Just a little ways further, everyone: We're almost through the draft entire. Getting a little thin on info on some of these picks, though the more interesting ones tend to have something floating around in their backgrounds that not only make them intriguing draftees, but also make it much easier to find out what their stories are.
A selection of scouting reports for your enjoyment and edification await you beyond the mythical webpage borderland known as The Jump.
Oh, and also, please don't take it as a slight to any of these young draftees if I fail to mention them. Chances are I couldn't find enough information to say anything useful, or just couldn't formulate an actual opinion either way. I'm sure they're all lovely boys.
By the way, if you didn't read that last sentence in the voice of Paul Lynde, go back and do so now. In fact, just read everything I write from now on in the voice of Paul Lynde.
Round 21, 650 Overall -- Christopher Kirsch, LHP, Lackawanna College
Would it be overly bold of me to suggest I think Chris Kirsch might be the cherry on the Cards' draft sundae? (Again, Paul Lynde. Also, hooray for foreign language jokes!)
Anyhow, Kirsch is actually a remarkably intriguing talent for this point in the draft. He was selected by the Pirates out of high school in the 13th round last year, but they didn't meet what he was hoping to get for a bonus, so he went to junior college for a season and reentered the draft this year. I remember checking on him a bit last year, when he bolted out of nowhere in the spring as a big helium guy. No one knew who he was entering his senior year of high school, but by the time the draft rolled around he was somewhat of a hot commodity.
There's plenty to like about Kirsch, who could probably be best described as a late bloomer. He went through a huge growth spurt late in high school, shooting up to his present 6'2" his junior season. He didn't pitch exclusively in high school, instead playing all over the diamond as both a position player and hurler. At the very least, being relatively new to pitching should mean he has a fresher arm than a pitcher who's been ridden by a high school baseball coach/shop teacher trying to get to State.
As for stuff, Kirsch throws a fastball in the 89-91 range, along with a very good curveball. He's still raw, somewhat surprisingly so considering he now has a year of collegiate ball under his belt, and will be a project for the minor league coaching staff. You can still look at his skinny frame and dream of bigger gun readings as he matures, but even if he never bumps his velocity any further he has enough stuff to make it. The question will be whether or not the Cards' system will be the right place to try and polish him up into something useful.
Round 22, 680 Overall -- William Kamplain, LHP, Walker High School (Alabama)
Kamplain, who goes by Justin rather than his given name, is another very exciting prospect, albeit one who may be a tough sign. He's not big, going just 6'0" and 165 or so, but he has excellent arm speed and has already shown the ability to miss bats. He's thrown two perfect games in high school, and struck out 115 in 66 innings his senior season.
The reason he'll likely be so tough to get signed is a college commitment to Alabama, which Kamplain has described as his dream school. He was committed originally to play for a local community college, but chose instead to accept the Crimson Tide's offer. (Can't say I really blame him.) The Cards' chances of getting him under contract and into the system probably aren't any better than a coin flip, and quite likely much worse than that, but if they can he could represent an absolute steal in the 22nd round.
Round 24, 740 Overall -- Jonathan Cornelius, LHP, Florida Tech
A college senior, put Cornelius solidly under the 'results' column, rather than the 'potential' column. He struck out 129 batters in 98 innings this season, working with a high-80s fastball and an advanced feel for a slurvy breaking ball. At 23 years old, Cornelius is probably already whatever he's going to be, but as a lefty who can spin a breaking ball, relief work might definitely be an option.
His delivery reminds me a bit of Jeremy Sowers, with a similar hesitation at the back of his delivery.
A local kid with a big arm, Graves is a two-sport star for Francis Howell who is committed to pitch for Mizzou. He can already work his fastball up into the low 90s, but he doesn't get there consistently yet, and his mechanics will need plenty of work. As with most dual sport guys, Graves is raw even for his age level, thanks to divided attention, but he has substantial upside now that he's focusing purely on pitching.
Plus athleticism should help him adjust to the rigors of the mound, and his work ethic garners consistent praise from coaches and scouts alike. Of his secondary pitches, he throws a splitter that has been mentioned as a possible plus pitch in the future. He's thought to be a tough sign, but one would think if any team could get him to eschew college for the pro game it would have to be his hometown team. If not, look for him to turn into the next Max Scherzer, who turned down the Cards out of high school, went to Missouri, and came out a big-time prospect.
Round 28, 860 Overall -- Ryan Sherriff, LHP, West Los Angeles College
Are you tired of reading about left-handers yet? I'll admit to getting a little tired of typing the letters LHP over and over, but it's certainly interesting to see the heavy emphasis the Cardinals placed on sinister-side pitching in this draft class.
As for Sherriff himself, it was a bit surprising to see him go this late, as several projections had him going somewhere in the early teens. Getting him fifteen rounds later is certainly a pleasant surprise. He's got a nice arm for a lefty, with a fastball that can reach 92 or even 93 at times, and a delivery I really like. Personally I'm hoping he makes it in a big way, just so I'll have an easy headline to write a couple years down the road when he makes his MLB debut and I can declare There's A New Sherriff in Town.
Round 31, 950 Overall -- Kevin Jacob, RHP, Georgia Tech
Another college senior, Jacob was actually one of the top college closers going into the 2010 draft. He destroyed the Alaskan wood bat league in 2009, striking out 45 hitters in 26 innings and sitting in the upper 90s with his fastball. Since that time, though, he's struggled with shoulder issues and a notable decline in velocity, leaving him a shell of what he was at his best.
The Cardinals are noted for having one of the more aggressive and (usually) effective shoulder-strengthening programs in baseball, as well as an excellent mechanics guy in Brent Strom, so St. Louis might be a very good landing spot for Jacob. His delivery is very unorthodox, with an almost straight over the top arm slot that puts one in mind of Eddie Degerman, a former Cards' farmhand out of Rice who literally looked like a catapult when he threw the ball. I like what he does with his front side; the high glove reminds me of Tyler Clippard's delivery, and I think that makes the ball harder to pick up. If the Cards can get Jacob's shoulder healthy and find a less stressful delivery for him, his size (6'6"), and power fastball/slider combo could make him an intimidating late-inning presence.
Azru over at Future Redbirds dug up a couple of very funny bits on Jacob. Relievers are notorious for having mischievous, eccentric personalities, and it seems as if Jacob has a bit of that already.
A major college program player, Rahmatulla was putting up numbers through his first two seasons of college ball that would have gotten him drafted in the first five rounds easy. A funny thing happened on the way to pro ball, though, and he's suffered through a litany of setbacks ever since. A broken wrist suffered in a walkoff celebration, a broken foot suffered in preseason workouts, and an academic suspension have all conspired to derail Rahmatulla's career and make 2011 a year I'm sure he would rather just forget.
Still, in 2010, he posted a .952 OPS in a run-suppressing home ballpark, with 27 extra-base hits in 232 at-bats while walking as often as struck out. (39 of each) He gets outstanding marks for not only his hitting ability but also his patient approach at the plate. It's possible he could return to school and try to rehabilitate his draft stock, but I'm hoping he signs with the Cards and they can get to work on trying to get him back to the player he was just a year ago.
I'm really quite pleased with this batch of players. There are very few guys the Cardinals took who don't have anything at all to hang your hat on. Most of these players have at least one intriguing tool, if not more, with various circumstances working to depress their respective draft stocks. There are a surprising number of gems to be found in the late rounds of the baseball draft, which is so difficult to ever predict, and looking at this group of players it wouldn't surprise me to see one or two of them make a name for themselves in pro ball.