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" (credit to C70) 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 fifth potential draftee write up:
Left Handed Pitcher
Age on draft day: 20
Since I'm operating under the assumption that Logan Gilbert won't be available to the Cardinals, I believe that the Cardinals will be deciding between Jackson Kowar of Florida and Ryan Rolison of Ole Miss with the 19th pick in the draft. At first, my preference would have been the right-handed Kowar, but Rolison possesses something that I love out of pitchers. But before we get to that, I wanna talk about Michael "Lance" Lynn.
With the 39th overall selection in the 2008 draft the Cardinals selected Lance Lynn. Lynn, like Rolison, went to Ole Miss and was a big deal for the Runnin' Rebels. Lynn went on to pitch a standout six seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals between 2011 and 2017. Lynn was a great draft selection.
I bring up Lynn not only because he went to Ole Miss but because he and Rolison both possess a fire/tenacity/edge on the mound that I love to see out of college-age draftees.
Rolison is a team leader and you can tell that his team plays for him when he is on the mound. He guts out every pitch that he throws in every outing and he pitches.
Both of these gentlemen are mound-bulldogs. I LOVE this reaction after the big strike out:
The other thing that Rolison and Lynn have in common, although Lance seemed to drop this trait as he got older, is that they both are unhappy to be taken out of a game when the game gets tough.
This is one of the more mild reactions that he has when the coach comes to take him out of a tight spot:
However, that is about where the similarities end between the two. Rolison is more than just a fastball pitcher. Rolison possesses a neat little curve ball that works a bit like a change up. It reminds me of where Austin Gomber's curve ball was when he first started throwing it in the minors. It's a little flat, a bit like a slider/slurve, and it's not a "12-6", but you can see how it'd be good as it progressed:
This next gif is of the utmost importance, in my opinion. What you'll see here is Rolison throw two pitches to two different hitters. It's not a sequence, per se, but it gives you an idea of how his motion works when he throws the changeup and the fastball. It should also give you an idea of why his curve, change, and fastball work so well together. If overlaid, you'd see very little difference in how he throws them. You'd also see that they travel along the same path until his secondary offerings start to do their thing:
Another thing worth bringing up is that Rolison is an alum of the Cape Cod League. As I mentioned when I did the write up of Logan Gilbert, the Cardinals have a history of drafting players that played in this league. I think that gives Rolison and Gilbert a bit of an edge when it comes to predicting them to the Cardinals at 19.
So, the question is "what is the hold up if Ryan Rolison is a feisty competitor with a surprisingly good fastball and two secondary offerings that mix well?" The first answer is "control." It's funny, though, because if there was ever a draft pick that had command but not control it's Rolison.
It seems like Rolison has to dance out of trouble a lot. Maybe that's another thing that he has in common with Lance Lynn, come to think of it.
The other thing that holds Rolison back from being a top 10 selection is that he doesn't throw the ball harder than the low-90's. In a day and age when every pitchers seems to throw the ball 95+ MPH, a kid that infrequently hits 93+ MPH has a tendency to be undersold. While that doesn't bug me it does sway how others evaluate him.
The Cardinals have an obvious hole behind Austin Gomber when it comes to left-handed pitching. Ian Oxnevad and Evan Kruczynski have a chance to be major league contributors in within the next two year and Andrew Summerville and Brett Seeburger could surprise in the coming years, as well. However, if the Cardinals drafted Rolison with the 19th selection he'd immediately be the second best left-handed pitcher in the organization behind Gomber while, at the same time, more advanced that Gomber was at that same age. He's another option at 19 that the Cardinals would be fortunate to have in the organization.
Special thanks to ESPN and the SEC Network for the video.