School: Clear Creek High School, League City, Texas
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (38): GM4aday was the first to choose C.J. McElroy during the community vote at #36. The outfielder did not get a lot of support there, however, with Mason Katz and Alex Mejia considered the front-runners at the time.
During the vote, I mentioned McElroy’s superb .342 OBP and 41 stolen bases being a significant factor. UncleDenny pointed out that he likes C.J. McElroy a lot better than he likes fellow Peoria outfielder, Vaughn Bryan, at this point in the voting and, with that, McElroy walked away with the vote. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: McElroy’s return to TCN’s top 40 after missing out in 2014 was enabled by the first full season he was able to put in plus an extra month in the Arizona Fall League. He was previously ranked #31 in 2012 and #36 in 2013.
McElroy is considered the best raw athlete and fastest runner of any in the Cardinals organization. His speed and quickness allowed him to beat out 22 bunt hits and 38 other infield hits this year and gives him the advantage of adroitly manning center field with the ability to cover a lot of ground.
The switch-hitting outfielder makes contact but he will have to learn to be more disciplined at the plate, be willing to take more walks, and hit the ball with more authority to approach his potential. Apparently his switch-hitting has greatly improved.
McElroy is still just 21 years of age and was the third-youngest player on his Arizona Fall League squad. He will continue to learn with more and more experience. Being sent out to the desert to face more advanced pitching was a test to see where he is in his development.
Speed is McElroy’s game, not power, as indicated by zero home runs in his 1068 career minor league at bats. Hopefully he will be able to remain in the field to play another full season next with Palm Beach in 2015.
Brian Walton (29): 2014 was the first time McElroy remained healthy for an entire summer in his second season at the Class-A level. As a result, he was more productive, raising his batting average 27 points and his slugging by 54 points over 2013 with the Peoria Chiefs. The speedster led the entire Cardinals system with 41 stolen bases (in 59 attempts) and was a Midwest League All-Star.
Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator Derrick May, McElroy’s primary switch-hitting tutor, is proud of the McElroy’s work from both sides of the plate in 2014. “He did it for the first time professionally at full season and actually succeeded at it,” May told me this fall. “He hit pretty well (left-handed) - in the .258 range. You see the progress as he progressively hit the ball harder and harder and bunts well from that side, too.”
Even with the improvement, I think it was a stretch to assign McElroy to the AFL, but in all fairness, it was not the Cardinals’ Plan A. He was named as a late replacement for injured Charlie Tilson. As a low-A player having to face hurlers with Triple-A experience and some who have even reached MLB, it should not entirely be surprising that McElroy struggled at the plate to the tune of a .200 average.
On the positive side, his on-base mark was .357 and he showed his speed, placing first on his AFL club with seven steals in nine attempts. In an odd stat line, he had almost as many walks (six) and steals (seven) as hits (eight).
McElroy did not hit the ball particularly hard in the desert, with just one extra base hit during the AFL, but his speed, rated as high as 80 by some scouts, forced several mistakes from the defense. Even with McElroy being closer to first from the left side, scouts commented that the 21-year-old seemed a bit slow out of the box, however.
Palm Beach, which can be a tough place for some hitters, awaits in 2015. McElroy could be less affected than many if he keeps the ball down and exploits his legs.
McElroy’s long-term future depends on his ability to considerably sharpen his hit tool. His athleticism, potentially enhanced by switch-hitting, provides a good base, but may not be enough over the long haul.
Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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