With the MLB Draft just a few days away, mock drafts and rankings are finalizing. One type of player who may be targeted by the Cardinals is those renowned for their speed. There are a handful of these candidates who could be eagerly waiting to hear their name called when the Cardinals pick in the first and second rounds. Cardinals’ fans who are familiar with Whiteyball from the ‘80s remember the speed of greats such as Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, and Willie McGee. With this year’s draft, the Cardinals could pick up someone in a similar mold.
When looking through the Cardinals’ minor league system, it is apparent there is actually a significant lack of speed, especially among potential everyday players. The best speed in the system belongs to AAA outfielder Charlie Tilson who stole 46 bases and hit nine triples last year, but Tilson will likely be a lower end regular or fourth outfielder in the majors. Shortstop Oscar Mercado swiped 50 bags last year, but his inability to make hard contact has left him with a paltry 65 wRC+ for Palm Beach this year. One of St. Louis’ top prospects, Magneuris Sierra, has plus speed, but he is still learning how to use it on the basepaths.
So, who could potentially become the next great speedster in St. Louis?
University of Florida
6’4”, 185 lbs.
Coming into this collegiate season, Reed was talked about as a potential top-10 pick as a player simply oozing with athleticism. Reed plays a smooth center field thanks to his plus-plus speed, and a plus arm makes him a significant asset in the outfield. His speed works on the other side of the ball, too. Reed has 24 steals this year in 58 games and 42 over the last two seasons in a combined 127 games. In fact, Reed is a perfect 24-for-24 this year in steals.
Unfortunately, Reed’s ability at the plate has not progressed the way scouts would have liked to see this year. After batting .305/.367/.433 in 2015, Reed has put up a .260/.360/.410 line this season that has included an increase in his strikeout rate. His swing mechanics and approach at the plate need work and may prevent him from reaching his offensive ceiling. Despite that, he is still an excitingly athletic player, and Scout’s Draft Analyst Jeff Ellis sees Reed as turning into an Austin Jackson style player, which is certainly not an insult. Jackson has averaged 3.2 fWAR per season with a peak season of 5.4 fWAR.
(Note: In last week’s Scout Publisher Mock Draft, Reed went 29th overall to the Nationals. St. Louis’ initial pick is 23rd. Coming into the draft, Reed is ranked #78 overall by Scout.com’s national draft analyst Jeff Ellis.)
Mount Paran Christian High School (Georgia)
6’2”, 195 lbs.
Commitment: Georgia Tech
Speaking of athletes, Trammell (trum-MEL) could have pursued a future in football. He was the Georgia Class A offensive player of the year with 2479 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns. But, Trammell decided to focus on baseball and committed to Georgia Tech for college. That commitment does not seem incredibly binding as word is that he will likely sign if taken in the first two rounds of the draft.
Being a two-sport athlete, Trammell is still very raw, but is a toolshed. Trammell already generates significant bat speed despite his lithe frame, and as his body fills out, he could add more power to his game. Trammell is certainly a project, but a project that could pay off in the long run.
(Note: In last week’s Scout Publisher Mock Draft, Trammell was selected 26th overall by the White Sox. Coming into the draft, Trammell is ranked #34 overall by Scout.com’s national draft analyst Jeff Ellis.)
Laurens High School (South Carolina)
6’4”, 190 lbs.
Another two-sport athlete, Jones had offers to play safety for several collegiate football programs. Instead, he agreed to play baseball with college powerhouse Vanderbilt. His plus-plus speed allows him to terrorize basepaths and cover center field from gap to gap. His arm is average, but his speed should allow him to stick in center field. Otherwise, Jones is versatile enough to play a corner position with exceptional field coverage.
His frame provides plenty of strength, and he generates fantastic bat speed. However, his swing mechanics are somewhat atrocious. Jones almost looks awkward as he swings with an approach that relies too heavily on his upper body. He will need a lot of refining to become a consistent hitter. But, if he can be coached to recognize pitches and smooth out, he has the ceiling of a Lorenzo Cain type of player.
(Note: In last week’s Scout Publisher Mock Draft, Jones was not selected among the top 70 players. Coming into the draft, Jones is ranked #66 overall by Scout.com’s national draft analyst Jeff Ellis.))
Turner High School (Kansas)
6’2”, 200 lbs.
The lone infielder on this list, Williams is one of the youngest players in the draft. He was originally classified as a 2017 draftee, but MLB recently allowed him to reclassify for this year. He also might be the most talented on this list. He has plenty of speed: on the basepaths, in the field, and when swinging the bat. Despite being listed as hitting right-handed, Williams has started to commit to switch-hitting. From the right side, he has a quicker and more fluid swing. From the left, he has a fast and loose stroke.
Because of his size and actions at short, most evaluators see Williams moving off the position after becoming a professional. His foot speed and quickness, with a 6.51-second 60 yard dash, should allow him to handle a move to second base. His plus arm strength, throwing 92 mph across the diamond, should allow him to stick at third if need be. Or, failing both of those, he would still be an asset in center field with his speed and power profile. In fact, Perfect Game President Jerry Ford described Williams as someone who could be “a Justin Upton type of athlete.” In the outfield, he could be another Upton. At third, he would be a Mike Moustakas with 20 steals a year. At second, he is Daniel Murphy with more steals and much better defense.
(Note: In last week’s Scout Publisher Mock Draft, Williams was not selected among the top 70 players. Coming into the draft, Williams is ranked #101 overall by Scout.com’s national draft analyst Jeff Ellis.)
Next: The MLB Draft is rapidly approaching. We’ll have all the coverage right here at The Cardinal Nation for every pick the Cardinals make starting Thursday, June 9th with Rounds 1 and 2.
Follow Scott Schook on Twitter @scottschook.
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