When we last saw our red-clad heroes, they were trapped deep in the bowels of the 2011 draft, having just attempted to extricate themselves with the help of a polished sinker-y righthander from Oregon State named Gaviglia. He was the first pitcher taken by the Redbirds, after a truly bizarre run of undersized outfielders and one Hawaiian infielder who has been playing all this time in Hitter's Purgatory.
Will our heroic squad of amateur scouts ever escape the dreaded Draft Day? Will they be able to fill any pertinent needs with their tireless picking? Will the Cardinals ever again draft an outfielder over six foot tall? Find out the answers to these and many other questions in today's issue of the Cardinals Draft Review!
Oh, and by the way, the answer to that last question, about the tall outfielders, is no. At least not in the rounds we're covering today. Sorry to kill the suspense.
Round 6, 200 Overall -- Adam Ehrlich, C, Campbell Hall HS (California)
Another high schooler, which brings the Cards' total in the early stages of this draft to four prepsters versus just two collegians, as surprising a reversal as I can recall from a team's usual modus operandi.
Ehrlich is a guy who can hit a little, but his ticket to the big leagues is going to be his skills behind the plate. He has tremendous hands, moves well in receiving, and has polish far beyond his years. While he didn't receive the same kind of accolades pre-draft as Austin Hedges, touted as the best defensive catcher in the draft despite being a high schooler, Ehrlich has the same kind of skills. His arm is good, though not necessarily a cannon.
His swing is decent, but looks a little long to me. He reminds me a bit of Bryan Anderson, the Cards' current starting backstop at Memphis, from a physical standpoint, but he doesn't have the same kind of offensive chops Anderson showed as an amateur. Then again, with an organisation as devoted to the cult of catcher defense as the Cardinals, having Ehrlich's abilities behind the plate is really the only thing that matters.
Round 7, 230 Overall -- Nick Martini, OF, Kansas State
Yes, friends, that's right. The Cardinals took yet another outfielder, and yes, he does in fact have the word 'undersized' in his scouting report.
Martini is a 5'11", 190 pounder with solid speed, a good glove, and one of the best approaches at the plate in all of college baseball. He doesn't hit for much power, but this is a guy who just knows how to get on base, period. Call him the Matt Carpenter of outfielders, perhaps.
Martini also has a good -- though not great -- Cape Cod League performance in his past, which is always a big deal for the Cardinals. He's a little similar to the Cards' second-round pick Charlie Tilson, only a version that's played big-time college baseball for a few years and doesn't offer quite the athleticism. Long-term he looks a little like Jon Jay to me, except he'll probably walk his way on base a little more often, while Jay is probably more of a pure hitter. Still, Martini possesses the speed to play in center and the versatility to handle all three outfield positions, which along with his advanced approach at the plate could give him a shot at being a solid fourth outfielder down the road somewhere.
Round 8, 260 Overall -- Danny Miranda, LHP, University of Miami
I have to admit, this pick is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. The Cardinals drafted Miranda once before, in the 50th round out of high school, so they obviously like him. For my part, though, I'm just not seeing a whole lot to recommend him so highly.
Miranda's biggest asset is his left-handedness, which of course enables plenty of pitchers with few other qualities to pitch at the big league level until they dry up and blow away like tumbleweeds. (See: Fassero, Jeff) He worked primarily out of the bullpen for the Hurricanes, and led the team in saves in 2011 with 15. Still, this isn't a pitcher who's going to make it with pure stuff; Miranda's fastball tops out at about 88 and his slider comes and goes. He did post good strikeout numbers in college, with a K/9 over 12, so I'm guessing the idea here is for him to end up somewhere in the MLB bullpen sooner than later, probably in a LOOGY role. He puts me in mind a bit of Kevin Gunderson, the lefthander who closed for Oregon State in their first CWS title a few years ago as an undersized guy who manages to work the late innings with smarts, guts, and a good breaking ball.
My feeling is you can find guys like this later in the draft, but Miranda is closer to a finished product if he can iron his command out just a tad, so there's a chance he could move quickly through the system. He probably tops out as a lefty specialist or possibly a seventh inning setup guy, which isn't bad, but probably wouldn't have tempted me to draft him here.
The first of two players covered here who attended a private workout at Busch Stadium for a group of potential draftees, Mills has a big arm but is extremely raw as a pitcher, having converted to the mound only this past season. Still, the promise he showed early was enough to catch scouts' eyes.
Early in the season, Mills was throwing a fastball at 94-96 and showing a developing slider. His stuff didn't last, however, as he threw 127 pitches in his third outing. (You think Dusty Baker is tough on pitchers, you should look at what your average college coach does on a regular basis. Lucky for them shoulders aren't considered an ethnic group, or every year dozens of DI baseball coaches would be on trial in the Hague.) After that his stuff was never really the same; not particularly surprising, considering. He worked as a starter in college, but Baseball America said it best when they said he still looks like a position player trying to pitch.
Mills is a draft-eligible sophomore, so he has some extra leverage in negotiations, and a return to school could help bump his draft stock further if he could show some development on the mound. Then again, considering the workload, he might be far better off signing and getting into pro ball, where the coaching staffs would be focused on developing his arm and repertoire, not hanging him out to dry. (Sorry to get on a soap box here, but the way college coaches ride their players with very little thought to the kid's future is a touchy subject for me.) He profiles as a power bullpen arm, as his mechanics are raw and his repertoire and feel for pitching are both undeveloped as yet. Still, pure arm strength can be cultivated but never taught, and Mills has enough he could pitch at the back of a big league bullpen one day.
From our own backyard comes the Cards' tenth rounder, the other player featured here to participate in workouts at Busch Stadium. Jeffries is another outfielder cut from a similar mold as the other the Cardinals have taken so far, undersized but athletic. I actually went to a couple of this kid's games this spring, as his name has been popping up for awhile now, and I came away very impressed.
Actually, let me correct that bit about undersized but athletic. Athletic isn't a strong enough word for Jeffries. He's explosive. The kid is one big bundle of quick-twitch muscle fiber. He has surprising power, though he hasn't yet learned to consistently put it work in games, and plus speed, running the 60 in a reported 6.55. You can see the explosiveness in his swing, his first step on the basepaths, the way he goes to get the ball in the outfield, everything. He looks like he has a good arm in the outfield as well, though I didn't really get to see him uncork any exceptional throws in the limited time I watched him. He has plenty of range to play center.
I have to say, I absolutely love this pick. The tools are exciting, and seeing a local kid picked up by his hometown team always makes for a good story. For his part, Jeffries seems to have a real passion for the game, and in fact has already come to terms on a pro contract with the team, the first draftee to do so. It has to be a dream come true to get drafted by the team you grew up rooting for and following, and I'm rooting for Jeffries to follow Kyle McClellan and David Freese as Cardinal players getting to play every day for their hometown team.
Of these five picks, the only one I don't really agree with is Miranda, and even then there are numbers to back up his selection. Jeffries is probably my favourite pick, though I freely admit there may be a bit of sentimentality helping push him over the top, but I can't really argue too vehemently against any of the players. It's an unusual class for the Cards, to be sure, but the sheer athleticism they've added to the system is enough for me to be at least moderately excited about.