New Coach, Same Story: The Butler Way Persists

Photo Credit: ButlerSports.com

Elijah Brown, Photo Credit: John Fetcho, ButlerSports.com

Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics.

Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith graduated.

Roosevelt Jones, one of the team’s top returning players, went down with a season-ending wrist injury in the team’s very first pre-season game in Australia.

To top it all off, Brandon Miller (’03) was called upon to fill the void left by a legend and to lead the Bulldogs in their first season in the highly-regarded Big East Conference, without any prior head coaching experience.

Butler was doomed, right?

Wrong. Alright, I understand that it is only six games into the 2013-2014 season, but the Bulldogs have competed well against some tough opponents (Vanderbilt, Washington State, #5 Oklahoma State) and currently sit at 5-1 before their third-place tilt in the Old Spice Classic with the 4-2 LSU Tigers.

Prior to the season, Athletic Director, Barry Collier, and the players stressed the importance of hiring a “Butler guy” to take over the head coaching position after Coach Stevens left for Boston. Why? To preserve the Butler Way, and who was better for the job than former Butler point guard, Brandon Miller?

In his time with the Bulldogs, Miller was an integral component of putting Butler on the so-called “college basketball map.” In his first season (his sophomore season since he played at Southwest Missouri State as a freshman) with the Dawgs, he led them to their first NCAA tournament victory in almost 40 years. In his senior season, he led the team to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1962 after upsetting #5 Mississippi State and #4 Louisville. For his career, he averaged 11.6 points and 3.1 assists per game for the Dawgs, but more impressively, he was a member of the conference’s All-Academic team each year. He knew the importance of the term “student-athlete” at Butler University. In short, he embraced the Butler Way–both on and off the court.

butlerway

Humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness are the five characteristics that make up the foundation of the Butler Way, and through six games, this is a perfect representation of this team. Coming into the season, the media talked more about who was not coming back for Butler this season than who was going to be here. They completely discredited the current roster and doubted the ability of a first-time head coach in the Big East.

Well, through six games, six players are averaging at least 5.5 points per game. From what I have seen so far, it appears that in any given game, a new player is capable of stepping up on offense–a staple of Butler teams over the years. Don’t get me wrong, though, the team does have some offensive superstars, Kellen Dunham (17.3 PPG)/Khyle Marshall (16.8 PPG), that will help shoulder a lot of the scoring load this season. Some of the freshmen, namely Andrew Chrabascz and Elijah Brown, will play key roles as well. By the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 guys played significant minutes each game.

Thus, it appears to be a typical Butler roster. Will this team set scoring records? Nope. Will they produce NBA lottery picks like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State? Probably not. Will they win games? You bet they will. The players know their roles. When they signed on to play at Butler, they knew a “recipe for success” was already in place, and it was their job to follow the instructions. Their job to embrace the Butler Way like countless players had done before them.

Let’s take a closer look at the Oklahoma State game…

CBS Sports college basketball insider, Jon Rothstein, took notice of the Bulldogs performance against #5 Oklahoma State, and this is what he had to say:

You’re right, Mr. Rothstein. you can’t discount the Dawgs. In the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, these Dawgs were ranked ninth. Ninth. Out of ten teams. Yet, with wins over Vanderbilt, and Washington State, and a heart-breaking, nail-biting loss to Oklahoma State, it looks like they might have slightly underestimated Butler. What a surprise, right?

I will be honest. Though it will be considered a “good loss” and one that the team can build on for the rest of the season, it was still especially tough. I have witnessed two NCAA Finals losses firsthand, but this one burned deep. Down by one, with two free throws and a little over eight seconds left, the Dawgs had a chance to, at the very least, tie the game with one possession left. Unfortunately, senior leader, Khyle Marshall, missed both shots and the team lost.

The team lost. Sure, Marshall had a golden opportunity to give the Dawgs a chance at an early-season signature win, but the team would not have even been playing in this game without his 30-point performance against Washington State in the game prior. Roosevelt Jones may not be able to contribute on the court this season, but his leadership from the bench and in the locker room cannot be overlooked. The following tweet is a perfect example of what to expect from Jones this season:

Finally, former Butler point guard and current assistant coach of the Maine Red Claws (the D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics), Ronald Nored, summed it all up perfectly in just four words:

In short, don’t discount the Dawgs this season.

