When it was announced that the MLB Draft was moving from June to join the All-Star festivities, the thought was to bridge the gap with the next wave of potential stars. It also coincided with the end of short-season leagues so after a year of internal debate, the decision was money-driven but will pay off for the Cardinals.
No one could have predicted that St. Louis would implode this badly but finally there are a few things to talk about in a positive way. The Futures Game could not have been better for Victor Scott II and Tink Hence, two prospects recently promoted to Springfield. Pairing Scott with Mike Antico gives the organization a look it hasn’t had since the 1980’s at just the perfect time. Baseball wants the stolen base to return to relevance so how about two burners instead of one moving up the prospect ranks!
Antico provides more power of the duo and has been in Springfield all year which is important as the trade deadline should open up movement in Memphis. Another lefty-hitting outfielder like Antico, Scott would be the second most requested prospect this month if the Cards were buying at the deadline. Drafted last year in the fifth round, Scott has done nothing but impress at every turn as his skill set screams lead off man. Once he jumps into the Top 10 for St. Louis prospects, the story will be even more well known as an elite speedster. The son of a pair of track runners, Scott has cut down on the strikeouts and introduced himself in a big way yesterday.
Maybe a surprise selection from the organization, Scott singled in his first at-bat in Seattle and proceeded to steal both second and third base. He should get plenty of looks next Spring but another strong finish in the Texas League followed by an invite to Arizona this fall sets Scott up as the next big thing. And for a team desperate to solve both the outfield equation as well as the top of the batting order, Scott and Antico provide a pair of options much closer than expected when this season started.
If Scott has done more than anyone else to improve his ranking on the position player side, Hence just keeps putting himself in the discussion for best arms in all of baseball. Still only 20 years old, Tink just moved up to Springfield and capped off a whirlwind few weeks with a dominate inning in Seattle. An explosive fastball and multiple off speed looks will keep Hence as a starter for now with the innings limit so far in the minors the only thing keeping him a level behind his draft mates of 2020.
Hence definitely would be the centerpiece of any high level trade, although the down year for the Birds on the Bat surely puts those discussions on a different path. It would be shocking to see St. Louis part with a special arm now when this campaign has proved how valuable depth at the upper levels must be. How the organization uses him the next two months will also be one story to watch, but a limit on his talent can’t be underestimated.
Saturday was a great day for the Cardinals, from Miles and Jordan in Chicago to both of the Seattle sensations. Whether they are joined by a bat or arm tonight, the first round of this Draft is historic. Due to the pandemic-shortened year and new rules about eligibility, the 2023 edition happens to be the most stacked in a decade if not longer. St. Louis picks 21st after another trip to the playoffs, and they are primed to add an impact player to the Top 10 list. But instead of looking at all the players unlikely to drop tonight, let’s discuss the one who could answer multiple questions at once.
Bryce Eldridge from a Virginia high school has a very specific request for any team looking to keep him away from a commitment to Alabama. He is taller than Jordan Walker and hits from the left side, but the real story is his arm. The right hander with a repeatable delivery will only sign if allowed to play both ways, similar to Masyn Winn but with much more leverage. Eldridge makes too much sense for a team lacking players with an ‘it’ factor and could be a legitimate difference maker in the mold of a certain Angels star about to get the largest contract ever in pro sports.
It is also an important pick for another reason as the Cards lost their second round pick for signing Willson Contreras. That means if any of the top ranked prospects fall due to signability concerns, don’t be shocked if St. Louis passes as well. They routinely go over budget but some of the numbers being tossed around are deal breakers unless your team has a purse likely to what is on the horizon for 2024. A top 10 pick seems virtually locked in at this point, something unheard of since the days of J.D. Drew, but it could end up being much more than that. Outside of Oakland and Kansas City, it will be a race for the 3rd selection with a few options staring directly in the face of the front office with August 1st rapidly approaching.
Do the Cardinals trade rental pitchers Montgomery, Flaherty and Hicks to further weaken the big league club in favor of stocking the farm or hold on for the draft picks? The qualifying offer would bring in additional resources available but also would be a risky proposition at around 20 million for one season of any of the three as Monty leaving his last start proves. Best guess is somewhere in the middle, but that’s a debate for another time. Tonight is all about adding for the future, something all of us can agree on.