Alex Speas (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Scott Schook looks at four potential high school pitching draft candidates for the St. Louis Cardinals this June.

Scott Schook looks at four potential high school pitching draft candidates for the St. Louis Cardinals this June.

In our fourth look at potential draft picks for the St. Louis Cardinals this June, this list of high school pitchers may have been the most difficult to pare down. In the 20-50 selection range, there is a myriad of players that we could highlight as potential picks for the Cardinals. I already had to expand my typical three players to four, and had it not been for a UCL injury to lefty Jesus Luzardo, he would have forced his way onto this list as well.

For an update, Major League Baseball has released the slot values for each pick in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft. The Cardinals, with 12 picks in the first 10 rounds, have the 10th highest bonus pool in baseball with $9,143,300. Since they can exceed their bonus pool by up to five percent before incurring the loss of draft picks, the Cardinals could spend as much as $9,600,465. Their 2016 pool is approximately $1,800,000 more than their 2015 pool. For reference, that $1,800,000 is how much it cost to ink the Peoria Chiefs’ 2016 Opening Day starter Jake Woodford.

Speaking of prep pick Woodford, let’s look at four high school pitchers who could be wearing the Birds on the Bat in the future.

Kevin Gowdy

Santa Barbara High School, California

6’4”, 170 lbs.

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

DOB: 11/16/1997

UCLA Bruins commitment

Gowdy’s description will sound a lot like the Cardinals’ 2014 first rounder, Jack Flaherty. A tall high school right-hander, Gowdy already has a strong feel for pitching. His fastball isn’t dynamic but sits in the 90-93 mph range. Furthermore, his frame looks like he can add some bulk as he fills out, which should increase his velocity.

Like Flaherty, he has a good feel for his off-speed pitches. His changeup and command are advanced for his age, and he throws a slider that has impressive bite down-and-in on left-handers. Since Gowdy has such a feel for his off-speed stuff, he carries less risk than other prep pitchers who live and die on their velocity.

This year, Gowdy has struck out 43 in 23 1/3 innings while walking just two batters, evidence of his advanced command. Gowdy should be a relatively safe bet to become a #2 starter in his prime who reaches the big leagues by late 2020.

Braxton Garrett

Florence High School, Alabama

6’3”, 190 lbs.

Bats: Right

Throws: Left

DOB: 8/5/1997

Vanderbilt Commodores commitment

Garrett is a big left-hander who throws arguably the filthiest curveball in the 2016 class. It’s a mid-70s delivery that has nasty break. It dives down-and-in to right-handers, leading to lots of whiffs over the top of it. Lefties - if they make contact - tend to just roll over on it and generate weak contact. 

His fastball shouldn’t be forgotten about, though. Garrett sits in the 88-93 mph range, plenty of velocity for a left-handed starter. His fastball shows some arm side run, and he can create some sink on it from his three-quarters arm slot. While he has some feel for a changeup, he doesn’t use it much, and it needs work to really become the pitch he will need it to be to reach his #2 starter ceiling.

Garrett has thrown 46 1/3 innings this year, and he has struck out 93 against 13 walks. His clean, repeatable delivery and size should allow him to stick as a starter throughout his career.

Austin Bergner

Windermere Prep, Florida

6’4”, 180 lbs.

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

DOB: 5/1/1997

North Carolina Tar Heels commitment

Bergner seems to have everything going for him to be a first-round pick in June. He has a projectable frame that should add strength as he grows and fills out. His fastball sits in the low-90s and has touched 96. His curveball has impressive spin and break, and he is not afraid to throw it to left-handed batters. Bergner has the makings of a changeup that sits in the low-70s, but it doesn’t have much depth to it at this stage. He has a solid feel for pitching for his age also. 

The issue is his delivery, which is funky to say the least. He almost short-arms the ball each time he delivers a pitch, never really lifting his arm above shoulder height. On the one hand, this gives Bergner deception in his delivery, and it has been quite effective for him. On the other hand, his delivery creates concern about his ability to repeat it and the potential for injuries, specifically to his shoulder.

Bergner has tons of upside to become a front-of-the-rotation starter, but a team will have to believe in his delivery or in his ability to adapt a new one.

Alex Speas

McEachern High School, Florida

6’4”, 190 lbs.

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

DOB: 5/1/1997

Auburn Tigers commitment

Fastballs explode out of Speas’ right hand. He sits 92-96 mph and has touched 97, and with his delivery, the fastball looks even faster out of his hand. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but his frame should be able to add strength and subsequently, velocity. His curveball is hard and filthy, breaking sharply down as it approaches the plate. The one-two punch of his fastball and curveball could be enough to ride to the big leagues, but a strong changeup would make him devastating.

But, Speas also needs command. He consistently struggles hitting the strike zone, even during his warmup pitches. His lack of command could force him out of the rotation, but he could end up as an elite reliever with upper-90s velocity and a devastating curveball. 

Another detriment to selecting Speas could be his signability. He is on record saying that he is a huge college guy, but a “life-changing bonus” could force his hand into turning pro. 

Next: Check back at The Cardinal Nation for Scott Schook’s next article in his series of previews leading up to the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, all exclusively for TCN members! We will head to the other end of the spectrum and examine college sluggers.

Follow Scott Schook on Twitter @scottschook.

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