Until next time…

Joe

For more Butler and St. Louis Cardinals updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

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St. Louis Cardinals Prospect Watch: Marco Gonzales

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

The St. Louis Cardinals have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, and Marco Gonzales is one of the main reasons why. Just one year after being drafted, he has already ascended all the way up to third on Derrick Goold’s Top 7 prospects list.

The former Gonzaga Bulldog is a left-handed starting pitcher who saw limited work in the minors after the draft–hoping to preserve his arm as much as possible. However, he ended the season at High-A Palm Beach–which is impressive considering it was just a few months after the draft. In 16.2 innings pitched for Palm Beach, he had a 1.62 ERA with 13 strikeouts, and opponents hit just .179 against him.

I predict that he will move up the farm system ladder quite rapidly next season–mimicking the rise Michael Wacha had last season. Does this mean he will have his major league debut in 2014? Considering he will be on an innings limit once again, most likely not. However, you never know when it comes to pitchers–as we saw this past season when injuries happened and over 10 rookie pitchers made their debuts for the Cardinals.

He main pitch is a fastball that ranges from 89-92 MPH. Like most lefties, he has a somewhat deceptive delivery and all four of his pitches have effective late movement.. Like Wacha, his go-to combination has been fastball-changeup with both pitches released from an almost identical arm slot. His breaking pitches need some polishing, but they have the makings of being effective pitches for him as well. Thus, he projects to be a three or four pitch pitcher with pinpoint control from the left-side. What’s not to like about that?

However, for as good as Gonzales is as a pitcher, this is not why I like him as much as I do. Gonzales may be one of the best athletes in the entire organization. When he wasn’t pitching at Gonzaga, he played first base–where he was an effective hitter and above-average defender. In 2 years for the Bulldogs, he hit .310 with 20 doubles, two home runs, and 43 RBI. His fielding percentage was .984, and he showed range that will translate well over to his defense from the mound. Because of what I just documented above, I could realistically see him as a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger candidate year in and year out at the big league level.

If you live in Palm Beach, Springfield, or Memphis, make sure to keep an eye on Gonzales next season because I do not think he will be at any of those stops for very long. He has a very bright future, and I am looking forward to seeing him pitch in Busch Stadium someday soon.

Want a closer look at his minor league numbers and be able to keep up with him next season? Well, my buddy, John Nagel, of CardinalsFarm took the time to make player pages for the majority of Cardinal minor leaguers. Here is the link to Gonzales’ page as well as a link to the index of all the players’ pages.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

Unfair to Judge Kolten Wong Based on 2013 Performance

Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

With the trade of David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, the second base starting job appears to belong to Kolten Wong going into the 2014 season. Wait, for real?! But he hit just .153 and had an on-base percentage less than .200 last season! He struck out in nearly 20% of his plate appearances and had only one extra base hit! What are the Cardinals thinking? Trading away the hometown hero in order to free up space for a rookie that looked completely over-matched at the plate last season. Sheesh!

To be blunt, judging Wong’s hitting performance during his short stint with the Cardinals last season is unfair. Completely unfair. 59 at-bats with 25% of them occurring in the pinch-hitting role is not enough to get a grasp of Wong’s ability at the plate. To be frank, Wong didn’t even have enough time to get used to big league pitching in so few at-bats with a good amount of them coming from off the bench.

Thus, I will battle the small sample size argument many have against Wong with a small sample size rebuttal of my own. Hypocritical? Sure, but with 59 total major league at-bats to choose from, it is the best I can do at this time. Soon after his call-up, from August 18th through August 20th, Wong received three straight starts and performed quite well. To be honest, I don’t know why this performance didn’t merit more starts down the stretch. He had five hits in 14 at-bats (.357 batting average) with two runs scored and three stolen bases in as many attempts.

Wong has hit at every level in his minor league career. Last year for Triple-A Memphis, Wong had 412 at-bats and hit .303 with 21 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, and 45 RBIs. Had had a solid .369 on-base percentage and was 20/21 on stolen bases. Wong’s average minor league season since being drafted two and a half years ago? .301 batting average with 24 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs, and 50 RBIs. That’s a sign of quality bat that I cannot wait to see get regular plate appearances at the big league level.

Defense and Base-Running:

With Wong in the starting lineup, the team is better both on defense and on the base paths. Despite not being called up until mid-August, Wong was fifth on the team in stolen bases with three. He averaged 20 stolen bases per season in the minors which would have been 10 more than the highest on the Cardinals this season.

