Thompson leads the pack, but there’s a few more interesting players.
Sometime during the All-Star break or around it, I tend to post a recap of sorts of how the previous MLB draft is playing. This is as much for my benefit as the readers because I like to be informed of how the system is doing, and there’s no better sign than the most recent draft. I was going to do something similar this year, but I realized there just wasn’t much data due to the late start. So with the minor league season starting a month late, here comes this post a month late. Seems fair?
Jordan Walker (#21) has emerged as an elite hitting prospect, Masyn Winn (#54) is making the case for being in the top 100 himself, Tink Hence (#63) has struck everyone out in the complex league, Alec Burleson (#70) has hit his way to a AAA promotion, Levi Prater (#93) has either walked or struck out literally over 50% of the hitters he’s faced in Low A, Ian Bedell (#122) needed Tommy John surgery after just one start, and LJ Jones IV (#152) has a 65 wRC+ as a 1B/OF type at 22-years-old in Low A.
Alright, glad I could update you, and that’s all I have to say.
Just kidding, this post is actually about the 2019 draftees. Who are in essentially the same position as the 2020 draftees, but a year older. They are similarly in their first full minor league season – well not quite full, but you get the idea. And while I’m pretty informed of the 2020 guys – they’ve made it hard not to notice them – I’m a little more in the dark about the 2019 group. So let’s go through them, shall we?
Zack Thompson (1st Round, #19) – LHP, 22-years-old
Stats (AAA): 62.2 IP, 17.9 K%, 11.5 BB%, 35.6 GB%, 6.61 ERA, 6.38 FIP, 5.95 xFIP
Ugly, ugly stuff, but there’s some good news. He may have turned a corner recently. In his last three starts, Thompson has thrown 17 innings, struck out 15, walked 5 and given up just two earned runs. Whether he can maintain that, who knows? But hopefully it’s a sign that he’s at least somewhat figured out AAA.
Tre Fletcher (2nd Round, #58) – OF, 20-years-old
Stats (CPX): 29 PAs, .222/.276/.407, 6.9 BB%, 37.9 K%, .185 ISO, 76 wRC+
Not a whole lot of plate appearances to work with, that said, this is not terribly encouraging. Going to need to make contact at some point.
Tony Locey (3rd Round, #96) – RHP, 22-years-old
Stats (Low A): 34 IP, 23.8 K%, 17.9 BB%, 34.1 GB%, 3.71 ERA, 5.87 FIP, 6.44 xFIP
Have no fear. Locey was in the Nolan Arenado trade, which I couldn’t have told you before checking his stats. He seems rather unlikely to be a player the Cardinals regret trading.
Andre Pallante (4th Round, #125) – RHP, 22-years-old
Stats (AA): 78 IP, 19.3 K%, 10.9 BB%, 56.7 GB%, 4.62 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 4.53 xFIP
These stats are slightly more encouraging than they at first seem I think. Pallante pitched in short season A ball back in 2019. Prior to this season, the Cardinals felt he didn’t need to pitch in either Low A or High A, and skipped him all the way to AA. He has somewhat rewarded that confidence by holding his own. He’s also in a hitter’s league on top of it all. His stats are not impressive, but I think it’s a win they aren’t awful.
Connor Thomas (5th Round, #155) – LHP, 23-years-old
Stats (AA): 20.1 IP, 27.3 K%, 3.4 BB%, 57.9 GB%, 4.87 ERA, 5.21 FIP, 3.17 xFIP
AAA: 54.1 IP, 20.7 K%, 6.9 BB%, 60.6 GB%, 3.48 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 3.71 xFIP
Thomas was a little older than Pallante and the Cardinals liked him enough that he actually pitched 27.1 decent innings in Low A back in 2019. So it was less of a surprise for him to start this year in AA. As you can see by that absurd K/BB ratio plus an extreme groundball percentage, they promoted him after just four starts. And then he went and got even more groundballs in AAA. The K/BB was less impressive, but I mean look at the ERA/FIP/xFIP combination. Thomas will be in St. Louis in 2022.
