The St. Louis Cardinals had four selections in the first two rounds of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft, up from three last year. Two extra selections were compensation picks for the signings of free agents Jason Heyward and John Lackey, which added picks number 33 and 34 overall to St. Louis’ regular slots at 23rd and 70th overall.
A year after taking three high school players on day 1, in 2016 the Cardinals selected two high school hitters followed by two collegiate pitchers.
Thursday night, the Cardinals chose an athletic talent with a failed PED test in Puerto Rican shortstop Delvin Perez. Next came another prop player in outfielder Dylan Carlson and college pitchers Dakota Hudson and Connor Jones.
St. Louis had two first-round draft picks for five consecutive years prior to 2016, selecting outfielder Nick Plummer (23rd) and pitcher Jake Woodford (39th) in 2015. RHPs Luke Weaver (27th) and Jack Flaherty (34th) were the 2014 picks, LHP’s Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky #19 and #28 overall in 2013, and RHP Michael Wacha #19 and OF James Ramsey #23 in 2012.
For their first 10 rounds, St. Louis has been allocated $9,143,300 of bonus pool money, 10th-most among the 30 MLB clubs in 2016.
In the first segment of the 2016 Draft on Thursday evening, the 30 MLB clubs are making their first and second round selections plus two competitive balance rounds, 77 selections in total.
The draft will resume at 1 p.m. Eastern on Friday with rounds 3-10 to be chosen. The final group of players in rounds 11 through 40 will be named in lightning-round fashion starting at noon ET on Saturday.
Come back to The Cardinal Nation often on Friday and Saturday as information about all St. Louis’ draft picks will be posted shortly after they are made.
Link to the 2016 Scout.com Draft Central, where an extensive library of draft materials, including scouting reports, mock drafts, interviews and much more awaits.
Remember that by clicking on any highlighted player, you will be taken to his individual player profile page. There, a wealth of past information about him is available – articles, injury news, photos, videos, interviews and more - all in one place.
St. Louis' selections
First round, 23rd overall
With their first pick, 23rd overall, of the 2016 MLB Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected shortstop Delvin Perez from the International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.
After watching division rivals take college bats in Nick Senzel (Reds), Corey Ray (Brewers), and Will Craig (Pirates), the Cardinals went to the high school ranks by selecting Perez.
The 17-year-old Perez absolutely has the athleticism to stick at shortstop with a strong arm. According to Peter Gammons of MLB Network, Perez was being seriously considered at #2 by the Reds and #5 by the Brewers. Purely in terms of talent, Perez was the consensus best player on the board for the Cardinals when #23 rolled around. He was ranked 9th overall by MLB and 8th overall by Baseball America and Scout.com. At 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds, the Puerto Rican is exceptionally lithe, but his broad shoulders indicate a high likelihood of adding muscle and strength.
Perez has plus speed and great instincts in the field leading to outstanding range at shortstop. Keith Law of ESPN did note that he stands too upright when fielding, but that’s something easily fixable for such a projectable player. Law also notes that Perez is the “most tooled-up player in the class” and that he’s the “ideal high-ceiling selection.” His offense still has room to grow. He struggles with pitch recognition, but that is not surprising for an exceptionally young draftee from Puerto Rico. But, Perez shows great bat speed, and with improved strength as he matures, he should grow into some power. With maturity in the batter’s box, he should become a strong offensive player capable of average and some pop as well along with excellent defense.
So, why was such a fantastic prospect available for the Cardinals all the way down at #23? Perez failed a performance enhancing drug test this week with the news breaking just two days before the draft. As an amateur, MLB does not have the right to release what the results of his test were outside of the failure to the public.
The failed drug test is a concern and could put some fans and experts (such as MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds) in a foul mood. However, there is no denying Perez’ talent. Scouts were blown away by his athleticism in his workouts, and he’s a terrific athlete. MLB Network’s Jack Zduriencik notes that the Cardinals are the perfect organization for Perez to grow as the Cardinals have shown willingness to work with players who have failed tests in the past (such as Jhonny Peralta) if they believe in the player’s talent and that he can move on from the drug use.
Perez will take several years to reach the big leagues and could certainly flame out in the low minors if his bat doesn’t develop, but the Cardinals just added an exceptionally talented and exceptionally young player who could become the shortstop of the future.
The pool amount for this pick is $2,222,500.
First round, 33rd overall
After walking away with one of the most talented (yet tainted) prospects in the draft, the Cardinals added another young player with high school outfielder Dylan Carlson at #33. Carlson is a switch-hitter committed to Cal-State Fullerton who actually moved to left field from first base this year. In his workouts for teams, he actually showed average run and field tools in the outfield, so he has a good possibility of sticking in left field long term.
Like Perez, Carlson is one of the younger prospects in the draft at 17 years and five months on Draft Day. As such, Carlson has lots of projection left in his abilities. Unlike Perez, who fell from a potential top-five selection, Carlson was ranked 74th by Scout.com, 92nd overall and 16th in California by Baseball America, and he didn’t make the top 200 for MLB. Understandably, high school hitters who could potentially be confined to first base generally don’t wow in the rankings without exceptional hitting tools.
