St. Louis Cardinals: Hurray for Draft Picks!

facebooktwitterreddit projects Florida Gators pitcher A.J. Put to be the first college pitcher taken in the 2016 draft. Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals latest signing allows them to hold on to acquired draft picks.

Blessedly, the St. Louis Cardinals did not in the Leake signing, although the team had to shell out $75 million over 5 years to a guy who is already “crafty,” a label usually stuck on former aces hanging on for dear life without the velocity they used to have. And the St. Louis Cardinals gave Leake a no-trade clause, too. So we’re stuck with him, people.

Let me tell you how this will play out for the St. Louis Cardinals, though. Every time Leake makes one of his 30 or so starts, we’ll all look at his skinny little frame and see his floaty pitches and swear under our collective breaths. Then, by August or so, we’ll reflect on his performance and see he’s kept the St. Louis Cardinals in every game he’s pitched. He’s sneaky like that.

But I digress.

Other free agent pitchers, including Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy and Wei-Yin Chen, received qualifying offers from their former teams. Signing them would indeed cost the St. Louis Cardinals a draft pick. (Gasp!) Only Scott Kazmir remains as a notable free agent name who won’t.

All of which leaves me wondering who these coveted draft picks might be this year. I mean, since everyone is so worried about losing them, we should know who they may be, right? The St. Louis Cardinals currently hold the 27th and 31st overall picks, the latter received as compensation for losing Jason Heyward (hurray, draft picks!).

Who is the St. Louis Cardinals’ beleaguered scouting department focusing on? From a December 7 Baseball America report highlighting the high school class:

"The class has three clear strengths: pitchers, outfielders and left-side infielders. New Jersey lefthander Jason Groome ranks as the top prospect in the class. He draws comparisons to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw at the same age, thanks to his physicality and electric three-pitch mix, which is highlighted by arguably the best curveball in the class."

Groome won’t be on the board when the St. Louis Cardinals get their first turn. Nor will Kansas prep right-hander Riley Pint. But 6-4 right-hander Alex Speas of McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., might. Perfect Game ranks him the 16th best prep right-hander in the nation, sporting an electric fastball that touches the high 90s.

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Or, how about Forrest Whitley, a 6-foot-7 right-handed high schooler from San Antonio who’s committed to Florida State? His plus pitches are a sinking fastball and slider, and he has the potential to develop a changeup along with it. That won’t happen if he heads to Tallahassee. Not when college hitters can ping what would be a dying quail with a wood bat and watch the ball sail out of the park. currently has University of Florida right-hander Logan Shore projected to be drafted at 27, and Windermere (Fla.) Prep right-hander Austin Bergner expected to go at 31. From its scouting report on Shore:

"Strong and durable, Shore is a strike-throwing machine with a potential three-pitch mix. While he typically has sat in the 90-92 mph range, he was touching 93-94 mph this fall and can command it well. Shore’s best pitch is his changeup, which he locates and sinks extremely well. Even when hitters know it’s coming, he still gets outs. Shore’s breaking ball is slurvy and a bit inconsistent. When it’s on, he’s virtually unhittable. It has the potential of being a third Major League average offering"

Here’s a snippet of’s scouting report on Bergner, who committed to North Carolina:

"Tall and projectable, it’s quite possible Bergner will add to his already above-average fastball. It typically sits in the low 90s, but it has been seen touching 95-96 mph at times. He combines it with a very good breaking ball, one with consistently good, tight spin. Bergner doesn’t go to his changeup too often, but he does have one and given his overall feel for pitching, he should be able to develop an effective offspeed pitch in time. He stays around the strike zone, and while some are concerned about his funky arm action and delivery, it has been very effective for the right-hander and adds deception."

Of course, this is all just speculation. The St. Louis Cardinals may be zeroing in on an entirely different set of players. And on draft day, there always seems to be one team that goes completely off the grid and screws up everyone’s projections.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals' top 20 hitters

It’s really hard to tell what you’ll get when the draft rolls around. And that’s why I question all the fuss over surrendering draft picks for a free agent. Neither are sure things. But at least the latter has a track record of Major League success.