By Scott Schook and Brian Walton
The second day of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is the St. Louis Cardinals’ first. Under scouting director Randy Flores, the club is making its initial eight selections on Tuesday, June 13, in rounds 3-10.
The Cardinals lost their first three picks – the first two rounds plus the competitive balance selection - for the signing of free agent Dexter Fowler (first round forfeited) and in penalty for former scouting director Chris Correa’s hacking of the Houston Astros (next two picks).
Overall, through day two, encompassing these first eight picks, the Cardinals have been allocated $2,176,000 in bonus pool money, the lowest of the 30 teams. To put that into perspective, 2016 first-rounder Delvin Perez received $2,222,500 alone.
As a result, St. Louis will likely have to be creative, perhaps signing a number of college seniors, who with low leverage, have to sign for less money than juniors if they want to join the professional ranks.
Come back to this article at The Cardinal Nation often on Tuesday as information about all St. Louis’ draft picks will be posted shortly after they are made. A companion article covering rounds 11-40 will follow on Wednesday.
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.
As Tuesday progresses from afternoon into evening, this article will be updated as selections are made and information added, so please check back often. All player capsules will be written by The Cardinal Nation’s draft analyst Scott Schook.
St. Louis’ selections
Third round, 94th overall
Scott Hurst, CF, Cal State Fullerton
The Cardinals kicked off their 2017 Draft selections focusing on defense. The organization nabbed the starting center fielder from the Cal State Fullerton Titans. Hurst was a solid prospect coming out of high school, even playing for the USA 18U team. But, he went undrafted out of high school and headed to college. Baseball America ranked Hurst as their 152nd best draft prospect, but MLB left him off their top 200 list.
There, he struggled with a back injury through his freshman year, getting into 41 games, Hurst hit .250/.356/.347, but he struck out 39 times against his 19 walks. His sophomore season, Hurst’s offense dropped to .215/.343/.250, but he did improve his plate discipline with a 30:23 strikeout-to-walk rate. This past season, Hurst broke out offensively hitting .332/.424/.585 with 12 homers, 15 doubles, and 5 triples. His season was highlighted by a game in May where Hurst went 5-for-5 with 4 home runs, a double, a walk, and 7 RBIs.
Up until this season, Hurst showed essentially no power. In 268 at bats, Hurst tabbed just 11 extra base hits: 6 doubles, 4 triples, and a lone home run in his freshman season. He does have a quick bat, so he may have discovered how to turn his bat into a weapon. It remains to be seen if he will be able to consistently tap into that ability, but he’s not expected to show much in professional baseball. MLB’s Jonathan Mayo says that while Hurst severely lacks power, the defense and speed will definitely play in professional ball. He spent his first two years in right field at Fullerton thanks to his cannon of an arm. Some scouts give him a 70-grade arm, and he was clocked at 99mph in the outfield in 2014 during the high school showcase circuit.
The pool amount for this pick is $570,900. This may have been a money saving selection as Hurst should not command a huge bonus given his injury history. He will not be signing immediately, as his club is playing in the College World Series in Omaha starting this weekend.
Fourth round, 124th overall
Kramer Robertson, SS, LSU
The Cardinals returned to the college ranks for a low-power, strong defensive player in the 4th round. The senior is the son of Baylor University’s women’s basketball coach, Kim Mulkey. Robertson had the unenviable task of inheriting shortstop from the 2nd overall pick of the 2015 Draft, Alex Bregman. But, Robertson performed admirably there for the Tigers. Another St. Louis pick that did not make MLB’s top 200 prospect list, Robertson landed as the 359th best player for Baseball America. Robertson was taken last year by the Cleveland Indians in the 32nd round but elected to return to LSU.