Pedro Pages (6th Round #185) – C, 22-years-old
Stats (A+): 239 PAs, .234/.335/.376, 11.3 BB%, 25.5 K%, .141 ISO, 100 wRC+
Pages had absurd numbers in short season A upon being drafted (149 wRC+ with ridiculous K/BB numbers), so it’s almost a disappointment that he is “only” average in High A. He seems like a prime candidate to “break out” in AA though – the change from Palm Beach to Springfield is more extreme than Peoria to Springfield, but Peoria is still very much a pitcher’s park.
Jack Ralston (7th Round, #215) – RHP, 23-years-old
Stats (A+): 47.1 IP, 35.7 K%, 12.1 BB%, 38.2 GB%, 3.80 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.53 xFIP
Ralston is whatever the opposite of an innings eater is – think Daniel Poncedeleon at his most frustrating. He has, to the best of my knowledge, not been injured, and has pitched that many innings in 10 starts and 5 relief appearances. He seems to have moved to the bullpen. In the bullpen, he’s pitched 7 innings, struck out 11, walked 2, and given up one earned run. So probably a future member of the STL bullpen.
Logan Gragg (8th Round, #245) – RHP, 22-years-old
Stats (A+): 62.2 IP, 16.7 K%, 6.7 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 5.89 ERA, 6.21 FIP, 5.32 xFIP
At least a little surprising since he has pretty decent stats in Low A back in 2019.
Todd Lott (9th Round, #275) – 1B, 23-years-old
Stats (A): 221 PAs, .263/.371/.464, 10.9 BB%, 28.1 K%, .220 ISO, 131 wRC+
A+: 31 PAs, .111/.226/.333, 12.9 B%, 41.9 K%, .222 ISO, 54 wRC+
He just got to High A, but given his age and position, you’d hope he’d adjust quickly. Lott has the patience and the power, but just can’t make contact enough.
Jake Sommers (10th Round, #305) – RHP, 24-years-old
Stats (A+): 23.1 IP, 31.5 K%, 8.1 BB%, 58.7 GB%, 7.33 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 3.57 xFIP
I somehow knew Sommers was in the Arenado trade, but not Locey. Anyway, this is another guy the Cards will not miss.
Connor Lunn (11th Round, #335) – RHP, 22-years-old
Stats (A+): 84.1 IP, 22.2 K%, 4.3 BB%, 45.3 GB%, 4.16 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 4.19 xFIP
I’m confused how his advanced stats don’t come out better. He’s by no means a groundball pitcher but he gets his fair share and he has a great K/BB ratio. I don’t get how that translates to a 4.19 xFIP. Anyway, if you wanted solid, but unexciting draft pick, these stats are the template.
Patrick Romeri (12th round, #365) – OF, 20-years-old
Stats (Low A): .220/.333/.321, 12.9 BB%, 29 K%, .101 ISO, 87 wRC+
Considering Romeri was in the Gulf Coast League in 2019, it’s not a huge surprise he’s overmatched in Low A. The power is just not there right now. In the GCL, he had a .217 ISO. But weirdly enough, he had nearly the same exact K% and BB% back in the GCL, so he’s not exactly getting dominated either.
Tommy Jew (13th Round, #395) – OF, 23-years-old
Stats (Low A): 217 PAs, .210/.318/.339, 12.4 BB%, 35.5 K%, 84 wRC+
Would have been cool to have the symmetry of the 1999, 2009 and 2019 13th round draft picks all turn into gold, but Tommy’s probably getting released at the end of the season, given his age.
Tyler Statler (14th Round, #425) – RHP, 19-years-old
Stats (CPX): 14 IP, 24.7 K%, 16.4 BB%, 50 GB%, 9.00 ERA, 6.16 FIP, 5.39 xFIP
Look at his age. He’s very, very young even two years after being drafted. He’s not a guy you write off yet, but you also don’t pay attention to him either.
