all summer. In another of those where were you type of outings, Alex Reyes displayed everything that makes him a difference maker in the NL Central race.

Reyes did much more than get his work in for the Redbirds, thrashing the top PCL team in the process. Oklahoma City offered the perfect chance to showcase a ready Reyes, who was nearly perfect thru seven innings. He allowed one walk and only one hit against a lineup that featured a trio of .300 hitters at the top.

Out of 90 pitches, 62 went for strikes including 13 strikeouts. So if the question was how to proceed next week, Reyes just put the St. Louis rotation and Brewers on notice that he will be showing up to the Miller Park ready to toe the rubber – no questions asked.

As for the rest of the roster equation, it can’t be a bad thing to have too many good (and healthy) arms. It would be nearly impossible to trade for the type of arsenal Reyes brings every 5th day, so the creative answer will be fun to watch unfold.

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Strikeouts are not Boring

Reyes has shared the wealth, as every spot in the OKC lineup has now gone down swinging or looking, with Memphis leading 5-0 thru six.

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Reyes is Rolling

Only a pair of Dodgers have reached against Alex Reyes, who has mowed down OKC thru four shutout innings with 7 K’s.

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3 Up, 3 Down

Alex Reyes just continues to keep rolling, this time setting down OKC in order on just 10 pitches. Oh, and the three outs were via swinging K’s!

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