Prospect Preacher

Today marks the beginning of a sprint three months in the making. All of the rookie league squads are in full swing looking to repeat with this afternoon the deadline to sign draft picks from last month. Different reports have one possible name in play, but Seton Hall RHP Shane McCarthy may just go down as one to watch instead of being a future St. Louis farm hand.

By far the more important story for 7/7 is how the Cardinals finish the first half and what that means the next three weeks. Look, it is forever saved for future reference that trading prospects has never been an idea this scribe supports. Dating back nearly a decade now, pick any trade from Matt Holliday to Zach Duke with the price of admission seemingly on trial.

Whether or not you believe in market size, St. Louis arguably has not fared well lately in the Free Agent game. Dexter Fowler plays the game better than most but was overpaid. Same story for Brett Cecil and Mike Leake but honestly, that just might have to be the way to get talent to sign without missing out. The days of selling the Arch and history and Red Jackets left when Albert skated out the door.

That leaves drafting and promoting which will always be the more difficult path when the Cardinals are never going to be picking in the top 10, at least without a rebuild which appears unlikely. Delvin Perez could be the SS for the decade starting in 2020, but he is currently experiencing struggles in Johnson City which probably caused a drop in the most recent prospect lists.

Baseball America has jumped the gun and released the updated look with recent picks adding to the fun. While not a shock, it appears losing a season for surgery has not cooled the appeal for Alex Reyes. He still tops all pitchers on the list and unfortunately will be at the center of all trade discussions leading up to the deadline. If there were ever a place for an untouchable list, my hope is Reyes stays there.

On the positive side of things, three teammates from Memphis are right in the thick of things as well, with trade talk surrounding the trio more and more every day. Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver basically traded spots on the BA list but are front and center for a possible blockbuster deal. And to be honest, this is a crucial time for the organization with likely franchise pieces in play around the league.

With Kelly and Weaver both already on the 40-man roster, that will factor into any discussions with Jack Flaherty the wild card in the entire mix. Flaherty smashed the Texas League and is headed for the Futures Game in Miami for even more publicity. As crazy as it sounds, Flaherty still is only 21 years old and will never have higher value than now.

Who your pick is for a power bat to lengthen the order depends on who you ask. And buckle up for a crazy ride leading up to the deadline as no one knows what the new GM will do!

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Happy to report Father’s Day was very relaxing, even if the Cardinals were on TV when we got to the restaurant. As most of you already know, focus going to be on new players to the organization at least until the trade deadline passes. Randy Flores has restocked via the draft and thankfully there are about to be three other teams to follow outside of St. Louis.

State College kicks off the rookie league schedule tonight as defending champs, something Johnson City and the GCL Cards know quite a bit about. That success becomes vital moving up the ranks, but there will be plenty more time in the upcoming months for a hopeful postseason outlook. In order to finish off our Conclave draft coverage, one last area needs some more attention.

Now that the Spikes have an initial roster, the shuffling will not stop until everyone has signed. Johnson City will get the younger players from the draft as well as the GCL, but State College has a couple of exciting players right out of the gate. Keep your eyes on Evan Mendoza, who might just be my favorite pick of the entire draft. There are multiple reasons for this, with the main one being his past success in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Mendoza fits the mold perfectly as an athlete first, someone who could move to the mound if things don’t work out in the field (mainly with the bat). One thing that did catch my attention is that the Cape had his position as IF/C which brings to mind Carson Kelly from a few years ago. Of course it is entirely too early to know what the Cardinals have planned, but it is a great pick in the 11th round who will not turn 21 until later this month.

One curious name missing from the recent signings as well as the Spikes’ roster was Shane McCarthy. He also excelled on the Cape before returning to Seton Hall and was taken in the 18th round. There could be multiple reasons for this so will withhold judgment until we actually see how things turn out. In the absence of that RHP, there is one who was taken last year that has started to make Flores look very smart already.

The draft-and-follow model hasn’t existed for more than a few years now, but St. Louis has found another way to use the current draft rules to their advantage. When Sam Tewes was drafted out of Wichita State, it was already known that surgery would push back the hurler to the 2017 season. Tewes had a great start to his pro career out of the Palm Beach bullpen and then was sent to State College with a purpose. He will be the Opening Day starter for the Spikes, who will be a fun crew to follow in the NYPL all summer.