Robertson spent all four of his college years at LSU. He got just 156 at bats over his freshman and sophomore years before taking the reins at shortstop for LSU. In his junior year, Robertson hit .324/.417/.440 with 20 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers while adding in 14 stolen bases. His junior season earned him All-American and All-SEC honors. He improved his plate numbers with a .319/.421/.504 slash line in his senior year with 18 doubles, 3 triples, and 8 home runs. He also showed above-average plate discipline in college with 88 walks against 77 strikeouts over his 205 games.
Defensively, he has the athleticism to stick at shortstop, but, according to scouts, he profiles better as a second baseman, which should remind fans a lot of the Cardinals’ current shortstop, Aledmys Diaz. Offensively, he should remind the Redbird faithful of a former World Series MVP, David Eckstein: not a lot of power, grinds out plate appearances, good contact, and an above-average eye to draw walks.
Robertson will help lead the Tigers into the College World Series as they take on Florida State in their first game of the tournament on June 17th.
The pool amount for this pick is $424,800. As a senior who was not projected to get drafted until the 6th-10th round, Robertson should be signed at quite the discount relative to the bonus value.
Fifth round, 154th overall
Zach Kirtley, 2B, Saint Mary's College, Californina
Kirtley is a California kid through-and-through. He graduated from Redlands East Valley High School in Redlands, California before heading to Highland, California at St. Mary’s. He hit well during his three years with the Gaels. Kirtley is listed as the 317th best prospect by Baseball America.
He won the second base job as a freshman and got 208 at bats with a .346/.429/.418 line with a home run, 12 doubles, and 3 steals to earn Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and All-West Coast Conference honors. He followed up in his sophomore year with a .323/.428/.504 slash line with his high-water mark of 7 homers, 20 doubles, 43 RBIs, and 4 steals in 225 at bats for a second All-West Coast Conference recognition. He also improved his batting eye, increasing his walks from 25 to 35 while his strikeouts increased only to 35 from 31. His junior year was quite similar. Shifting over to third base after the graduation of Chicago White Sox prospect Anthony Villa, Kirtley hit .292/.433/.439 with 5 home runs, 42 RBIs, 16 doubles, and 3 steals as he kept his strikeouts the same while increasing his walks to 48.
Kirtley has really developed his batting eye and possesses a compact swing he uses to spray the ball around the field. His strong wrists and forearms should allow him to continue to display doubles power as he progresses.
Kirtley has experience at second base, but he has just average hands and below-average speed. A permanent move to third base or left field seems more likely as he moves up the ranks, but he could fit in as a bench bat that is flexible enough defensively in the mold of Jedd Gyorko before he overtook third base for the Cardinals.
Kirtley spent the 2016 summer in the Cape Cod League playing for the Orleans Firebirds, but he hit just .217/.343/.322 with the wood bat over 115 at bats. The pool amount for this pick is $317,100. Kirtley has said he’s ready to sign, and his coach, Eric Valenzuela, believes he’s ready to play professionally. Memphis third baseman Patrick Wisdom also attended St. Mary's.
Sixth round, 184th overall
Zach Jackson, C, Winter Haven High School, Florida
The Cardinals spent their sixth round selection on their first high schooler of this draft class. Jackson is a lefty-hitting catcher on the older side for a prep player at 19 years old on draft day. Jackson ranks 133rd among draft prospects according to MLB, and he landed 182nd overall for Baseball America.
Jackson’s carrying tool is his bat. Jonathan Mayo grades him a 45 hit tool and a 50 power tool. Like a lot of high school hitters, there’s definitely some whiff to his swing, but with experience, he should make enough hard contact to compensate. In his senior year, he progressed by utilizing a gap-to-gap approach instead of getting pull happy. He’s mature physically, and it shows in his strong legs. His swing has good extension, and the ball jumps off his bat. He should continue to grow into his power as he matures, and his bat should carry him if he has to move from behind the plate.
