Updated: May 4, 2020
On Friday night, the heroes at Prospects Live put on a tremendously wonderful event that I was asked to be a part of. It was a mock draft of the first three rounds of the 2020 MLB Amateur Player Draft. Each team in Major League Baseball was represented by a member of that team's Twitter/writing community. If I'm being 100% honest, I thought that I was more knowledgeable than most accounts when it came to the amateur baseball world. This draft proved just how wrong I was in that assessment. Of the 30 people involved in the drafting side of this event, I had to have been the dumbest. There is so much knowledge and so many talented people in this realm of the baseball world. To be a part of this event was such an honor. You can track down all of these people (and they are all really awesome people, too, which is another testament to how fantastic Prospects Live is) by following THIS LINK. You can see the full results of the draft by following THIS LINK. I'd love to compare who you would have taken with who I took! The folks at Prospects Live deserve so much credit for this. Not only did Eddy Almaguer, Eddy Almaguer's hair, Ralph Lifshitz, and my friend Matt Thompson organize this fantastic event, they also hosted a live show that was both informative and a ton of fun. I've linked to that YouTube video of the draft within this sentence. It's four hours worth of content. While that might seem like an overwhelming amount of content, I can promise you that it's a great listen/watch. At a time when we are looking for high-quality entertainment to distract us from the pain that is the current socioeconomic landscape of this pandemic, all of the parties involved provided a genuine and uniquely-entertaining experience. Before we get too far, I'm going to included the rankings for each drafted player from Perfect Game, FanGraphs, and Baseball America. FOLLOW THE LINK BY CLICKING ON EACH NAME AND SUBSCRIBE TO THEIR SERVICES. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO. AS OF THIS VERY MOMENT, I DO. I subscribed to all of them today so that I could provide you their rankings for each player. All three offer an incredible resource at a modest price. All of these outlets need your support, and they all do top-shelf work. PLEASE SUBSCRIBE AND HELP THEM OUT. You can find the MLB Pipeline rankings by clicking on this link.
NOW THAT WE HAVE THAT OUT OF THE WAY...
As the representative for the St. Louis Cardinals, I decided to draft as if I was my own perception of Randy Flores, John Mozeliak, Michael Girsch, and the rest of the scouting family with the Cardinals. We weren't given any parameters or limitations on how or who we were to draft, but this was the philosophy that I decided to employ. I wanted to provide the Cardinals faithful with the closest idea of what I think the Cardinals would do in this draft in these circumstances.
Remember, this article is less about scouting reports than it is about explaining my thought process at each spot. I included tweets within this article for two reasons. First, because you know I love dat video. Second, because a lot of those tweets have some good info attached to them. Read the info. Watch the videos. I plan on providing more in-depth analysis in the future. I drafted (and so will the Cardinals come draft day) 21st, 54th, 63rd, 70th, and 93rd. Below I have listed those picks and the reason why I went with each at that spot.
21st Overall: Catcher, Patrick Bailey North Carolina State University Age 21 At Draft
Randy Flores took over as the head of amateur scouting before the start of the 2016 draft. Every year since, including the 2016 draft, Flores has taken the best available player with the Cardinals' first-round pick. That player is always someone that has dropped down the draft board, right into the laps of the Cardinals. For this draft, the clear answer was Patrick Bailey. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but Bailey was there at 21. This is a topical pick, as well, because of the comments from Yadier Molina earlier in the week. Truth be told, I don't care about those comments at all, and I'm flummoxed how those comments were even news. But I get it, I guess. There's literally nothing else going on. Drafting Bailey here was purely coincidental. The informed Cardinal fan might see the selection of Patrick Bailey and think, "That's a dumb selection. The Cardinals have Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, and Julio Rodriguez (Dennis Ortega and Edgardo Rodriguez, to a lesser extent). Drafting a catcher with the first selection is dumb."
While I get the sentiment, I disagree profoundly with it. First, while Delvin Perez has been a letdown thus far, the Cardinals have done well in sticking with their philosophy of drafting the guy that fell to them. Nolan Gorman is still the masher that he projected to be on draft day, and he's maintained that while solidifying his defense as a third baseman. ZacK Thompson fell to the Cardinals as well, and he's gone from being a red-flagged pitcher with a history of arm issues to a pitcher that seems to have taken the next step in his development towards being a top of the rotation arm. Choosing the best available player with your first-round selection, regardless of the position of that player, is the only philosophy worth having in the draft. The Cardinals are usually only interested in trading from areas of extreme depth, as well. The addition of Bailey to the organization might finally be what nudges Mo and Co. to trade the major league ready and starter-deserving Andrew Knizner (also from NC State) for an upgrade elsewhere. Remember, it wasn't until Ivan Herrera and Julio Rodriguez came into their own that the Cardinals' finally felt comfortable moving Carson Kelly. As I try and say it as loud as I possibly can, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH DEPTH OR TOO MANY OPTIONS.