David Vinsky (15th Round, #455) – OF, 22-years-old
Stats (AA): 185 PAs, .195/.293/.302, 11.9 BB%, 33.5 K%, .107 ISO, 65 wRC+
Some of these, shall we call, ambitious promotions are not in fact working out. Thompson being the poster boy, but Vinsky clearly seems like he should be at a lower level. Weird thing is though that he had a .089 ISO in short season A ball in 2019, so I have no idea why they thought he’d be good in AA.
Thomas Hart (16th Round, #485) – RHP, 20-years-old
Stats (CPX): 2.1 IP, 2 Ks, 2 BBs, 6 H, 3 ER
I feel like I can’t comment on this guy because I don’t know the story. He’s made two “starts,” the first of which was a scoreless inning with just a hit, so clearly they’re intending for him to pitch as few innings as he has. Those stats are a HUGE improvement over his GCL stats back in 2019, when he walked 34 and struck out 11 in 21.1 IP. Yes, 34 walks and 4 HBPs in 21.1 IP. The Cardinals bullpen would be proud.
Michael YaSenka (17th Round, #515) – RHP, 23-years-old
Stats (A+): 68 IP, 23.8 K%, 11.4 BB%, 29.3 GB%, 6.62 ERA, 5.73 FIP, 5.22 xFIP
The K/BB numbers are a tweak away from being good, but it’s not a good sign that every hitter hits the ball on the ground like they’re Joey Gallo against him. It’s no shocker that he’s allowed 13 homers in 68 IP.
Aaron Antonini (18th Round, #545) – C, 22-years-old
Stats (AA): 131 PAs, .189/.344/.330, 13.7 BB%, 27.5 K%, .142 ISO, 93 wRC+
A+: 30 PAs, .192/.300/.231, 10 BB%, 30 K%, .038 ISO, 60 wRC+
I have no idea what the Cardinals are doing with him. He for some reason started the year in AAA, and went hitless with a 50% K rate. Which you can’t blame him for since he played in Johnson City last year and no higher. He literally went from rookie ball to AAA. He got demoted to AA, had a very weird line that was almost average, and then got demoted again to High A, where’s struggled in a small sample. But like, he skipped so many levels and did basically okay in AA?
Zarion Sharpe (19th Round, #575) – RHP, 22-years-old
Didn’t sign because he wanted to return to college, build his draft stock to make more money. Played summer ball, pitched pretty well, and probably would have been drafted higher if not for only five rounds. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Twins and doing okay in Low A.
Adrian Mardueno (20th Round, #605) – RHP, 23-years-old
Didn’t get released until late May of 2020 when there was no minor league season on the horizon and the Cardinals couldn’t see wanting to roster him in 2021. Almost everyone released is released at the same time when you see released.
Jack Owen (21st Round, #635) – LHP, 23-years-old
His gamble, though I don’t know if he wasn’t interested in trying for the majors for sure, did not pay off. He did not get drafted or signed this year.
Zade Richardson (22nd Round, #665) – C, 21-years-old
Stats (A+): 216 PAs, .166/.324/.309, 13 BB%, 31.5 K%, .143 ISO, 87 wRC+
What a fantastically weird line, albeit not one that would ever make the majors. He is an on-base magnet, in some cases literally, getting hit 13 times. Unfortunately, there’s that ole hit tool that he does not seem to currently possess. But he’s a catcher and young for the level and both of those things give him a chance.
Brylie Ware (23rd Round, #695) – 3B, 24-years-old
Ware had a 77 wRC+ in short season A in 2019 and was very old for the level, so no surprise here.
Will Guay (24th Round, #725) – RHP, 24-years-old
Stats (Low A): 27.2 IP, 24.4 K%, 20 BB%, 36.8 GB%, 5.53 ERA, 6.20 FIP, 6.19 xFIP
Guay has since been released. If you’ll look above at the stats, you’ll understand why. Look a little further at his age and the level, and you’ll definitely understand why.
Alex McFarlane (25th Round, #755) – RHP, 20-years-old
One of those long shot high school players teams sometimes draft in these rounds.
