TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #36: C.J. McElroy

The St. Louis Cardinals' third-round selection in the 2011 draft makes his top 40 prospect list debut.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA OF 5/29/1993 5-10 180 R R 2011 3rd

School: Clear Creek HS (League City, TX)

Selected 2011 stats

GCL 0.228 79 10 18 2 1 0 7 7 15 8 0.303 0.278 0.582

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (46): McElroy is probably the Cardinals prospect with the least amount of consensus regarding where he should be ranked. I have seen him ranked by some prognosticators as high as 13th yet others do not have him in their top 40.

That lack of consensus probably stems from the raw tools that McElroy possesses and the debate about to what extent those tools can be molded into production. His first 23 games in the GCL did not yield superior production but the sample was small and the results had shining slivers of light such as McElroy's walk rate and his stolen base ability. The other shining aspect of McElroy's game which doesn't show up in most stats is his defense. Some have said his centerfield defense is nearly major league quality already. Whether it is that advanced is debatable but most seem to think it will be his glove that will carry him as he advances up the ladder.

I expect the Cards to move slowly with McElroy as to try to prevent the outcome of one of their last toolsy outfield types, Daryl Jones. In addition to the tools aspect of their games, McElroy and Jones are also similar in that both concentrated more on football in high school so are relatively raw compared to some draftees. My prediction that the Cards will move slow with McElroy means that I expect him to start 2012 in short-season ball (most likely Johnson City) and would not be surprised if he stays in short-season ball all year.

Message board community (NR): McElroy did not make the top 46 on the community list, but joined at #47, a pretty modest result for a primo athlete drafted in the third round this year. Blame it on the Gulf Coast League, where the 18-year-old scuffled to a shaky .228/.303/.278 performance. It could have been worse, though; at least Chuck McElroy's son showed a semblance of plate discipline, with a 7/15/79 ratio of BB/K/AB's... as well as 8 of 10 stealing bases.

Listed at a sturdy 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., C.J. is described by Baseball Beginnings as a "plus-plus runner", while his high school coach Chad Abernathy opined in a Future Redbirds interview that "C.J. has tremendous bat speed... is a tireless worker... and could be a 50-60 steal guy, who also pops 10-15 homers." Okay, I know, it's his prep coach. BUT if the young man can come reasonably close to those numbers, while providing above-average flycatching, the Redbirds will have one heck of an outfielder for several seasons.

Given McElroy's extreme youth (he didn't even turn 18 until the end of May), it wouldn't be a shock to see him repeat the GCL next year - with a possible in-season promotion to Johnson City. - BobReed

Brian Walton (26): This is only partially to do with this player directly, but upon looking at the first draft of my personal top 40, one thing stood out. The mid-tier was filled with guys who have been around awhile, but just haven't ramped up their play.

This is where McElroy comes in. I am willing to lean into the wind a bit for a plus athlete with considerable upside and relative youth like McElroy. Though he is still unproven as a professional baseball player, that potential is why I am apparently much higher on McElroy right now than the others here.

McElroy has shown good speed and contact at the plate, but his fly ball rate is a bit high. "He stays inside the ball and uses the middle of the field to hit through," his Gulf Coast League manager Steve Turco observed this summer. Defensively, McElroy needs to improve on his route efficiency, which is correctable.

Maybe it is not an entirely fair comparison, but since he was mentioned above, I will comment further about another Texas high school outfielder the Cards selected in the third round, this one back in 2005. Daryl Jones had to debut that summer with Johnson City, as the GCL club was not yet in existence. His first season's line was not unlike McElroy's at .209/.286/.311/.597. Three years later, Jones was the Player of the Year in the system.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

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