Though Matt Carpenter performed admirably at second base this season, Wong is the better defender at the position. Unlike Carpenter, second is Wong’s natural defensive position. This past season, he was voted the best defensive second baseman in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)–an honor voted on by the managers. In the big leagues, his UZR/150 was 16.3 while Carpenter’s was -2.0. I know I made a case against small sample sizes earlier in this post, but I am a firm believer that a prospect’s glove carries over to the big leagues much more quickly than his bat, so this is a good sign.

Also, by Wong taking over at second base, it can move Carpenter back over to his natural position of third base. Carpenter’s UZR/150 at third base is 4.7, while Freese’s was a dismal -4.8. Thus, by having Wong at second and Carpenter back at third, 2014’s infield defense is already much better than last year’s–to a tune of 27.8 UZR/150. This will be especially important due to the decline in defense with Jhonny Peralta at short instead of Pete Kozma.

Finally, if you believe in projections (and I know a lot of people do not), Steamer of Fangraphs projects Wong to hit .269 with 26 doubles, five triples, eight home runs, 57 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases next season. This is a solid season for the rookie, and it shows the statisticians believe in his ability despite last season’s poor performance.

In conclusion, will Wong have a breakout performance at the plate like Carpenter did in 2013? Probably not, but the combination of having Wong at second and Carpenter at third will make the Cardinals much better at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths than they were this season.

I cannot wait to see more defensive plays like this gem from Game 3 of the World Series.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or check me out on Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

P.S. I just noticed that the great Bernie Miklasz published an article of his own on Wong just a couple hours before this one, but I want to assure you that I had this post in mind long before I saw that he wrote one.

A Look at the Cost-Effectiveness of John Mozeliak and the St. Louis Cardinals

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

For this post, I will revisit the statistic/measure I used in my Matt Holliday post back in September$/WAR. However, I will be applying it to teams instead of just individual players. If you have not already read my Holliday post, the link is provided above, but I will explain the premise behind the statistic here anyway.

In short, a team pays a player to provide wins above what a replacement-level player will provide to the team. Thus, how much does each team pay for the WAR provided by its players on their payroll? Basically, a lower $/WAR is desired because it means that the team is getting the most out of their players at the right price and in other words, they are paying less per win above replacement.

As an aside, I know that there is a statistic out there for “Team WAR,” but for the sake of this post, I simply added up every players’ individual WAR and made this the team’s “combined player WAR.” Then to find each team’s $/WAR, I divided each team’s 2013 payroll (per Baseball Prospectus) by their “combined player WAR.”

Well, John Mozeliak is pretty darn good at what he does, but upon further review, how does he compare to some of the other general managers around the league? If I had more time, I would have compared the Cardinals to every single team, but unfortunately, as a student, I do not. Thus, I compared the Cardinals to the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Rays, Athletics, and the Nationals.

I picked the Red Sox since they are the World Series Champions, and I wanted to see how the Cardinals stacked up against them. I picked the Angels because I think their General Manager, Jerry Dipoto, makes some really silly moves. I picked the Dodgers because they have the highest payroll in baseball, and then I picked the last three at the request of some of my followers on Twitter.

St. Louis Cardinals: $2.88 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $116,505,000
Combined Player WAR: 40.4

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? $2.88 million spent to get one win above replacement? To be honest, I thought so too.

Boston Red Sox: $2.54 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $150,655,000
Combined Player WAR: 59.3 WAR

Los Angeles Dodgers: $5.23 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $223,126,072
Combined Player WAR: 42.7 WAR

Los Angeles Angels: $3.82 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $141,039,107
Combined Player WAR: 36.9 WAR

Tampa Bay Rays: $1.33 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,928,975
Combined Player WAR: 46.7

Oakland Athletics: $1.39 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,964,500
Combined Player WAR: 44.5

Washington Nationals: $3.25 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $118,289,679
Combined Player WAR: 36.4

As you can see, the Cardinals did pretty well. They were fourth on the list, but this list included low-payroll teams like the Rays and the Athletics, so they obviously faced some stiff competition. Teams with lower payrolls have a better chance at having a lower $/WAR than teams with higher payrolls as long as their players produce solid WAR’s. Both the Athletics and Rays prove this by having such a low $/WAR and the fact that both made the playoffs in 2013.

