Hello and welcome to the 2nd round edition of the St. Louis Cardinals’ MLB Draft Preview. Here I will preview three different players the Cardinals could draft in the second round with pick no. 66. If you are new here and haven’t seen my posts on the first round and competitive balance round check them out here.
Option #1 C Taylor Ward, Fresno State 6’2 190 lbs
Here we have a second catching option for the Cardinals in the draft. The first option of course being Chris Betts, whom I discussed earlier. Taylor Ward is a pretty good option to draft in the 2nd round, there’s no worries about signability, as he is going into his senior year at Fresno and couldn’t feasibly improve his draft stock all that much. The stats don’t necessarily jump off the page at you, but what you do see is consistency. In his three seasons at Fresno State, Ward has hit .288/.384/.821 with 29 2B and 16 HR while driving in 98, including his freshman year where he hit .196 in 112 AB. Watching Ward hit, you see a real solid swing from the right side that is quick and pretty potent looking.
Not having any defensive metrics to go off of, I am not sure how good he is behind the plate. However, the case he is a solid offensive player with The Baseball Cube giving him really good ratings 83 Patience, 78 Power, 64 Contact, and 58 Batting. If the Cardinals are unable to draft Betts in the first round, this would be a solid consolation prize for the future behind the plate.
Option #2 RHP Blake Hickman, Iowa 6’5 210 lbs
As much as I want the team to build up on their offensive depth, you can’t ignore that the team usually grabs a college arm fairly early in the draft. If they wait to this point to do so and he is still available Hickman would be an incredible pick. Hickman was originally drafted coming out of high school by his hometown Chicago Cubs. Hickman is also a rarity coming from Simeon High School, as normally we are hearing about talented basketball players being drafted into the NBA from that school.
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Hickman chose to instead go to the University of Iowa. As a freshman Hickman was a catcher, after that year he became a pitcher making 5 starts in 17 appearances garnering a 3.93 ERA with a high walk rate and high strikeout rate (6.03 and 8.91) in his sophomore year. This year as a junior, he became a starter full time totaling a 2.90 ERA and lowering both his BB rate and K rate (4.13 and 5.47).
Beyond the stats, Hickman has a strong fastball (topping out at 97) and a couple pretty decent breaking pitches as well. Even in watching him pitch you can tell that Hickman struggles with control at times, however it is just his 2nd year as a pitcher so this is going to be expected.
If you were to give Hickman another year or two in college he probably could move up to the first round easily as his stuff is that good. This would be a bit of a project for the Cardinals, but it would be a good project to take in as he could become a stud at the top of rotation. Derek Helling of Outside Pitch MLB, managed to get a really good quote from Manager Rick Heller on Hickman, “His stuff is going to translate well, he just needs more experience. Everyone out there knows that. I think there’s more in his arm. There’s still some things he can do mechanically to clean up and he can throw harder. He shows flashes of plus pitches with his secondary stuff at times”, this really is the best way to describe Hickman. At first, when I watched him pitch on YouTube I was unimpressed with his command but now knowing he hasn’t been at this long makes his stuff stand out all the more and the lack of command understandable.
Option #3 OF Christin Stewart, Tennesee 6’0 215 lbs
Now we have come across another position that has been a bit of a theme so far in my draft preview series. As I have spoken on before, the Cardinals’ organizational OF depth is becoming a bit of a question mark of late and there is not many good impact bats throughout the organization. In comes Christin Stewart, a left handed OF that likely projects to play in LF unless he develops an arm. Christin has been a solid hitter throughout his career at Tennessee slashing .319/.414/.548 with 35 2B and 23 HR while driving in 113.
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Throughout his career his patience at the plate had been somewhat of a concern but this year he responded by walking 28 times and striking out 38 in 177 ABs. This may be something he needs to continue to work on but the elevated walks are always a good thing. This season, he has also more than doubled his amount of home runs from his previous two seasons with 15 in comparison to 5 and 3 the previous two seasons.
Stewart has a good quick swing influenced by his real good bat speed. This allows him to put a good level swing on the ball that lends itself well to line drives. This is evident by his 35 2B as opposed to just 23 HR, there is a possibility that once he gets to pro ball he continues to work on the swing to make more apt to hit balls out of the park. Something seemed to have click this year with the 15 he has this season. So, if he can continue to build on that he could become a very good prospect and a prospect that would be very welcome to Cardinals’ organization that lacks consistent pop all around.
That will do it for the 2nd round. Stay tuned for the third round piece that should be up sometime this weekend!