Which he probably will. Jackson does display soft hands and a 55-grade arm, but his defense is certainly behind his offense. Should he sign, the Cardinals will likely try to start him behind the plate, but a move to a corner outfield spot or first base is a rather safe bet. He has below-average speed, so a move to third base would not be the best option for the powerful left-handed hitter. His ceiling is an Evan Gattis type of player: 20-homer pop, a .250 average, and a catcher in name only.
The pool amount for this pick is $243,500. Jackson is committed to the University of Florida, but the Cardinals may have banked enough savings to lock up the backstop.
Seventh round, 214th overall
Chase Pinder, CF Clemson University
As the Cardinals continue to add up-the-middle talent, the younger brother of Oakland Athletics’ infielder Chad Pinder had his name called. Pinder was ranked as the 279th best prospect in this year’s draft by Baseball America.
MLB’s Jim Callis describes Pinder as a guy that is not just there to fill out rosters. His defense in center field and solid speed really stand out for Callis. Pinder uses a contact approach, not really focusing on power despite having average to above-average raw power. He also gets high marks for his makeup and leadership.
Pinder hit cleanup behind Clemson’s slugger, Seth Beer, who is the early favorite to go first overall in 2018. His coach, Monte Lee, calls Pinder the most underrated player in the ACC. He’s also been one of the most consistent hitters in the ACC. His freshman season saw Pinder get 160 at bats and hit .256/.360/.375 with 3 homers, 8 doubles, a triple, 26 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases. As he moved into a full-time role his sophomore year, Pinder tapped into his power more hitting .294/.412/.471 with 11 homers, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 7 steals, and 46 RBIs. He followed up with a junior season of .305/.419/.464 with 7 home runs, 16 doubles, 32 RBIs, and 13 steals. He shows off a great batting eye with a nearly exact 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 171 college games.
His defense and arm are generally what is going to carry Pinder as he plays an above-average center field with an average arm. He should round into a solid 4th outfield type that puts up solid at bats with good defense similar to a prime Jon Jay with a tick more power. At his ceiling, he may round into a guy with enough power to start for a few years in the middle of his peak.
The pool amount for this pick is $190,700.
Eighth round, 244th overall
Wilberto Rivera, RHP, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico
The Cardinals took their first pitcher of the 2017 Draft by looking to the high school founded by a former Redbird. Rivera, a hard-throwing right-handed hurler, is ranked 247th by Baseball America.
Jonathan Mayo rates Rivera as one of best right-handed pitchers in his age group. Rivera is an arm strength kind of pick; he touched 97 in a showcase in Jupiter, Florida this past fall with his fastball sitting in the 93-96 mph range. He did have a small injury issue with a hamstring problem that shut him down for a month this year, and his velocity suffered once he returned to the mound. He showed an improved breaking ball this year, but he still needs to tighten it up as it’s still slurvy. A refining of his mechanics should help that pitch sharpen. Mayo sees him as more of a reliever. Rivera has drawn comparisons to Detroit Tigers’ reliever Joe Jimenez, a hard-throwing strikeout machine.
Rivera has an imposing frame on the mound with wide shoulders and a mature body, but he still has some room to grow. His pitching motion leads to a deep plunge in the back of his windup, and if the Cardinals can iron that out, he should improve not only control but command of his breaking ball, a curve that flashes an exciting 12-to-6 break that could be a weapon if he can use it consistently. He’s also shown a slider and a feel for a changeup.
Like most prospects, Rivera should get every chance to start, but with control he could be a dynamic reliever at the back end of the bullpen. His profile reminds me of another Cardinals’ prospect, Sandy Alcantara: exciting velocity and arm strength, but still learning to pitch and command.
The pool amount for this pick is $155,600. Rivera is committed to Florida International University.
Ninth round, 274th overall
Evan Kruczynski, LHP, East Carolina University
The Cardinals returned to the college ranks for their second straight pitcher, picking up another senior sign to bank a little money in their coffers for their prep players.
