Cardinals 2020 MLB Draft Preview: St. Louis Hopes To Add To Balanced System
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, MLB teams do not draft for immediate need. There’s good reason for that, as even the most MLB-ready draft prospects usually take two seasons to get fully established in the majors. But as we ready for the 2020 MLB draft, it is useful to look at where teams are deep and where they are thin at the MLB and minor league level.
Also of note:
2019 MLB RECORD: 91-71
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The rise of Dylan Carlson gives the Cardinals another premium prospect in their endless talent pipeline. The current system is well balanced in both position players (Carlson, Nolan Gorman) and pitchers (Matthew Liberatore, Zach Thompson) from Triple-A down to the Class A levels. Coming off their National League Central Division title in 2019, the Cardinals are stocked with players who can help them both now and in the future.
BEST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: RHP Jack Flaherty (first round, 2014). The Cardinals have a long list of draft hits from the 2010s, but Flaherty is on track to surpass them all. Taken in the first round with the 34th pick in 2014, Flaherty has already established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers at 24 years old. He led the National League in WHIP and hits allowed per nine last year, finished fourth in NL Cy Young award voting and, most amazingly, posted a miniscule 0.91 ERA over his final 15 starts. Flaherty is already the ace of a postseason contender and, health permitting, has a chance to be one of baseball’s best starting pitchers of the 2020s.
WORST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: OF Nick Plummer (first round, 2015). The Cardinals rarely whiff in the draft, but the No. 23 has not been kind to them. The Cardinals held the 23rd overall pick three times during the decade and used it to select James Ramsey (2012), Plummer (2015) and Delvin Perez (2016). Ramsey at least made it to Triple-A and Perez has shown some defensive ability. Plummer has hit .199 in four professional seasons and is yet to play above high Class A.
DEEPEST POSITION(S): Catcher and third base. The ageless Yadier Molina continues to amaze, but he turns 38 in July and will be a free agent after the season. If the Cardinals decide to turn the page, they’re in good shape with Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera and Julio Rodriguez staggered throughout full-season ball. Gorman, Elehuris Montero and Malcom Nunez are all potential impact hitters at third base, although all three scuffled at times last season.
WEAKEST POSITION(S): Righthander. The Cardinals have Flaherty and Dakota Hudson in the majors, so they’re hardly hurting for young, righthanded starters. At the same time, there is little coming up behind them. Ryan Helsley impressed in relief last year and may stay in the bullpen, and beyond him no righthanded pitchers rank among the Cardinals Top 10 Prospects. Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford and Angel Rondon each have some promise, but all have significant question marks. The Cardinals would benefit most from Carlos Martinez re-establishing himself as a starter and Alex Reyes finally staying healthy.
DRAFT TRENDS: The Cardinals used their top pick on a position player in four straight drafts until last year. Seven of their last 12 players drafted in the top two rounds were high schoolers.