It’s pretty fitting that the Red Sox were more “cost-effective” than the Cardinals despite having almost $35 million more on their payroll. After all, they did beat the Cardinals in the World Series, so they had to be pretty cost-effective in 2013, especially compared to their flawed 2012 roster.

The Dodgers made the NLCS in 2013, which can be considered a very successful season. However, it took them $5.23 million per win above replacement. This is nearly four times as much as it cost both the Rays and the Athletics, and over 2 million more per WAR than Mozeliak and the Cardinals.

Despite having the 6th highest payroll in baseball, the Angels finished six games under five hundred and 18 games back from the American League West Champion Athletics. Why? Because Jerry Dipoto has made some questionable signings in his career with the Angels. In 2013, he paid Joe Blanton $6.5 million for -0.4 WAR and Jered Weaver $16.2 million for 2.4 WAR. For perspective, Lance Lynn made just $513,000 in 2013 while providing 3.3 WAR for the Cardinals. Josh Hamilton made $17.4 million and only had a 1.9 WAR. Finally, Albert Pujols made $16 million and only had a 0.7 WAR.

Enough with the discussion of other teams, this is a Cardinal blog after all. Let’s take a closer look at the Cardinals. In 2013, the Cardinals best value came from the infield. They only paid $1.62 million per WAR, and this includes Furcal’s $7.5 million that contributed 0 WAR. Without Furcal, the Cardinals’ infield would have cost an incredible $882,000 per WAR–largely due to Matt Carpenter‘s breakout season.

How about the pitchers? They cost $3.26 million per WAR. Take Jason Motte‘s $4.5 million and Chris Carpenter‘s $10.5 million out of the equation, they would have cost only $2.37 million per WAR. The catchers? $2.94 million per WAR. Though Yadier Molina had a 5.6 WAR, the backups both had negative WAR’s, Tony Cruz at -0.2 and Rob Johnson at -0.3.

Finally, the outfielders. With two big-money contracts in Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran, one would expect this to be the highest $/WAR on the team, and it was, but because of how good Holliday and Beltran were, it wasn’t by much. The outfield cost the Cardinals $3.42 million per WAR.

The least cost-effective position for the Cardinals last season was the outfield. This will likely change in 2013 with high-priced Beltran leaving via free agency. Peter Bourjos will receive just over the league minimum at $512,500, Jon Jay will make a little over $3 million, and Allen Craig is set to make $2.75 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if the outfield is the most cost-effective position for the Cardinals next season–especially if Oscar Taveras is finally able to make an impact with the big league club.

With Jhonny Peralta set to make $13 million and the likelihood of Matt Carpenter not performing quite as well as he did in 2013, I expect the infield to be slightly less “cost-effective” next season.

There you have it, a pretty in-depth breakdown of teams’ payrolls and the subsequent value that their players provide. Don’t get me wrong, Mozeliak is a terrific GM, one of the best in the business, but I hope this post showed, via statistical data, how good some other GMs are as well–namely Billy Beane (of the A’s) and Andrew Friedman (of the Rays).

I really hope you enjoyed this piece because it took quite some time to produce. If you know of other Cardinal fans that may be interested in this piece, feel free to share it with them!

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

Credits:
WAR statistics were retrieved from Fangraphs.com and the payroll numbers came from Baseball Prospectus. Please give or take 5% on some of my calculations due to the complexity and variation amongst some of the data.

Cardinal Nation, Meet Randal Grichuk

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA Today Sports)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA Today Sports)

With today’s trade, the David Freese era in St. Louis has officially come to a close. In return for Freese and Fernando Salas, the Cardinals have received speedy centerfielder, Peter Bourjos, and outfield prospect, Randal Grichuk.

As hundreds of people have already noted all across social media, Grichuk was selected by the Los Angeles Angels one pick before the team drafted Mike Trout back in 2009. Thus, he has to have some tools, right? This is a logical assumption, so I decided to take a look at some of his numbers to see what I could find out.

Grichuk, listed at 6′, 195 pounds, is a 22-year-old right-handed hitting (and throwing) corner outfielder. He has played a little bit of center in the minors, but he projects as a right or left fielder. Since a lot of you are probably wondering about his professional statistics, the table below documents his numbers in the minors over the past two seasons–2012 in High-A and 2013 in AA:

grichum

As you can see, he has solid power numbers–averaging 28.5 doubles, 8.5 triples, and 20 home runs per season in 2012 and 2013. One thing you definitely cannot teach is hitting power, and this is obviously not a problem for Grichuk. However, his batting average and on-base percentage are lagging behind somewhat. His batting average in High-A was partially inflated due to his unusually high BABIP (the league average falls into the .290 to .310 range), and when it came down to earth in AA (.272), his batting average suffered–falling to just .256.

