The Detroit Tigers had an amazing 2020 Draft. But our friends at Redbird Rants are excited about how the draft turned out for the St. Louis Cardinals too.
The MCB staff love baseball so much that we wanted to start a series on providing a general overview of how other teams did in the MLB Draft and how they set themselves up for the future. MLB has announced that there will be a 60-game schedule and that 20 of the games will be played against each league’s corresponding division. Because the Detroit Tigers will be playing 20 games against NL Central opponents, we took some extra time with the articles featuring teams from the NLC to get to know them better. Today, we take a look at the St. Louis Cardinals.
Here are the teams we have done so far.
Before we get into my conversation with Matt Graves of Redbird Rants here is the Cardinals 2020 MLB Draft picks with their respective MLBPipeline draft rankings.
St. Louis Cardinals Draft
Jordan Walker 33
Masyn Winn 54
Tink Hence 84
Alec Burleson 136
Levi Prater 198
Ian Bedell 88
LJ Jones IV —
The obvious headliner is Jordan Walker who was considered to be one of the premier power bats of this year’s draft pool. Historically there have not been many third basemen that are that tall, Kris Bryant and Troy Glaus are the only 6’5″ third basemen since 1993. Walker may have the athleticism to make it work out and join them in the coming years. Those are not bad players to be compared to!
Walker was followed by two more high-ceiling high school players, Winn and Hence. Winn is a two-way player that has a 96mph fastball and the ability to play a solid shortstop. There are concerns about his size and if he could handle a starters’ workload but there aren’t many players in this draft with a higher ceiling than Winn. After taking three high-risk high-reward high schoolers, the Cardinals went the high floor route for the rest of the draft.
Levi Prater is a high floor pitcher that could be one of the first pitchers to reach the Majors. He is the epitome of perseverance. A lawnmower accident when he was just two years old left him with just three fingers on his right (non-throwing) hand. He was part of a college rotation alongside first-rounder Cade Cavali. And, even though his “stuff” isn’t on the same level as Cavali, Prater had the better college ERA. He barely scrapes 90mph with his fastball but he continues to get outs and have success even when it doesn’t seem like he should. He could be moved to the bullpen to move through the minors even faster, but I think that that would be a waste of an opportunity for the Cardinals to develop a player that always finds a way to succeed.
After the draft, the Cardinals have a farm system that is ranked in the middle of all MLB farm systems. But, with the young talent that St. Louis already has on their Major League squad, the Cardinals look to be a contending team long into the future. With Detroit stockpiling young talent that should begin to make their debuts shortly, the Cardinals-Tigers rivalry has a chance for a fourth World Series matchup in the not-too-far future.
Q&A With Matt Graves
JW: What are your overall impressions of the draft? What grade would you give to St. Louis?
MG: The draft was very interesting. The Cardinals went away from the strategy they had the last few years. They took three high schoolers with their first three picks and they all have a ton of upside and the risk that comes with it. I would give the overall draft a B+ just because of the boom or bust possibility with their early picks while high-floor players were still on the board.
JW: Jordan Walker is tall for a third baseman (6’5”). Do you think that he has the athleticism to stay at the hot corner and will he make enough contact to tap into his enormous power potential?
MG: I think that while Walker probably has the athleticism to stay at third base (and that would help him hold more value), I’d almost prefer him to move to first base so that he doesn’t have to worry about his defense as much and can focus on hitting that offensive potential. Also, the Cardinals have had very few first-base prospects in the past 10 years and as an organization, it’s a weak point in terms of organizational upside
JW: Who has more power, Jordan Walker or 2018 first-round pick, Nolan Gorman?
MG: By my own eye, I would say that Gorman has more power. Walker has more size, but Gorman does a better job of tapping into what he does have.
JW: Were you surprised that the Cardinals announced that they would try to keep Masyn Winn as a two-way player instead of just focusing his development on the mound?
MG: I like the approach that John Mozeliak outlined where he basically said, “we are going to let Winn do what he’s most confident with.” So basically, whatever he ends up being best at, that’s where they will use him. I think that speaks to his talent level by itself, but If that ultimately becomes him playing two-way, then that’s great. If he picks to be a shortstop or pitcher, that’s great too.
JW: We can’t talk about powerful bats without mentioning Dylan Carlson. Were his 26 home runs last season the real thing? Do you think we see him this season?
MG: I think that the 26 homers Carlson hit last year are going to be about what his peak is as an MLB player. We keep hearing over and over from many different people that he is the real deal, and his approach and success so far doesn’t say anything different. The debate about where to start Carlson is a great one. In a 60-game season, I think he has to start up. If the team catches fire, it could be one of the easiest paths to the postseason we’ve seen, and you can’t afford to hold back any bullets.
JW: The Cardinals needed some pitching depth, were you surprised that they went the high school route when they drafted pitchers Masyn Winn and Tink Hence?
MG: I think that the Cardinals saw how much high-floor college pitching was available in this draft and decided to go for some home runs with their second-round picks. I like that because of the guys they were able to sign that ended up going undrafted. Those guys will cover their butts and let them swing for the higher risk/reward guys early. It was very very surprising, but with the whole picture, it makes sense and is pretty fun.
JW: Levi Prater only throws in the low 90’s but had a better ERA than his college teammate Cade Cavali, who the Nationals chose in the first round. Do you think he stays in the rotation or does he move to the bullpen?
MG: I think the Cardinals keep Prater in the rotation as long as possible. His ceiling isn’t as high as Cavalli of course, but I like him as an end-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level.
JW: Now that there is a universal DH, who do you think the Cardinals use, or will it be a rotating spot to give players a rest?
MG: For the Cardinals, I think the DH comes down to Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler depending on the day. When you get either one of those out of the field, the defense gets better. Putting Fowler at DH lets either Lane Thomas, Tommy Edman, or Dylan Carlson get playing time and putting Carp there puts Edman at third where he’s better suited than in the outfield. Other than maybe a few times a week, I don’t see the Cards using the DH as a spot for rest very often if at all.
JW: Which Tiger’s prospect are you most interested in seeing this season when St. Louis plays Detroit?
MG: If he’s up, I would love to see Casey Mize. I am currently a Senior at Auburn University and had the treat of watching Mize play before he got drafted, He’s the first guy I really have followed in person from college to the bigs so it’s an easy choice.
JW: The Cardinals and Tigers have faced off three times in the World Series and St. Louis is currently up 2-1. With both teams featuring a ton of young talent who wins Game 7 of the 2023 World Series when Jack Flaherty matches up against Casey Mize?
MG: As much as I love the former Auburn product, I clearly have to give the edge to Jack Flaherty. If they are even on the mound with stuff, Flaherty has the experience and we’ve seen him come up huge in big games multiple times already. With Mize, it’s tough to bet on him as a rookie in that spot.
Thank you Matt Graves
We’d like to give a big thank you to Matt for joining us as we take a look at the NL Central teams that Detroit will see this year (Even if he was wrong about Mize winning the World Series for us. We can hope right?). You can follow Matt on Twitter and keep up with all of the St. Louis Cardinals news at Redbird Rants.