So, Bailey is a perfect fit for the Cardinals at 21, if he were to fall. He's from a program that the Cardinals appear to trust (along with Knizner, they've also drafted Evan Mendoza under Flores). He's played in the Cape Cod League and for the Team USA Collegiate National Team, two areas that Flores has been known to mine. He's also a high-character young man that leads by example, and he's called his own games in college. He has a strong arm, and he might be the most impressive defensive catcher in the draft. A switch-hitter as well, it's hard to find a box that Bailey wouldn't check for the Cardinals front office. The concern with Bailey, and the reason that he might have fallen to 21st pick in this mock, is that he strikes out a lot. Most of his power projection comes from his raw power as opposed to his in-game power, although he has displayed good in-game power. These are definitely issues, but they are issues that I'd gladly look right over with the 21st overall selection. Power is usually one of the tools that manifest last, and his 12.8% walk rate in college is enough to make me forget about the strikeouts. Especially for a true-catcher.
I don't think that there is any way that Bailey makes it to the Cardinals during the actual draft, but he's a home run selection for them if he does. Had Bailey been taken, the best available player on the board would have been Oklahoma RHP Cade Cavalli.
Second Selection 54th Overall: Shortstop Jordan Westburg Mississippi State Age 21
I can't begin to express how surprised I was that Westburg was still on the board for the 54th pick. Like with Bailey at 21st overall, I don't think that Westburg will be there for the Cardinals at 54 when the actual draft takes place. Now, I need to say that I almost went in a completely different direction with this selection. Last season, the Cardinals selected Trejyn Fletcher with their second-round pick. Fletcher is tooled-up, but the high school draftee needs a lot of work in every aspect of the game to get to the point of being a viable professional option. It's going to take a handful of seasons to get him there if he does get there. I nearly went in a similar direction here. However, Westburg is too talented and too much of a value to pass on.
My own personal introduction to Westburg came during this past Cape Cod League season. One of the standout performers in this prestigious league, Westburg, hit 326/385/516 with four home runs and six doubles. He did a lot of damage with the wooden bat, and he showed signs of development with both his mechanics and his approach. He really stood out. To echo a sentiment about Bailey, the Cardinals love them some Cape Cod kids that do well in the league, and Westburg fits that profile. There are a couple of things that really stick out to me about Westburg. First, I LOVE his size. He's listed at 6'3" 191, and he's athletic for that size frame. There are some concerns that he won't stick at short, but I'm not too worried about that. I think that he's quicker and more technically-solid with his footwork than he's given credit for. The Cardinals have had a lot of luck maxing out the defensive skill-set of this type of player (see Paul DeJong and Max Schrock, to name a couple). That being said, the Cardinals have made a point to turn as many players into utility players at the minor league level as possible. I have no doubt that Westburg could handle both third and second, and I'm willing to bet that he'd be fine in a corner outfield position or first if he can hit for enough power.
What I find most interesting about Westburg is his hit tool. I believe that he's one mechanical adjustment away from really tapping into his potential. Westburg has done a great job of lowering his strikeout rate from year to year in college, and he was just starting to tap into his power before the season was shut down. I believe that confidence and a mechanical adjustment are the reason for this. In past seasons, Westburg had a slight toe-tap timing mechanics that would often throw his hands out of rhythm with his lower half. This little quirk had been primarily eliminated early on in 2020, and his lower-half timing looked so much better. He still has a slight pivot with his front foot, but his timing is so much better. With that frame and that swing, there's plus raw power to be tapped into.
The Cardinals have shown an attraction to this type of player in the past, but Westburg is more physically gifted, with more raw tools, than they usually draft. If he falls to 54, then the Cardinals must select him. A few other names that I considered at this spot were IF/OF Casey Martin from Arkansas, third baseman Gage Workman from Arizona State, and the player that I ended up selecting 63rd overall. That being said, it came down to Westburg and the player that I chose at 63.