Kruczynski put up three solid seasons for the ECU Pirates. He went 8-4 his sophomore year with a 3.17 ERA and 1.32 WHIP along with 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 16 starts over 99.1 innings. He followed in his junior year with 17 starts for 116.2 innings, compiling a 8-1 record with a 2.01 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His senior season brought an ankle injury that delayed the start to his season and led to a 4-3 record in only 10 starts and 56.1 innings. His ERA ballooned to 4.47 while his WHIP stayed strong at 1.21. He also cut down on his walks with a 48:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Kruczynski has never and will never light up radar guns. His fastball is consistently in the 86-88 mph range, but his best pitch is his changeup. He adds in a slider, which is definitely his third pitch. Most impressive for Kruczynski, though, is his leadership abilities. He has already gone on record saying he wants to coach baseball, so he has a great mind for the game. Should his time on the mound not work out, the Cardinals could have just added a future manager or pitching coach to their stable of prospects.
The pool amount for this pick is $140,600. As a senior, especially one coming off an injury from a smaller school, expect Kruczynski to sign in the $20,000-30,000 range, saving the Cardinals more than $100,000.
10th round, 304th overall
Brett Seeburger, LHP, San Diego State University
The Cardinals finished Day 2 of the Draft with one more senior left-handed pitcher.
Seeburger’s stats are admittedly underwhelming. Although he racked up 10 wins against 3 losses this year in 15 starts, he also racked up a 4.53 ERA and 1.40 WHIP with just 69 strikeouts against 30 walks in 93.1 innings. Last year, he got limited time with 14 games, 11 of which were starts, leading to 67.1 innings and a 4.81 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. As a junior, he struck out 55 while walking just 11. In his first two years at SDSU, Seeburger threw a combined 71 innings over 40 games (6 starts) striking out 52 and walking 20 with a 6.08 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.
Jonathan Mayo describes him as a fringy left-hander that knows how to pitch. Veteran scout George Kachigan said of Seeburger, “He’s a left-hander and he can hit his spots every single time. He never gets over 90. But I’ll tell you what, all you ever see is ground balls and popups.”
The pool amount for this pick is $132,800. Like Kruczynski, expect to see Seeburger sign for a low amount, likely around $10,000.
As noted above, TCN draft analyst Scott Schook is writing the player capsules and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.
Summary - Walton
On Tuesday, the Cardinals clearly focused on college hitters, using their top three picks and four of the eight.
Of the six collegians added in total, two are juniors and four are seniors (with an inherent lower price). Just two high schoolers were taken on day two.
There is a considerable balance across positions, with three pitchers, two infielders, two outfielders and a catcher.
Strategy Summary - Schook
Looking at the Cardinals’ first day of drafting, it appears the scouting department put an emphasis on up the middle talent without a focus on a particular type of bat. The Cardinals took 5 position players, all of whom have shown an ability to play up the middle: Jackson at catcher, Kirtley at second base, Robertson at shortstop, and Pinder and Hurst in center field. Despite not having a ton of power in the minor league system, the draft team apparently put a premium on defense.
On the mound, the Cardinals wanted to grab a high-upside arm in Rivera while pocketing some funds with senior signings in Kruczynski and Seeburger. Kruczynski and Seeburger are both pitch-to-contact lefties in the mold of Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, Austin Gomber, and the like. The bonus of them being inexpensive pieces to help facilitate other signings certainly helps things with how little bonus money the Cardinals can utilize this year.
One more important thing to note is the leadership qualities the Cardinals added. As noted, Kruczynski has a desire to coach baseball. Robertson is a noted leader for the LSU Tigers, consistently being the heart of the team. Pinder helped lead the Clemson squad by being an example, playing wherever his coach needs him willingly and seeking a spot on the team leadership council. Kirtley’s coach, Valenzuela, described the infielder as having qualities on the field you can’t teach, such as competitiveness and intensity.
With plenty of exciting prospects still on the board, we’ll see what St. Louis’ strategy is for rounds 11-40 on Wednesday starting at 11 am Central.
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