Updated: Jun 1, 2018
We are less than a week away from June 4th, and that means that the first round, compensitory round, and competitive balance round-A of the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft is just days away! You'll be able to watch the first 43 selections live on The MLB Network.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be selecting 19th overall and 43rd overall. There are seemingly thousands and thousands of names that are draft eligible. It's exhausting. What I've decided to do is comb through the countless mock drafts, as well as some of the names that I've heard through the very limited connections I've made. We will go over these names one by one over the next week. These evaluations will be the "brass-tacks" type. Very concise. Very much to the "bottom line."
I'm only going to touch on the potential targets for the 19th overall pick with this primer. Later on, I'll give you some of the players that I'd like to see the Cardinals target at 43rd overall and beyond in the draft.
This comes with a caution: THE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DRAFT IS THE CLOSEST THING THAT YOU'LL FIND IN SPORTS TO A FERAL ANIMAL. I believe that it's the most unpredictable draft in all of professional sports. Hell, it's probably the most unpredictable and malleable "thing" in all of sports. Because of the draft pool, teams often jockey their allotted cash so that they can afford to give larger bonuses to players later in the draft. Sometimes that means not drafting the best available player with their pick. Sometimes that means having to draft over slot. What I'm saying is, the MLB draft is a game of roulette, and one in which the wheel never stops spinning and the ball never stops rolling until all 40 rounds are complete.
Let's get to it! Here's our second potential draftee write up:
Right Handed Pitcher
University of Florida
Age on draft day: 21
IF I were to pick a leader in the club house for the Cardinals 1st pick it would be Jackson Kowar. Now, Randy Flores doesn't have an extensive track record when it comes to first round picks, but John Mozeliak does. If you were gong to hedge in one direction it'd be collegiate pitchers with a developed/advanced change up to pair with a good fastball.
That's who Kowar is.
When you watch Kowar, you feel like you are looking at a pitcher that is half Michael Wacha and half Luke Weaver.
His change up is deadly. I don't know where I'd put it in regards to this draft class, but what I do know is that it's major league caliber. Take a look at this thing:
You'll notice that he throws it with tremendous arm action. He doesn't slow down at all, either. It's fluid and natural and wonderful. It has a little pepper at 84 MPH, too. Now, let's compare the arm action of the change up to the arm action of the two seam:
That's one of the flatter two seam fastballs that I've seen him throw, but I wanted to use it for learning purposes. You'll notice the velocity is around 92 MPH. He isn't a burner, but there's reason to believe that his body will take on more weight along the way. He's 6'4" and right around 175 lbs, so I could easily see him adding some weight with velocity to follow.
He finishes the two seam more straight up and down than he does with the change up, but the release points are both where they should be.
Now, where I haven't been able to get clarification is on if he throws a four seam or if his two seam just flattens out when he tries to pump it in. Here, you'll see that his velocity ticked up to 94 MPH, but the ball is much flatter than the gif of the two seamer above on it's path to the plate:
I tend to believe that this is his four seam fastball. It explodes out of his hand and it carries the velocity all of the way to the mitt. These three pitches all working in conjunction with each other have been the catalyst for his 9-3 record and 84 strikeouts in 86.2 innings pitched.
Where it gets interesting with Kowar (and another signal that he's on the highway to the Cardinals at 19) is that he has an underdeveloped but promising breaking pitch. It's more of a curve than anything, but when he's locating it like he does here, you can see the promise that it dsiplays:
Without soliciting the work of the magician that is Cardinalsgifs, you can tell right away that this young man doesn't change his arm while trying to throw any of his pitches. What I like about the curve is, it actually seems like he speeds up a little to throw it. That's the reverse of what most do. I believe that bodes well for it's long term development.
The other thing that I really like about Kowar is that he is a fast worker. He gets the ball, doesn't play around with, and just throws. He works at a very good pace.
While he doesn't possess the high-end velocity or powerful breaking pitch of Logan Gilbert from Stetson (who you'll read about tomorrow), Kowar is still one of the best pitchers in the draft. Over the last few years, Florida has done a tremendous job of supplying the major leagues with high-caliber pitching prospects and Kowar isn't an exception. This is the kind of pick that might look boring on the surface but has the potential to yield great results in the long run, just like Michael Wacha and Luke Weaver have to date for the Cardinals.
Credit to ESPN, the SEC Network, and Youtuber Sodo Mojo for the video.