As we embark on the first leg of our journey down the rabbit hole that is prospect rankings, I wanted to take a little time to go over some of the draft picks that didn't make the list but still have a chance of making the 2019 preseason rankings.
There are some players that I'm not going to cover here that are worth keeping an eye on. Third rounder Mateo Gil, a 17-year-old short stop and son of former Major Leaguer Bengi Gil, is a pure athlete that will stick at short stop or move to third. He's a patient hitter that is developing the rest of his game.
Eight rounder Lars Nootbaar has a name that makes everyone smile and power potential to match. But that power potential comes with big strikeout capabilities. Most scouts believe that a swing tweak will allow him to max-out his power.
Seventh rounder Brendan Donovan is an outfielder that will be playing the infield in the Cardinals organization. Most believe that he has the chops to stay at either 2B or 3B, especially because he displays such a great contact tool and feel for the strike zone.
Eleventh rounder Chris Holba could be a Matt Pearce-type starting pitcher in the organization. The O'Fallon High School native is poised and in control on the mound and will be ready for a full season club to start 2019 with a slight improvement in command.
Perhaps the biggest sleeper of the group (aside from 40th round pick and NAIA darling Andrew Warner who hails from the marvelous Boone County, MO area) is 23rd round selection Michael Baird. Baird is a big boy with big stuff. Standing 6'5", Baird could end up being the sneakiest pick for the Cardinals in the draft.
However, there are six selections from the 2018 draft that deserve more than just a quick little write up. These are two players from the 2018 draft that are included on the Dirty 35, but these are the six that I'm the most intrigued by.
First Baseman. 21-years-old
2nd Round Draft Pick, 75th Overall
Luken Baker is a monster of a human being and everything about him reminds me of Evan Gattis. When I watch Gattis, he doesn't necessarily have the home run swing that you are taught. Instead, his swing is somewhat level and he basically muscles everything over the fence.
Baker is reportedly a terrible defensive first baseman, but I've watch José Martínez play first base for the Cardinals all season and I'm convinced that Baker couldn't be any worse.
More than likely, he's a prototypical DH, but you don't make those kind of concessions about a player's future until you absolutely have to. The TCU standout is a dedicated baseball player, so I have no doubt that he'll max out his defensive capabilities.
The issue with Baker, and why he isn't on the Dirty 35, is that he's been plagued by injuries. Now, nearly all of these injuries have been the fluke-type. He was sidelined until earlier this week following surgery on a fractured left fibula after sliding into second. The prior season, he missed 47 games following an unorthodox collision at first base. Baker was once a two way player for TCU, but his pitching career was cut short because of an arm injury.
Injury concerns aside, Baker is a high-power prospect at first base. With just a few additional games underneath his belt he would have had his own spot carved out in the Dirty 35. The good news is that Baker's season is officially fired up and he's three games into his GCL season.
Left Handed Pitcher, 20-years-old
4th Round, 123rd Overall
The Texas Tech alum is the most intriguing member of the 2018 draft class. Gingery lost his entire 2018 season to a torn UCL. He was on the sidelines following Tommy John Surgery and watched his Texas Tech team rally for a strong showing in the College World Series, even if they came up short for their ultimate goal. It was rumored that the Cardinals and Gingery (Pronounced with hard "G's" I believe. Not to be confused with the root or the slang term for a person with red hair) had an agreement in place early on in the signing process but Gingery was waiting to sign it until the Texas Tech run was over so as to not distract the team from the situation.
I bring that up because, whether the rumor is true or not, this kid is a team player and he loves baseball. He became the biggest cheerleader for that Texas Tech club after the torn UCL ended his season. It's easy to sulk and pity yourself and look toward the major leagues, but Gingery isn't that type of player. Cardinals fans are going to love him.
What stands out most about Gingery is his change up. It's the best pitch in his arsenal and it was definitely in the top tier in the draft. One thing that I really like about what the Cardinals did in this draft was that they targeted pitchers with advanced secondary offerings.
There was a chance that Gingery would have been a first rounder had he stayed healthy. Either way, he was a surefire top 50 pick and the Cardinals did well for themselves by paying over-slot to secure him in the 4th round.
Gingery is advanced. When healthy, he displays advanced feel and command of three pitches. However, what keeps him off of the Dirty 35 is that I refuse to put anyone that has never pitched professionally while coming off of Tommy John surgery on the list. Just like with Baker, Mr. Gingery would be an easy selection to the list if health was not such a big question. I believe with every ounce of me that he's going to be fine and that he's going to rise lightning-quick through the organization, but I have to see his name on a stat sheet before I'm willing to commit to it. On the plus side, Gingery is only 20-years-old currently so he has plenty of time to recover.