Across the board, Carlson displays average tools. As mentioned, he showed average field and throwing tools in left field. His hit tool looks average, which translates to about a .270-.280 big league hitter if he reaches his potential. Carlson has shown average power so far, but scouts believe his frame has more power in it. Already standing 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, many scouts see him hitting 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds within four years. At a showcase at Wrigley Field, Carlson knocked some batting practice pitches out of the park.
Baseball runs in Carlson’s blood. His father is his coach at Elk Grove High School, and Carlson grew up around the school as the team’s batboy. The work ethic instilled by his father has certainly paid off. Carlson graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has become a complete student of the game, studying from older players when he made the varsity team as a freshman.
Despite his intriguing talent and strong makeup, Carlson looks to be a money-saving selection. Being ranked in the third to fifth-round range, Carlson’s signing bonus should be quite manageable, and the Cardinals may need a little extra to ink their first pick, Perez. With multiple first round selections, the Cardinals had the opportunity to take a flyer on a project with a lower price tag.
Update: Carlson plans to sign with the Cardinals, per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
The pool amount for this pick is $1,909,500.
First round, 34th overall
Following two high school picks, the Cardinals ended the first round by going to the college mound by selecting Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson with the 34th overall pick. Hudson represents another prospect, like Perez, who fell into the Cardinals’ lap. Mock drafts had Hudson ranked as high as ninth to the Detroit Tigers, and recent mocks from Scout’s Jeff Ellis and Taylor Ward had Hudson going 15th to the Minnesota Twins. There were even a few rumblings of the Braves looking for Hudson as an underslot deal at #3 overall. Baseball America ranked Hudson as the 14th best player in the class with MLB placing him at 15.
Hudson has a great arm sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball while touching 97. He also possesses a 65-grade, wipeout slider. Hudson’s slider has cutter velocity in the upper-80s that has touched 92 with slider break that cuts sharply in and under the hands of a left-handed batter. His changeup is average and still needs some work, but Hudson spent the year working with teammate Austin Sexton as he transitioned from the bullpen his sophomore year into the rotation for his junior season.
Hudson’s fastball/slider combination allowed him to strike out just over a batter per inning for the Bulldogs this year. His command improved as well, as he walked 2.87 batters per nine innings. He started to show this turnaround in command last year in the Cape Cod League. Mississippi State pitching coach Wes Johnson noticed how Hudson was throwing his fastball, changeup, and slider from three different arm slots. To refine his approach, Hudson started with his slider arm slot and moved his fastball and changeup to match. With his arm slot figured out, Hudson had a breakout campaign in the Cape Cod League, where he threw 42 2/3 innings with 41 strikeouts, eight walks, and a 1.69 ERA. Including the playoffs, Hudson had a 1.43 ERA over 56 2/3 innings in the Cape last summer. He struck out 54 and walked 14 for a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio right around 4.
There is still some effort to his delivery, though. Former Rockies’ general manager Dan O’Dowd doesn’t see Hudson sticking as a starter. With his fantastic fastball/slider combo and delivery, O’Dowd sees Hudson as a reliever who can reach the big leagues very quickly. A late-inning reliever isn’t exactly a terrible fallback option, but Hudson’s 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame should allow him the durability to pile up innings for the Redbirds.
The pool amount for this pick is $1,878,000.
Second round, 70th overall
With their only second-round selection, the Cardinals returned to the college pitching ranks for right-hander Connor Jones from the University of Virginia. Like Hudson, Jones is a pitcher who looks to be a steal at his draft position. MLB ranked Jones as the 21st-best prospect for the 2016 draft with Baseball America ranking him 24th.
Jones doesn’t make scouts stand up and pay attention as much as Hudson does from a pure stuff standpoint, but Jones has a strong arsenal of pitches at his disposal. Jones’ fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94. But, the pitch plays up thanks to its late sink. According to Minor League Ball’s John Sickels, Jones throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, which gives hitters different looks and keeps them off balance. His slider gets an above-average grade from MLB and has good late bite to it. Jones throws a curveball that’s good enough to be used for strikes, but he uses it less than his slider. He has also shown a solid changeup with good movement.
Jones likely dropped in the draft due to underwhelming strikeout numbers for the Cavaliers this year. After striking out nearly a batter per inning in his sophomore year to help lead Virginia to the national title, Jones fell to a strikeout rate of just 6.25 per nine innings in 2016. He did, however, improve his walk rate by nearly a walk per game. MLB Network’s Dan O’Dowd thinks Virginia may have had him focused on inducing groundballs this year as his groundball rate clocked in a 67 percent. Jones likely will not become an impact starter, but he looks like a solid, durable starter who induces a ton of groundballs in an organization that values that precise skill.
Despite the lowered strikeout rate, the impressive groundball rate helped Jones put up a tidy 2.34 ERA for Virginia this year with a 1.19 WHIP. He also gave up just three home runs over 103 2/3 innings. Jones shouldn’t take long in the minors, especially if he gets moved to the bullpen as Seth Maness, another groundball machine, did. Jones does not have the firepower of more heralded college pitchers, but he looks like a good bet to take over Mike Leake’s role in the rotation down the road.
The pool amount for this pick is $920,100.
TCN’s draft analyst Scott Schook is writing the player capsules and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.
For the rest
Scout.com National Draft Analyst Jeff Scott breaks down all 77 of Thursday's picks:
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