These three likely first-round picks could fit the needs of the St. Louis Cardinals.
With the MLB draft set to commence on July 9, online draft projections are in full swing. The St. Louis Cardinals will pick 21st, a familiar area for the (usually) successful franchise. This article touches on three players who could integrate well into the Cardinals' system and have a chance to be available at pick 21.
Thomas White, LHP
Last season, the Cardinals drafted left-handed pitcher Cooper Hjerpe with their first pick, and they could go to that well again this year. Thomas White, MLB.com's pick for the Cardinals in its most recent mock draft, is widely considered the best high school southpaw in the country. He has an effortless delivery that fires fastballs up to 96 mph, and he has a strong changeup and curveball, although he hasn't used his changeup too often.
White can lose control of his fastball at times, which isn't surprising for the 6-foot-5 teenager, but that issue was less of a factor last season. Massachusetts, the state White calls home, is not a baseball hotbed, and there could be a concern that he might falter against stronger competition. He is committed to Vanderbilt, where he would receive a true test, but the Cardinals, whose pitching pipeline is heavily right-handed, could see White as a valuable commodity to their organization.
Charlee Soto, RHP
Charlee Soto is newer to pitching than most prospects are, playing shortstop in high school until he sprouted up to 6-foot-5 and outgrew the position. The Florida high school right-hander is one of the youngest players in the class; he'll still be 17 on draft day, which could tempt a team like the Cardinals that factors in age.
Soto has hit 98 mph, although his fastball usually sits around 93-95 mph. He also features one of the top changeups in the draft class and a sharp slider with a high spin rate. His performance in spring was inconsistent, but he is likely to remedy that with more experience on the mound. There is some risk in his profile that he will ultimately be a relief pitcher, but he should receive plenty of chances to start.
Brayden Taylor, 3B
Although the Cardinals are most likely to take a pitcher in the first round given their organizational needs, there is a chance that they could look to fill a future positional gap as Nolan Arenado ages. With no standout third base prospects, the Cardinals could take a shot at Brayden Taylor of Texas Christian.
Taylor is lauded for his eye at the plate and ability to get on base. In 2023, he only chased 20% of pitches outside the zone. His ability to make contact and spit on pitches out of the zone could remind fans of Brendan Donovan, although Taylor possesses more power. He is an adequate defender at the hot corner, and while he doesn't have blazing speed, he has been successful on a whopping 39 of 40 stolen base attempts in college.
The Cardinals' draft preference tends to be polished college arms, but most prospect rankings show a dearth of college pitchers where the Cardinals are drafting, so someone would likely have to fall unexpectedly or the Cardinals would need to reach for a pick. White and Soto have the talent to succeed, but high schoolers are almost always riskier choices than college players, which could push the Cardinals in another direction. Despite the uncertainties, the Cardinals have drafted well under Randy Flores, and hopefully whoever they take will become a star.