His on-base percentage in AA was just .306. For perspective, the Cardinals had nine players with higher regular season OBPs than Grichuk on their post-season roster. The only regular with a lower OBP than Grichuk’s? Pete Kozma, but no one can really be surprised about that.

Though he has improved on his strikeout rate (down to 17% in 2013 when he was at 22.8% in 2011), he needs to take more walks. In 1,117 plate appearances over the past two seasons, he has taken just 51 walks–or one walk per every 22 plate appearances. This will likely improve with the Cardinals minor league coaching staff helping him further develop his approach at the plate.

His defense, one of his biggest flaws coming into the draft, has vastly improved in his time in the minor leagues. He had 11 outfield assists last season, and his range factor per game was a respectable 2.41 (Range factor/game = (assists + putouts)/games played). His defense has improved to the point where he won the 2013 MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove for outfielders Overall, he has average to slightly above-average speed giving him the ability to steal bases on occasion and patrol the corner outfield spots with ease.

In conclusion, I consider this a terrific trade for the Cardinals. They not only acquired a center fielder that can stir up some competition with the incumbent, Jon Jay, but also a solid, power-hitting outfield prospect with significant upside. They were able to get both of these players for essentially Freese since I consider Salas just a throw-in player in the deal.

Grichuk will likely start 2014 in newly-purchased, Triple-A Memphis. However, the outfield will be crowded there with Oscar Taveras, James Ramsey, Tommy Pham, and Mike O’Neill all vying for playing time. Because of this, and the fact that I do not see Allen Craig as an outfielder long-term, I would not be surprised if the Cardinals made another deal very soon–one that likely includes slugging first baseman, Matt Adams, a fringe pitcher prospect, and one or two of the excess outfield prospects down on the farm.

Will this trade be for the shortstop of the future? I sure hope so.

In the meantime, let’s extend a warm welcome to the newest members of the St. Louis Cardinals. You can find Grichuk on Twitter: @RGrich15, but I have not found an official account of Bourjos just yet. If Grichuk reads this, maybe he can help us out! 🙂

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

United Cardinal Bloggers: End of Year Awards Ballot

ucb_11_trans_dark_sm

At the end of every season, the United Cardinal Bloggers have Cardinal Blogger Awards as a way to provide some closure. The first half of the ballot consists of the team on the field, and the second half takes a look at the active blogging members of the UCB. This is 7th time they have done this, but it is my first time since I am what is known as a “rookie blogger.”

Without further ado, here is my ballot. I provided reasoning where I saw fit.

Team Awards
1) Cardinal Position Player of the YearYadier Molina.

In my humble opinion, Molina was the National League MVP, so it is only fitting for him to get this award. The Cardinals would not have been nearly as successful this season without Yadi’s performance behind the plate, at the plate, and in the clubhouse.

2) Cardinal Pitcher of the YearAdam Wainwright

Pretty easy pick here. Waino is the ace of the staff, and he performed this way the majority of the season. Fresh off a new long-term contract, he proved his value this season.

3) Game of the YearSeptember 24 vs. Nationals (Wacha near no-no)

As you all know, I love pitching, and this was one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen in my 23 years of living.

4) Surprise Player of the YearMatt Carpenter

I’ve always loved Carpenter’s swing, but I never expected him to explode like he did this season. It was a pleasant surprise, and it could not have happened to a better person.

5) Disappointing Player of the YearDavid Freese

Pete Kozma was a candidate for this award, but in my opinion, he does not deserve it. The Cardinals expected far too much from him. He wasn’t a proven hitter when they drafted him and never really hit well in the minors. He made the team because of his defense which was above-average all season. Freese on the other hand? Really disappointing. I am a big fan of his, but his 2013 performance was very underwhelming, and I am putting that mildly.

6) Rookie of the Year: Michael Wacha

His performance in October speaks for itself.

7) Acquisition of the YearRandy Choate

8) Most Anticipated CardinalOscar Taveras

I really hope Taveras lives up to the hype. I think he is the most anticipated Cardinal position player since Colby Rasmus, and we all know how that turned out. Let’s hope for an injury-free 2014 because the sky really is the limit for this young outfielder.