In case you were wondering, the Birds on the Bat may have to make a roster move sooner than at least the player would like. Scott Hurst and his CSU Fullerton squad just went behind again in an elimination game in Omaha. There were rumblings of a deal already in place, so if the Titans are not able to complete a comeback expect an announcement possibly even before the Cardinals return home.

Get your MILB app updated and ready for the excitement that is about to be seven teams all fighting to still be playing into September! To me there is no greater part of the schedule, and I’m glad you are along for the ride.

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Welcome to your Saturday afternoon pregame reading! With the Cardinals on the road and storms all over the Midwest, it feels good to get back in the rhythm that is baseball. I have The Rookie on as a soundtrack to the second part of our look at the recently completed MLB Draft, as both State College and Johnson City kick into high gear next week.

The finale will go up just in time for the Spikes’ Opener on Monday, since only one pick has ‘officially‘ signed as of this posting. That isn’t unusual for St. Louis, however, given a press release is sure to come out just as soon as I hit send. Most likely they have the rosters in place for all three of the rookie league teams, with the GCL Cards kind of a catch-all at least to start.

Most of the talk after the draft was completed centered on the few High School players likely to sign and with good reason. There will be plenty of time for those picks to bear fruit so to speak and that leaves me to hit my favorite two parts of every draft. Both are equally important and show Randy Flores learned some solid drafting traits from those still in the organization.

The Triple-S

While the Cards are not alone in finding special players who excelled below D1 baseball, there are always a couple of selections that jump off the page. There were two especially in this draft that count as Small School Sleepers to watch, one pitcher and one hitter. If the name Jake Walsh doesn’t jump off the page you are not alone, but how about Brett Tomko?

St. Louis snagged Walsh in the 16th round out of Florida Southern College, and more than a few had this to say. The Mocassin RHP was a finalist for the Tomko DII Pitcher of the Year and dominated to say the least his junior season. Walsh finished 12-1 on the year with a sub 1.00 WHIP and K/9 of 9.39 to show that starters can be found at every level.

On the hitting side of the ledger, one of those ‘unofficial‘ signings turned heads all the way to All-American honors. Brandon Benson, to put it plain and simple, could not have had a better senior campaign for Georgia College. Not to say he ever struggled in college, but Benson tallied 21 HR and 110 RBI combined his first three years as a Bobcat.

The 20th round pick then knocked 22 over the fence just in 2017 alone, driving in 79 RBI while scoring 74 times. Benson also just celebrated a birthday on the 13th, making it a week he will never forget. I expect him to start on the SC roster as one of the older selections of the St. Louis class but was drafted as an outfielder which means the bat will dictate where he ends up this summer.

If the Cards are able to add even a couple from this draft, it will be a success for years to come. Monday will be all about the Cape Cod impact, as those wood bats never lie! Enjoy the games this weekend with a big round of applause to all fathers who hopefully get an extra nap in along the way.

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Breaking down the draft takes years to fully decide if it was productive or not as a whole. While the first few rounds get most of the attention, it takes the grinders moving up one rung of the ladder each year that establish an organization. The Cardinals have been blessed with success from the top down, but that begins with the teams where everyone starts on the same level.

Days one and two of the draft typically involve the big money decisions, just because you are handling nearly all of the players who hold the leverage. High School and Junior College athletes 99% of the time have D1 offers in hand well before getting drafted with new rules cutting down on the negotiation period.

This makes having a solid strategy even greater, something St. Louis scouting directors have seemingly perfected. Randy Flores took over just last year and couldn’t possibly have had a harder situation to walk into not only from the team but baseball operations altogether. Once Flores stopped playing, he went back to school at USC and started a successful business before things turned upside down under the Arch.

And what does Flores do with his very first pick running the show? He takes a potential franchise altering shortstop who had flunked a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs right before the draft. So yes, Flores proved he was up to the challenge right away but last year was nothing compared to 2017.

The only thing that needs to be said now about the hacking scandal thankfully is that everyone can put it to bed. Draft picks exchanged hands, the Cardinals paid the price and then some, and baseball will continue as it should. Flores wasn’t even part of the front office then, so in some way that gives him a pass even with a full year to navigate the deep waters.

