Welcome to the fifth and final edition to the St. Louis Cardinals’ MLB Draft Preview. I have been torn about who I would include as the fifth prospect that has a good chance of winding up with the Cardinals with the 23rd overall pick.
I have done a lot of research and had a number of players in mind for this pick and had a couple penciled in on this post before I finally landed on someone that stuck. That individual is outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ out of Cincinnati University.
One major reason I am going with Happ is he is a college player and the Cardinals are a team that feasts on college players in the draft. Happ is also projected to go to the Cardinals in at least one of the mocks that I have looked at in recent days.
Happ is a strong hitter and that is what excites most scouts about his ability. He comes in as a 5’11”, 191-pound switch-hitter who has a right-handed arm. In his three college seasons, Happ has averaged .338/.492/.552 with 25 homers and 44 doubles as well as driving in 107 runs. These stats are very similar to that of D.J. Stewart, whom I covered yesterday. However, with Happ being a switch-hitter, the stats have a little bit more meaning to them.
Reviewing the Brew
Unfortunately, I cannot find any split stats to show which side of the plate Happ hits better from, although given he gets more at-bats from the left side of the plate with right-handed pitching being much more prevalent, it’s easy to tell that he is better hitting from the left side and scouting reports support that claim.
Happ also has defensive versatility in addition to his prowess at the plate. He has played at second base as well as being able to play pretty much anywhere in the outfield. Reading through the scouting report on MLB.com, this take on his infield defense was offered:
“He lacks smooth infield actions, hasn’t played regularly on the dirt since his freshman year and fits best on an outfield corner.”
With this in mind, he likely won’t be drafted as an infielder – especially if he has a better than average arm enough to play the corner outfield spots at the big league level.
So, for the Cardinals he’s a fit offensively and defensively as there will at least be an opening in LF in three-to-four years.
Again, when predicting this draft, it is important to understand the Cardinals’ minor league system is really lacking in depth offensively. That is ultimately why I have been so heavy on the offensive side of things in this draft.
Now, while MLB.com has him ranked as the 16th-best draft prospect, Baseball America has him pegged as the 23rd-best player in the draft right where the Cardinals pick.
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As noted above, in one mock draft, Happ is pegged to go to St. Louis in the first-round. However, in multiple others, he’s slotted to go ahead of the Cardinals’ 23rd overall pick. Ultimately, if he is still on the board, I don’t think he can be passed up by the front office, especially given his switch-hitting ability.
Of course, rankings don’t necessarily mean that is where players will or won’t be drafted, as teams have players they like more or less than others and the MLB Draft is not as black and white as the NBA and NFL drafts are. There will be slides and there will be teams that take risks on guys who have some question marks, but possess a higher upside.
That will do it for the first round. Please take a look at my previous four posts in this series (Chris Betts, Brady Aiken, Kevin Newman, D.J. Stewart) if you haven’t already. I hope you enjoy this as much I have enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for my posts on the competitive balance round and the second round.