TCN 2013 Cardinals Prospect #31: C.J. McElroy

The St. Louis Cardinals' third-round selection in the 2011 draft has a plan to step up his game in 2013. FREE article!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

School: Clear Creek High School (League City, Tex.)

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
36 OF 5/29/1993 5-10 180 R R 2011 3rd

Selected 2012 stats

JC 0.271 0.325 247 40 67 11 0 22 15 42 24 0.301 0.314 0.332 0.646

Coaches Derrick May and Ramon Ortiz working with McElroy on switch-hitting
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (36): McElroy is a prototypical ranking based on athletic potential. His statistics so far as a pro have been mediocre. They were better in 2012 though than 2011, and his reasonable strikeout totals would suggest he has not been over matched. The only offensive area of distinction has been McElroy's 24 stolen bases in 29 attempts in 2012. He is also said to possess premium defensive skills to go with his developing offense.

McElroy was mainly a football standout in high school, yet was drafted in the third round, much like another Texas high school football star from a few years ago, Daryl Jones. The Cards have moved McElroy at a slower pace, though. It is not clear whether they see him as less advanced than Jones or whether after Jones did not work out as a prospect, they decided to try a different approach this time.

I think that the Cardinals will start McElroy at Peoria in 2013 even if it is not clear he is ready. In the last few years, the organization has shown a willingness to push players to that level after full seasons in Johnson City and an equal willingness to demote them to Batavia (now State College) or even back to Johnson City if they fail to adjust to the higher level.

Message board community (31): McElroy climbed from 47th on the Community list last year to 31st this year. He is clearly a gifted athlete and that was enough for him to be picked in the third round in 2011. That suggests a high upside.

His rawness suggests we should be patient as we watch him develop. McElroy managed only a .582 OPS in 2011, but increased to .646 this year in Johnson City. The righty handled lefties better than righties (.783 to .607 OPS in 55 and 192 AB's, respectively). With great speed, he stole 24 bases while being caught just five times. He should be able to cover center. He won't turn 20 till May, so his age is on his side.

My guess is he moves up to State College this season, in which case it will be good to follow reports from extended spring training camp. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (29): McElroy is among a group of speedy outfielders selected by the Cardinals relatively early in the 2011 draft, joining Charlie Tilson and the much less-heralded Lance Jeffries. With the three forecasted to man the 2012 Johnson City outfield, few balls were expected to get between them, but it did not progress as planned.

McElroy gained a year of development advantage over Tilson, who was injured in camp and missed the entire season. McElroy went on to outhit his teammate Jeffries by 51 points, yet still logged a lower OPS, primarily due to a miniscule walk rate (5.6 percent).

With over half a million dollars already invested in McElroy's signing bonus and the reality that he is still a teenager, the Cardinals are proactively trying to help him help himself. During instructional league camp this fall, the natural right-handed hitter received considerable special tutoring in the art of switch-hitting (see photo above). If successful, this could spur an improvement in his substandard results against right-handed pitching.

Any benefit from these adjustments will be important to monitor in the spring. 2013 will be the season McElroy needs to put up some numbers to justify the confidence shown to date in him. If the switch-hitting experiment fails, he is going to have to find some other way to master right-handed pitching to have a realistic chance of realizing his potential.

Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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