Blog Awards
9) Best Individual Cardinal Blog: C70 At The Bat

I enjoyed reading his series previews and game previews almost daily all season. He put in an incredible amount of work and is a terrific writer. He is also the main reason I joined United Cardinal Bloggers this season. Give him the access that Derrick Goold or Jenifer Langosch has, and he could be great.

10) Best Team Cardinal Blog: Redbird Rants

They have a wide variety of content over at Redbird Rants, and I enjoy the fact that they take some risks with their writing. Everyone enjoys a good game report, but just about every news source provides one of those. The Redbird Rants staff goes beyond that, and that’s why I have enjoyed following them all season.

11) Best Media CoverageDerrick Goold

Though he is sometimes sarcastic with his responses on Twitter, he is the most available/responsive of any of the media members. That deserves a lot of respect because no one says they have to respond to our questions. Also, his stance for supporting Molina for MVP catapulted him above and beyond the rest of the media members.

12) Best Rookie Cardinal BlogCardinalsFarm

The amount of work John puts forth is incredible. He has to keep up with all of the farm teams, yet is able to produce farm reports almost every night. I love keeping track of prospects including writing some on my own, so his blog is an invaluable resource for me.

13) Post of the YearMatt Holliday: One Of The Most Cost Effective Players In Baseball (stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page)

This is my favorite post of my early blogging career. I carefully read every single post in contention, and I know it may be frowned upon, but I ended up choosing my own. I thought out of the box and created my own statistic/measure to use as the main premise of the post, “$ / WAR.” Coincidentally, just a few days later, Baseball Reference published a post in which they implemented a similar statistic to it, so that was a pretty cool feeling to have that a reputable source like them thought along the same lines as me.

14) Best UCB ProjectTop 7 Prospects

As I stated earlier, I love writing about prospects, so this one had an unfair advantage.

15) Best UCB PodcastGateway To Baseball Heaven

16) Best UCB Twitterer@RetroSimba

It was a dead-heat between @RetroSimba and @CardinalTales, but I gave the slight edge to Mark here. Both are obvious must-follows for all Cardinal fans.

Until next time…

Joe

PS, with my school’s Thanksgiving Break starting tomorrow, be on the lookout for some more 2014 MLB Draft preview posts as well as some other posts if any trades are made during that time.

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

2014 MLB Draft: Five Prospects to Keep an Eye On (Part 2)

Lukas Schiraldi (Photo Credit: Chelsea Capwell/Chatham Anglers)

Lukas Schiraldi (Photo Credit: Chelsea Capwell/Chatham Anglers)

On Sunday, I brought you a list of five prospects to watch for the 2014 MLB Draft. Today, I am providing you with another list of draft prospects to watch along with brief analysis, highlight videos, and the possibility of them being available for one of the two Cardinals first round picks.

Can you tell I am missing baseball or what? Also, as most of you know, I love writing about prospects, and I figured the MLB off-season and before the start of the NCAA season would be a perfect time to throw out some names for you all to keep track of throughout the 2014 season.

Trea Turner (SS)
College: NC State

Though I am almost 100% sure he will not be available by the time the Cardinals pick, I still decided to break him down. He is in the top five of the draft when it comes to speed, but some scouts, including ESPN’s Keith Law, have their doubts about his ability with the bat. Despite the doubts, he hit .368 with 7 home runs, 42 RBI and was 30 for 36 on stolen bases last season for the Wolf Pack. At 6’2″, 170 pounds, especially with a professional training staff, he has room to grow and add bulk which will help add power to his bat in the future.

He has top-of-the-order, game-changing speed which equates to stolen bases on the base paths and above-average range in the field. If other teams doubt the projectability of his bat at the professional level and skip on him, the Cardinals would be ecstatic to snag him with their late first round pick. This is wishful thinking, though. I have seen some mock drafts having him go as high as second overall, while some have him dropping back into the 20th-25th overall pick range. Yet, he really would look great with the “Birds on the Bat” across his chest.

Twitter: @treavturner
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Aaron Nola (RHP)
College: LSU

In short, Nola’s numbers for LSU in 2013 were absolutely ridiculous. In 17 starts, he had 126 innings pitched–good for a little over seven and one/third innings per start. His control was impeccable walking just 18 batters while striking out 122, giving him an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.78.

