A Look at the 09 MLB First Year Player Draft

The St. Louis Cardinals have relied on 13 MLB rookies this season, including seven players making his major league debut. Under the direction of Jeff Luhnow, the organization has put an emphasis on player development and it has shown on the field at Busch Stadium.

After ranking as one of the worst farm systems earlier in the decade, the Cardinals' system now ranks as one of the top-third in all of baseball.

But with the graduation of so many farmhands to the big leagues along with aggressiveness regarding player promotions, the system is beginning to thin at the lower levels. Though the system has more depth at the upper levels than it has in years, it still lacks high upside talents. With the emergence of former number one prospect Colby Rasmus in the big leagues, only Brett Wallace and possibly Daryl Jones possess the tools to be difference makers in the majors.

Also, there is a dearth of frontline starting pitchers. The organization does possess a few pitchers that have the possibility to be back of the rotation starters but this system does not have a pitcher capable of settling into the front of a rotation.

The Cardinals will have the opportunity to address these issues starting on Tuesday as Major League baseball holds its 2009 First Year Player draft. The Cardinals will pick 19th overall and will hope to address the needs of the system.

Organizational weaknesses: starting pitching, left-handed pitching, middle infielders, power bats, and high risk/high reward talents.

Collegiate Route

Names that have been linked to the Cardinals are collegians Rex Brothers, Chad Jenkins, Mike Minor, and Grant Green. Brothers burst onto the scene in 2009 out of Lipscomb. The southpaw can dial it up to 97 but a lot of scouts believe he will eventually find his home in the bullpen.

Another small college product, Chad Jenkins, seems like the prototypical Cardinal draft pick. The right-hander is a big-bodied pitcher who relies heavily on his above average sinker. Think, the second coming of Lance Lynn.

Minor appeared set to be Vanderbilt's third consecutive top five selection after a fantastic summer with Team USA. Like his team, Minor suffered through stretches of mediocrity that has put his draft position in doubt. He appears to be a safe pick, a pitcher with more pitchability than true "stuff". The San Diego Padres could pop him with the third overall pick but he could be available for the Cardinals as well.

Another player that is hard to get a read on is the University of Southern California's Grant Green. After a fantastic summer on the Cape, Green came into the season considered the top bat in this year's draft. But a case of "draftitis" along with being represented by Scott Boras has caused his stock to drop. Even after his "struggles", he still finished the season with a line of .365/.436/.556. There has been some talk of him not being able to stay at short, but I think that it is more "piling on" due to his early struggles at the plate. A potential five-tool impact middle infielder, he has been compared to Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki.

Prep Pitcher

In Sunday's Post-Dispatch, reporter Joe Strauss reports that the Cardinals may look to a prep arm with the 19th pick. If this is the case, Chad James, Tyler Skaggs, or Garrett Gould could be the target.

James seems to be the most logical choice due to his Oklahoma ties. The left-hander with a long, lean, projectable frame works 90-93 and has touched 95 with his fastball. The Cardinals seem very comfortable with preps from the Okie state as demonstrated with their choice of Pete Kozma with the number 18 pick in 2007.

Skaggs is a Southern California southpaw that sometimes gets overlooked due to the other Tyler in his state, Tyler Matzek. Also, he was slowed down the stretch due to a leg injury. Skaggs has a lot of room to develop (6'4, 180 pounds) and should add to his 92 MPH fastball as he fills out.

A right-hander, Gould has the classic pitcher's build at 6'4, 200 pounds. The Kansas native gained three MPH on his fastball between his junior and senior seasons and now works 91-94. Also, his curveball is rated as one of the tops in this draft class.

One of the top prep arms in this draft class, left-hander Matt Purke has seen his stock fall due to bonus demands. The Texan is rumored to be looking for a Rick Porcello type bonus. I wonder if he is sitting at 19 will Cardinal fans be as outraged as when the organization passed on Porcello. Remember, he is looking for Porcello money but he does not have his reputation or his upside.

Overdraft?

ESPN.com's Keith Law and the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold report that the Cardinals brought in Texas high school outfielder Randal Grichuk to Busch Stadium for batting practice on Saturday. Grichuk, who appears to be more of a second round talent due to his one plus tool, impressed onlookers with his home run stroke according to Goold. The Texan's power looks to be real but scouts believe he will be limited to left field.