Pick 63: Shortstop Harold Coll Georgia Premier Academy (HS) Age 18
MLB Pipeline Rank: Unranked Baseball America Rank: 365 FanGraphs Rank: Unranked Perfect Game Rank: 249
Continuing on with another player that probably won't be there for the selection that he was taken at, I took tooled-up prep shortstop Harold Coll. This pick came from the Rays in the deal that sent Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena, and their Comp Round A selection to Tampa for LHP Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez. I view this as a free pick. A free selection. It's expressedly designed to be a lottery ticket or a wild card. Even better, there's precedence set by this organization for such a selection. Last season, the Cardinals drafted the toolsy and raw prep outfielder Trejyn Fletcher with the 58th pick in that draft. Fletcher is/was a TRUE athlete, and he possesses the foundation for five tools, although a ton of work is going to be needed with each to get those tools to get near their baseball ceilings. They were able to comfortably draft Fletcher with this pick because they had already drafted a pretty sure thing in ZacK Thomspon with their first-round selection, and they were prepared to go college pitching-heavy with the rest of their draft. As we look at what the Cardinals have done so far in this mock draft, they've been able to get two players that fell to them relative to the industry standard. This allows them the comfort to go after a player that is quite as far along in their developmental maturation. It's time to get a little wild. It's time to dream big. It's time to add a fancy white hat to your purple tie and red smoking jacket.
There isn't a part of Fletcher's game and skill-set that I prefer over Coll's. They are both raw, and they both need work to get to their ceiling, but Coll has the baseball skills and feel that Fletcher doesn't quite show. His swing is better, his feel for hitting is better, he's more mechanically sound and fluid in the field, and he plays the infield. If I'm being honest with you, Harold Coll is the player that I wish Trejyn Fletcher was.
Coll is still raw, and he needs work, but there are few things about the way that he plays or the kid that he is that would make you concerned that he won't eventually come as close as he possibly can to maxing-out his skills. He stands about six feet tall, and every inch of the righties 170-ish frame is athletically-muscular. He's so physically gifted. As you'll see in the tweet below, this young man isn't short on confidence, either. He fields this grounder, makes a remarkable little exchange from his glove to his hand between his legs while in motion, then fires the ball with a plus arm after fielding this grounder.
All of this is to say that I have no doubt that the Cardinals would draft him here - or even at 54 - if the opportunity presents itself. The selection of Fletcher in 2019 proves that. They should have a wee bit of draft pool cash saved at this point on the off chance that they'll need to bolster the signing bonus to keep him away from college. As I said during the draft, when I was live with the Prospects Live family, I think that Coll at 63 just might be the steal of the draft. I almost selected him at 54 instead of Westburg, and I believe that it could be argued that drafting him at 54 might even have been the steal of the draft. With Coll still on the board at 63, I didn't even consider anyone else.
Fourth Selection 70th: Outfielder Zach DeLoach Texas A&M Age 21
Two things came to me right away that dictated drafting DeLoach with this selection. First, there's no way that the Cardinals aren't going to make it out of the first three rounds without a left-handed hitting outfielder. Maybe not an outfielder, but a purely left-handed hitter, for sure. Second, I believe that the Cardinals would definitely go for something safer with the 70th pick after getting aggressive with Coll at 63. There are a lot of other things about DeLoach that make him a perfect Cardinals-type selection. First, you guessed it, he performed well in the Cape Cod League, specifically against left-handed pitching. It was on the Cape that DeLoach started to tap into some of his raw power, too. As a matter of fact, DeLoach showed signs of being both a power and a speed threat as he gained more confidence in the league. He even won the Cape batting title. During the abbreviated collegiate season, DeLoach walked 14 times while only striking out three times. The Cardinals ache for this type of player.
The Cardinals also have a track record of taking players that start to display uncharacteristic power during their junior season. I believe that part of the power surge comes from a lower-half mechanical adjustment. DeLoach has always done a good job of incorporating his lower-half into his swing, but he eliminated the hover in his front foot, and that has seemed to help add to his power production. It also doesn't hurt that he's filled out well over the years. Along with these positives, his bat speed seems to have ticked up a bit as compared to recent seasons. I like DeLoach in centerfield more than most. He has good speed and instincts, but there are some questions about his arm strength. Regardless, DeLoach would certainly be ticketed to start his time in the organization in center. I'll be honest, I do worry that he'll have to stick in center or move to left, but I'm not going to put the center field-assignment by a kid as dedicated and committed as DeLoach. The Cardinals have been able to get the most out of the arms of fielders at the minor league level, and I expect the same will be said about DeLoach. DeLoach is just such a "Cardinals" selection. Everything about him screams, "Cardinals."