At 6’1″, 183 pounds, Nola doesn’t have that towering pitcher build that scouts rave about, but as you can see by the numbers, he doesn’t really need it. He makes up for it by employing a somewhat deceptive three-quarters motion to provide exception movement on three above-average pitches. His go-to is his sinker which touches 94 MPH with both downward and tailing movement. He also has a plus changeup that mimics the movement of his fastball. Finally, he has an above-average 11-5 breaking ball which is resembles a slurve more than just a curveball or slider.

Baseball America has him 10th in their latest 2014 draft rankings, so he, like Turner, will likely be unavailable by the time the Cardinals pick. However, if interested here is a video of him pitching in the Cape Cod League in 2012. His deceptive whipping motion is on full display in the video. In my opinion, he has the best chance of any pitching prospect to make a Michael Wacha-like rise through a team’s farm system. Let’s hope he doesn’t end up in the National League Central.

Twitter@AaronNola10
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I know what you’re saying…what about a guy that has a chance at being available when the Cardinals pick? Well, here’s that guy…

Lukas Schiraldi (RHP)
College: University of Texas

After pitching his first two post-high school seasons at the JUCO level, Schiraldi is now a member of the Texas Longhorns. Because he was at the JUCO level, he flew under the radar a little bit. This, however, is no longer the case due to his 2013 Cape Cod League performance. He was given the BFC Whitehouse Outstanding Pitcher Award after he led the league with a 1.20 ERA. He had 27 strikeouts in 37.2 regular-season innings. Also, in his one playoff start in Cape Cod, he threw six shutout innings.

At 6’4″, 197 pounds, he could add a little bulk to his frame, but his height is what is desired in a pitching prospect. Baseball America has him ranked 47th–noting his “plus fastball and solid secondary repertoire.” His fastball touches 95 MPH, and his changeup is already big-league ready. As he develops his breaking ball at UT, he will be one of the top pitching prospects out there.

One of my favorite parts about him is his laid-back, goofy personality which can be seen in this 2.5 minute interview after his first start at Cape Cod. Give him time, and he could be the next Adam Wainwright–both on the mound and in the dugout/clubhouse. Based on his spring performance with Texas, he very well could be available for the Cardinals late in the first round, and I would be ecstatic if they were to pick him up. However, now that he plays for a perennial baseball powerhouse, Texas, scouts won’t be able to overlook him. I could see him flying up the draft board as the season rolls along.

Twitter: ?? (help if you can find it!)
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Joey Pankake (SS/3B/OF/RHP??)
College: University of South Carolina

First off, look at his last name. Does it get much better than that? Pankake is built like a rock at 6’1″, 200 pounds and has the power to move over to third base or even a corner outfield spot if shortstop doesn’t work out for him. However, many scouts believe he has the athleticism and arm strength to stay at short-stop long-term. We will see where he plays at South Carolina this spring. Even if they move him from shortstop, scouts may still plug him back into that role once drafted.

In 2013 for the Gamecocks, he hit .311 with nine doubles, 11 home runs, and 42 RBI. He is a pure hitter with a plus arm in the field, as can be shown by the fact that he can bring it mid-90s from the mound. Pankake is definitely one to keep an eye on because though Baseball American lists him at 48th on their list right now, he is likely to move up as the NCAA season progresses. If available, he, too, would look really good in Cardinal red. A shortstop that can hit? Man, that would be nice to have in St. Louis.

Here is a one minute video of one of his BP sessions. Make sure to stick around until the 50 second mark…

Twitter: @jpankake
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J.J. Schwarz (C)
High School: Palm Beach Gardens

I admit it. I took a look at this guy strictly because of his first initial and last name (J. Schwarz). However, upon further review, this 17-year-old University of Florida signee looks to have quite the potent bat with gap-to-gap power. Early reports from this summer’s East Coast Pro Showcase indicate that he has quite the arm as well–picking off two runners in a game.

He was also a key performer on the Gold-medal winning 18-and-under Team USA squad at the World Cup. I am almost certain he will end up playing college ball at Florida instead of signing, but like I said, I just had to check out a guy with the same name as me. Here is a Baseball America video of Schwarz taking batting practice this summer.

Twitter: @jj_schwarz5
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Well, there’s part two of my 2014 MLB Draft Preview. The first two mentioned, Turner and Nola, will likely be unavailable, but the following two could be available when the Cardinals pick. Both Schiraldi and Pankake would be excellent values late in the first round. What about Schwarz? Yeah, he will probably end up at Florida, but he does have a cool last name, though.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

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