Wild Card

The University of Missouri's Kyle Gibson looks to be a wild card in the first round. Considered to be a top five talent, the Tigers' ace was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right forearm. Due to the injury, the 6'6 right-hander will be unable to pitch for six weeks causing him to fall on draft boards. Would/should the Cardinals role the dice? If they did, he becomes the top-pitching prospect in the system and would rank as the number two overall prospect behind Brett Wallace.

Top 30

Here is a look at my top 30, not necessarily the order of the selections.

1. Stephen Strasburg – The only doubt about him is the bonus dollars the Nationals will give him.
2. Dustin Ackley – The North Carolina Tar Heel has solidified himself as the top bat in this draft.
3. Aaron Crow – Re-enters the draft after botched negotiations last season. Possesses a big fastball with good sink and command.
4. Tyler Matzek – Top prep arm in the draft could be nabbed as high as the Mariners at number 2.
5. Grant Green – Though many are down on Green, I can't ignore his resume.
6. Kyle Gibson – Before his injury, was a surefire top 10-selection. Now it will be interesting to see how far he slips.
7. Jacob Turner – The top prep in Missouri has exploded up draft boards in recent weeks. The fact he is represented by Boras makes some teams leery.
8. Alex White – Another Tar Heel, White bounced back with a superb Super Regional.
9. Tanner Scheppers – Might have the second best arm in this draft but shoulder concerns are worrisome.
10. Matt Purke – Superb Texas left-hander is slipping due to bonus demands.
11. Mike Leake – The Arizona State right-hander probably had the best season in college baseball by a pitcher not named Strasburg.
12. Shelby Miller – Continues the tradition of big-armed Texas right-handers.
13. Zack Wheeler – The Braves would love for the Atlanta native to be on the board at number seven.
14. Donovan Tate – Projected to go as high as number three to the Padres, I am just not sold on his hit tool nor would I be comfortable agreeing to his bonus demands.
15. Chad Jenkins – Big bodied pitcher should eat innings and move through the minor leagues quickly.
16. Mike Minor – Polished southpaw has plenty of experience on the international stage.
17. Mike Trout – Tool shed from the Northeast has been gaining momentum over the past couple weeks.
18. Tim Wheeler – Huge corner outfielder with above average power. Wheeler impressed with huge numbers this season after a superb summer on the Cape.
19. Chad James – Projectable southpaw has a fastball in the mid-nineties and an above average curveball.
20. Rex Brothers – College lefty that can hit 97 MPH on the gun. If moved to the bullpen (like many scouts believe he will), he should be big league ready soon.
21. Bobby Bochering – With a big league ready body, Bochering might be the best prep hitter in the draft.
22. Drew Storen – Top college reliever in the draft could eventually move to the rotation. Father is Mark Patrick who used to be a host on XM's MLB Home Plate.
23. Garrett Gould – Classic pitcher's frame with a fastball that tops out in the mid-nineties and a plus curve.
24. Eric Arnett – Former reliever should be University of Indiana's second ever first round pick.
25. A.J. Pollock – Polished college bat struggled after being named the MVP last summer in the Cape Cod League.
26. Tyler Skaggs – His projectable frame is what scouts dream on. Should increase velocity as he fills out.
27. Jared Mitchell – Two-sport star has plenty of tools but will need time to develop them.
28. Andrew Oliver – Former Team USA star had a disappointing season after off the field issues with the NCAA.
29. Kyle Heckathorn – Huge frame (6'6, 240 pounds) and a huge arm. Has hit 99 MPH on the gun though scouts see him as a reliever in the bigs.
30. James Paxton – Lefties whose fastball hits 97 are hard to find but his 5.30 ERA and representation (Boras) have made some clubs approach him cautiously.

Draft Day

The MLB network and MLB.com will be covering the draft live starting on June 9 at 5 PM CST. Day one will feature rounds one through three with rounds 4-30 coming on June 10. The draft will wrap up on the 11th with coverage of rounds 31-50.

Just like last year, the Birdhouse will have a live draft thread on the message boards along with recent draftee interviews.

Dustin can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.com.

 

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