What I am going to do now that the draft is over and before the signings begin will be broken down over the next few days right up until Johnson City and State College take the field. No one has applauded St. Louis or Flores for a job well done, and surely that goes without saying. All parties knew how difficult playing on an uneven field would be and truthfully, I really didn’t expect to be blown away this much.

The Cardinals had 38 picks and selected only eight from the High School ranks. I looked at each of the past five drafts, and that number is the lowest. They also passed up every JUCO player available, instead looking for a specific type that fills a need now. Given the bonus pool constraints, there shouldn’t be many issues getting them signed and on the field where the real fun begins.

And to be honest, it has been a real tough calendar year for St. Louis fans when you think about it. We all could use some positive motivation, and the 2017 draft will certainly go down as a historic one for the Birds on the Bat. Enjoy your Thursday everyone and stop back by Saturday for Part 2!

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As much fun as yesterday was to see new faces become future Cardinals, the real challenge now starts with finding the hidden gems in Rounds 11-40 of the MLB Draft. The usual strategy for St. Louis and other teams in the recent past has been trying to entice some of the tougher signs with strong offers to see what amount may make the difference. It would be a surprise, however, to see too much of that from the Birds on the Bat this time out.

The bonus pool has to be considered as does filling out the rookie league rosters, especially on the pitching side of the ledger. Scouting Director Randy Flores has not been able to dodge many potholes in his little over a year on the job but the high character picks already in the books tell a bigger story. It would do no one justice to say the type of player in the organization needed to change, so let’s just go with selections that have more than physical skills fit the criteria.

Two-way players are all the rage right now, but the Cardinals have always drafted the athletes that could eventually switch job titles. Expect more of the same, as the early Day 3 picks are bound to be multi-faceted before transitioning into what sets St. Louis apart from nearly everyone else in the game. The small school picks like Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, and Kevin Siegrist no doubt are the stories scouts love to tell, all of which leads to another intriguing day of selections.

Enjoy the ride and will be back tomorrow with reactions to the overall depth that is added to an already strong system!

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In what can only be described as a wild ride, the Cardinals navigated their Day 1 of the 2017 Draft in admirable fashion. With a tiny budget and zero room for error, St. Louis added another LHP to the mix with Brett Seeburger from San Diego State.

The former All-State performer in California adds even more depth to the mix as State College and Johnson City need full rosters within a week to get the summer truly kicked off as the Prospect Preacher only wakes up when every team is fighting for a championship.

Thanks for stopping by and come back for recaps of tomorrow’s picks as long as I don’t need sleep!

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Brett Seeburger, LHP San Diego State

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There will be a new Scrabble in the St. Louis organization in the very near future. This lefty may very well move fast as a reliever, but Evan Kruczynski starred at East Carolina as their best starter in 2016. The Senior southpaw didn’t have the encore season he hoped, but the Cardinals are counting on a return to his junior year form.

Kruczynski carried ECU to the Super Regionals in 2016 and couldn’t be swayed from his plans to return for one more shot at the CWS. Time for the Birds on the Bat to take advantage of the 9th round return and see how fast this Ski can skate up the ranks.

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St. Louis Southpaw for #274

Evan Kruczynski, LHP East Carolina

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Much has been written about the contributions Carlos Beltran has made not only for the Cardinals but more importantly for the game of baseball in Puerto Rico. When it was finally time to take a pitcher, St. Louis reached out to the future Hall of Famer’s school for a power arm.

Wilberto Rivera throws in the high 90’s which means there is plenty to work with and time to allow all the tools to come together. He has been on the radar for quite some time and with a commitment to FIU, the 8th round selection may require more than slot to forego college.

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Wilberto Rivera, RHP Puerto Rico HS

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Rinse. Repeat. Win.

One thing can be said for the St. Louis model with the draft at least thru the first five picks. All are position players, each has played (one committed) for D1 schools, and every one focuses on more than just the offensive side of the game.

This focus on up-the-middle defense with some very experienced college bats definitely leads me to think that Peoria and possibly Palm Beach will have some new weapons to use headed down the stretch. Clemson CF Chase Pinder checks all the boxes in what you look for in a 7th round pick, as his bloodlines put this selection over the top. Chad Pinder was drafted before his little brother and offers a glimpse of what the Cardinals are hoping to see.

Hard to argue with the plan thus far, especially when you find articles such as this one and here as well.

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