I admit that I don't study up much on the players available in the major league draft because its outcome seems only slightly less dependent on pure dumb luck than the lottery.
So, I don't have a lot to say about the players the St. Louis Cardinals selected and when or if I expect them to make an impact in the big leagues. All I know is that the team chose a player from the University of Southern California named Lars Nootbaar. How can you go wrong with a name like that? I only wish he was a hockey player instead of an outfielder so I could hear St. Louis Blues arena announcer Tom Calhoun say "The goal, his 20th of the season, was scored by number 11, Laaaaaaaaars Nooooooootbaaaaaaaaar!"
Hopefully Lars fares better in the pros than his brother, Nigel, who was drafted in 2014 by the Baltimore Orioles. The latter played two years in the former St. Louis Browns farm system before being let go and trying to continue his career in independent baseball. Gateway Grizzlies fans may be familiar with Nigel who spent last year in the Frontier League as a relief pitcher with the Normal CornBelters.
My flippant observation aside, it seems like the Cardinals took some interesting candidates in the upper rounds of the draft. Although highly-touted third basemen (Brett Wallace, anyone?) haven't always been kind to St. Louis in the first round, it's hard to argue with the selection of Nolan Gorman. The kid the Birds took with the 19th overall pick seems like he's the best high school power prospect in the country and, if you're going to roll the dice on a player, you might as well do so with a guy who has sky-high upside.
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Last year, of course, the Redbirds drafted a high schooler with gaudy power potential in Griffin, Ga., product Terry Fuller. He wowed fans with his 500-foot blasts in batting practice. People hoping for instant results in that kind of player might be disappointed. Because of their age and their distance from big league competition, they tend to be more long-term projects.
Fuller played last season in the short-season Gulf Coast League, where he hit .161 in 37 games with three home runs. He walked 12 times and struck out 49 times in 118 at-bats. Do these numbers mean than Fuller won't make it to the big leagues? Certainly not. It just means there is a lot of work to be done and it is difficult to project how young people will adapt as they face a steep incline in the quality of the pitching they face on a daily basis.
While the Cardinals sprinkled in some of their more traditional targets, nearly MLB-ready college pitchers, in the first couple of days of the draft, their success in stockpiling pitching has afforded them the flexibility to take some gambles in other areas. With Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber and others — including re-injured top prospect Alex Reyes — either contributing at the major league level or knocking on the door, the Birds' biggest organizational need right now is homegrown power.
The team paid dearly in terms of prospects to get Marcell Ozuna away from the Marlins and the team was unsuccessful in its multiple bids to try to trade for Toronto Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson — which is probably a good thing because Donaldson has been increasingly injury-prone over the past couple of seasons. While some national writers still believe the Birds will try to acquire Donaldson at the trade deadline, I would sure hope St. Louis would pass on the idea of giving up anything of decent value for him. I can't imagine he'd end up wearing the Birds on the Bat unless he completely falls through the cracks this winter and is willing to ink a one-year deal.
With power bats that uncertain on the market — or more expensive that St. Louis is likely to be willing to spend when you're talking about Manny Machado — it makes sense to try to bring up a guy through the system who can be the next Albert Pujols, as opposed to trying to sign an elite free agent or an aging veteran.