Second Baseman, 21-years-old
5th Round, 153 Overall
While he might be the least exciting player that I'm highlighting out of these six, Nick Dunn is as much of professional as anyone that the Cardinals drafted.
The Maryland product is steady. That's the word. He's a steady second baseman. He's a steady hitter. He's just... steady.
But in his steadiness is a contact tool that will play. Range at second base that will play. An arm that will play. I give credit to @JDavidReed who said the words before I could get them out of my mouth: 'Nick Dunn is Max Schrock-lite." Just take a look:
Yes, JDavid, he absolutely is. Schrock possesses a little more power and a more advanced contact tool, but he's also older and more advanced than your average hitter. I have no doubt that Dunn has a similar ceiling to Schrock's ceiling. If the young doubles-machine develops anything that resembles ten-home run power he's going to be a viable major league option at second base.
Outfielder/First Baseman, 21-years-old
10th Round, 303rd Overall
Since the minute that the Cardinals drafted Woodall I've been calling him a sleeper. Now, I'm also a rube, so don't get too excited. What I see with Woodall is a chance; a chance that many tenth round selection neither have nor possess, especially collegiate seniors.
Woodall has sneaky power. He's a sneaky good fielder, as well. in 2016, Coastal Carolina University won the College World Series and Woodall played a big role as a sophomore in that victory. He sputtered a little bit in his junior year, but everything to click during his senior year. Make no mistake, Woodall can absolutely UNLOAD on a ball:
Woodall is a big boy at 6'6" and right around 230 lbs. He hasn't hit the most home runs, but the home runs that he's hit are the tape measure variety.
Woodall was one of four players to finish in the top 35 in HR, RBI, and runs during the 2018 season. He's a good base-runner with great instincts. He's split time between first and the outfield, but I'd love to see the righty stay at first.
The issue with Woodall is that he strikes out a lot. As a matter of fact, he did it 65 times in 245 AB as a senior. The strikeout rate hasn't been quite as alarming so far as a professional, but it's definitely the thing worth keeping the closest eye on in conjunction with the power numbers as he progresses within the organization.
Right Handed Pitcher, 19-years-old
12th Round, 363rd Overall
Man, I really like Justo. His story is incredible and his age is wonderful for his level of development, but what I really love is his slider. It's advanced, to say the least. It's developed. He controls it and equal-aged hitters don't stand a chance against it.
Dominican-born child moves with his family to New York at the age of eight. Fast forward to high school and Justo has to cut back on baseball because his father gets hurt at work. Thus, Francisco has to get a job to help support the family. When his dad healed, he moved back to the Dominican to train. Not to get noticed, but to train. He trains, gets better, and returns to New York. From there, he goes to a School called Monroe College. There, he gets noticed. And, here we are talking about him.
Justo will ride his 6'4" frame to the majors on the back of his advance feel of a slider and a fastball. Like with all pitchers, he'll need to really develop a third pitch, but I believe that his fastball/slider combo has the potential to be devastating out of the bullpen, at the very least.
Justo is a hidden gem. This pick has the chance to be robbery.
Outfield/Second Baseman, 21-years-old
14th Round, 423rd Overall
One of the underrated things about the MLB draft is that some of the college players are still playing in the College World Series when they are drafted. That gives you a chance to see a draftee in the most intense of situations after they are drafted.
That's the exact situation in which I was first exposed to Riley. Much like 2017 draft picks Chase Pinder and Scott Hurst, Riley caries himself at the plate like few young men do.
The power isn't there, but he has tremendous plate coverage and I've been impressed by how well he handles difficult left-handed pitching. As you'll find out very soon, I see a lot of Jon Jay in Scott Hurst, but Riley possesses the slap-plate coverage of Jay, too.
Riley has played 2B in college, but it appears that the Cardinals plan on using him in center field, at least to start his minor league career. Of course, I'd very much like for Mr. Riley to play 2B because of organizational need, but I'm anxious to see how he handles center. He played that position during the CWS and he seemed like a natural. Of course, pro-ball will expose any holes.
Right now, Riley seems like another steady player with good tools for the Cardinals to utilize from a depth standpoint. What I know is, there is something more advanced and complex in Riley's game. While I have yet to be able to define it, I'm anxious to watch as much of him as possible to truly find out.
Thanks for Reading, and stay tuned as the Dirty Thirty-Five get underway