The only other player that I seriously considered drafting at 70 was Illinois prep righty Ben Hernandez. Part of me regrets not drafting him, and I would have drafted him had DeLoach not been such a "Cardinals" type player. I also kicked around the idea of selecting YouTube sensation and eventual first baseman Blaze Jordan, as well as prep outfielder Mackenzie Wainwright (no relation to Adam Wainwright).
Fifth Selection 93rd: RHP Victor Mederos Westminster Christian Academy (HS) Age At Draft: 19
LET THE RECORD SHOW that I had every intention of taking Oregon State RHP Kevin Abel with this selection. Abel's season was lost because of Tommy John surgery, and I thought that I was going to have the chance to be clever with my last pick in the mock. The Cardinals aren't afraid to draft a hotshot collegiate pitcher that's missing time because of Tommy John surgery. They did it in the fourth round with LHP Steve Gingery during the 2018 draft. Of course, Abel ended up being taken about ten selections before I could take him. I was heartbroken. My world collapsed in on itself. I was left scrambling. I maintain that Abel is the perfect pick at 93 if he falls to the Cardinals in the real draft. But then I remembered that Randy Flores often talks about "zigging when others zag," and there was one prep righty that really stood out. Victor Mederos is a big boy with a frame to dream on. Under Flores, the Cardinals have actively scouted and drafted pitchers with high-spin breaking pitches, and Mederos fits that mold. There's a chance that the curveball from this Cuban refugee ends up as a plus offering with its 2,600+ RPM spin and movement. He commands it pretty well, too. The tweet below will demonstrate how filthy it can be.
The issue with Mederos is consistency. His two-seamer can kick up into the 96 MPH range, but he often lives below that. The command of each of his breaking pitches - a slider and a changeup in addition to his curve - is inconsistent. Mederos would be near the top of the list of prep righties if not for these inconsistencies.
While other prep pitchers might not use their developing secondary offerings, Mederos has made a point to use his offspeed offerings in all counts. I give the kid a ton of credit for doing this, and I feel confident in my assessment that the Cardinals would like this about him.
Another thing that the Cardinals would like about Mederos is his size. At 6'3"-ish and 215 lbs, Mederos has the build that you'd want out of a prep arm. As I said last night, there are a lot of things about Mederos that actually remind me of current Cardinals prospect Johan Oviedo. Both Oviedo and Mederos are big-bodied right-handers that were born in Cuba. Both throw high-spin secondary offerings, too. On top of that, they've both dealt with inconsistency issues brought on by a lack of body control. As we now know about the 22-year-old Oviedo, it takes time for a pitcher as naturally gifted as these two to put it all together. Just like with Oviedo, I believe that Mederos will find his consistency once he learns to better take care of his body. I think that the Cardinals will help him discover that consistency and training. Even with the inconsistency, the two-time Under Armour All-American is an impressive player that likes to pitch on the big stage.
Now, there were a couple of other pitchers that fit the Flores mold better at this pick than Mederos does. I was banking heavily on the Cardinals taking a projectable prep arm (zigging) in a draft that was heavy with talented collegiate arms (zagging). But it's also worth mentioning that the Cardinals haven't taken a prep arm this early in the draft under Randy Flores. The closest that they've come was in 2017 when they drafted RHP Wilberto Rivera with their 8th round selection. That is, unless you want to count the selection of Walker Robbins who was just converted from outfielder to pitcher this past season. Robbins was taken in the 5th round of the 2016 draft. Rivera isn't even in the organization anymore.
Truth be told, I think that Trenton Denholm from UC Irvine is probably the selection that they'd make at that spot. The smaller righty is awfully Andre Pallante-esque, and we know that the Cardinals love that type of pitcher. Some other names that I considered at 93 were JuCo Righty Connor Phillips (the Cardinals love pitchers named Connor and Conner), Coastal Carolina RHP Zach McCambley, and prep RHP Max Rajcic. I didn't particularly like any of the lefties left on the board, and I think that there's a good chance that the Cardinals would go in that direction instead. And that concludes my selections as the representative for the Cardinals in Prospects Live's 2020 Mock Draft! It was a ton of fun, and I felt luck to be a part of it!
Once again, a special thank you to everyone at Prospects Live for putting this on! Also, thank you so much to @Cardinalsgifs for the amazing cover photo!! That man just outdoes himself every day. He's truly an artist.
Thanks For Reading!!
Editor’s Note: in the original copy of this post, I incorrectly stated that Steve gingery was drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft. He was actually drafted in the fourth round. The updated post reflects the change.