Jeremy Randolph (26th Round, #785) – RHP, 25-years-old
Not to suggest this guy had a snowball’s chance in hell of making the majors, but this is the exact guy who got absolutely screwed over by the pandemic. At 23, he was sent to short season A ball after being drafted. He was… pretty good. But he wasn’t dominant and he did it at 23, and that means he entered this year at 25. He’d probably get another shot in 2019 had the season not been cancelled.
Eric Lex (27th Round, #815) – RHP, 25-years-old
Literally re-read the previous paragraph. Same exact circumstance.
Tyler Peck (28th Round, #845) – RHP, 23-years-old
He wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t good in Johnson City in 2019.
Scott Politz (29th round, #875) – LHP, 24-years-old
Now this guy may have been released anyway. While his stats were okay in short season A ball, he really didn’t strike anyone out and if you don’t strike anyone out as an old guy at State College, you won’t make the high minors.
Cameron Dulle (30th Round, #905) – RHP, 26-years-old
Eh why not, let’s waste this draft pick on a Mizzou guy. That said, he has the weird distinction of being bad in rookie ball, getting promoted to short season A ball, and then dominating. Like 2.18 FIP with a 2.04 xFIP dominating. But he was 24 at the time so, I’m not sure he’d pitch beyond 2019 either way.
Dylan Pearce (31st Round, #935) – LHP, 24-years-old
Another guy who probably would have lasted at least another year. He had a 30.9% K rate in Johnson City. But when he wasn’t striking batters out, he was very, very hittable with a .404 BABIP against and a 15.8 HR/FB%.
Chandler Redmond (32nd Round, #965) – 1B/3B/OF, 24-years-old
Stats (A+): 263 PAs, .234/.350/.459, 13.3 BB%, 33.5 K%, .225 ISO, 121 wRC+
I’ve seen a few commenters, or maybe just one multiple times, wonder why he’s not promoted yet. Well, if a 24-year-old is striking out 33.5% of the time at High A, the sky’s the limit for AA. That’s why. 121 wRC+ or not. He just can’t strike out that much that far away from the majors when he’s old for his level.
Anthony Green (33rd Round, #995) – RHP, 23-years-old
It’s pretty clear the Cardinals view this portion of the draft as arms to fill out the low minors. They throw them there, hope they dominate, and if they don’t, they release them.
Ben Baird (34th Round, #1,025) – 2B/SS/RHP, 23-years-old
Stats (CPX): 7 IP, 19.4 K%, 5.6 BB%, 34.8 GB%, 5.14 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 4.35 xFIP
Baird was drafted as a middle infielder and quickly and decisively proved he couldn’t hit. He had a -9 wRC+ with a 44 K% in 50 PAs at Johnson City. Instead of releasing him, they’ve converted him to pitcher. He’s been decent in the complex leagues, probably good enough to keep pitching beyond 2021.
Logan Hofmann (35th Round, #1,055) – RHP, 21-years-old
Interestingly, Hofmann was drafted as a 19-year-old sophomore out of Colby Community College. He was drafted in the 2020 draft in the 5th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s pitching good for them in Low A. Would be nice if he had signed.
Kyle Skeels (36th Round, #1,085) – C/1B, 24-years-old
The 37th-40th picks all went unsigned. They were, so far as I can tell, all high schoolers.
This seems like a pretty successful draft by my mind. The 2020 draft certainly looks more exciting, so it’s easy to write this draft off. But I count at least three pitchers in the high minors who may become MLB starters (Thompson, Pallante, Thomas), three intriguing catchers I could see make the majors (Pages, Antonini, Richardson), a very young for his level outfield prospect who is only a little below average (Romeri), and a very solid relief prospect (Ralston).
This is bound to look disappointing compared to the 2021 draft really. But this seems more or less what a successful draft looks like. If just one of those three starting pitching prospects can become an average MLB pitcher – and I’d bet money on that happening – then this draft has provided exactly what the Cards need right now. And hey they also traded two of the top 10 picks of this draft for Nolan Arenado. They weren’t the major pieces of course, but there’s at least some minor value out of two picks that usually provide none.