Everyone's projecting the Cardinals to draft this dynamic southpaw

Multiple sources are connecting the St. Louis Cardinals to left-handed pitcher Hagen Smith, who would provide the Cardinals a top-tier arm.
LSU v Arkansas
LSU v Arkansas / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

After a horrendous season in 2023, the St. Louis Cardinals were given the seventh pick in the 2024 draft through the newly instituted draft lottery, their highest pick since 1998, when they took J.D. Drew with the fifth pick of the draft. The Cardinals have a chance to take an eventual superstar with their first pick in 2024, and several sites, including MLB.com, Prospects Live and On3.com, project the Cardinals to choose left-handed pitcher Hagen Smith.

It's not surprising that Smith is so heavily connected to the Cardinals: They're a match made in heaven, as the Cardinals are desperately seeking strikeout pitchers after a far-too-late organizational shift in philosophy to catch up with the rest of the league in pitching effectiveness. Smith fanned 13.6 batters per nine innings during his three years at the University of Arkansas, and his stats from his final season there are even more stunning.

Smith can rear back and hit 100 mph with his fastball, although it usually sits in the 94-97 mph range. His slider is his best offering, and he uses it against batters from both sides of the plate. Smith also has a splitter that isn't as advanced as his other pitches, in part because he can have trouble locating it. However, his control improved significantly in his third year, as he cut down his walks per nine innings from 5.3 to 3.4.

Smith has a unique low three-quarters delivery that hampers his control at times but also makes him difficult to hit, as shown by his dominating 17-strikeout performance against Oregon State.

The Cardinals' farm system is low on elite arms, and Smith would provide a desperately needed high-end pitcher with wipeout stuff. The Cardinals could soon enter a retool, if not a full-blown rebuild, which would theoretically allow them to massively improve the talent in their minor leagues with higher picks.

Smith could be the first draftee of the new-look Cardinals as they reexamine their pitching development. Some lean years may be in store for St. Louis, but Smith could be a foundational piece on which the team can build a modern pitching approach.