photo: Mack Chambers (University of New Mexico)
By Blake Newberry and Brian Walton
On Tuesday, July 13, the St. Louis Cardinals are making their final 10 selections in the third day of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, covering rounds 11-20.
Though uninformed observers pay little attention to Day 3 selections, the reality is that many good major leaguers are sourced from these picks. In fact, the Cardinals have been especially successful over the years finding talent in round 11 or later, including former all-star Matt Carpenter, St. Louis’ 13th rounder in 2009.
The Cardinals would be required to use a portion of their $8,167,100 pool allocation from rounds 1-10 to cover any harder-to-sign any Day 3 selections who receive more than $125,000 in signing bonus. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals go down this path in 2021.
On Days 1 and 2 of the 2021 Draft, the Cardinals clearly focused on pitchers, using seven of the 11 picks there. Of the nine collegians added to date, just two are seniors, apparently leaving less opportunity to save money to allow overslot bonuses to selected Day 3 picks.
Click on each player’s photo to be taken to their player profile page here at The Cardinal Nation, with additional information.
To reference the Cardinals’ new draft class on an ongoing basis, each player will have a profile located on a holding team called “DRAFT PLAYERS UNSIGNED”. This can be accessed at the bottom of the drop-down menu in the red column in the left menu called “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” or click here.
As Tuesday progresses from afternoon into evening, this article will be updated as picks are made and information added, so please check back often.
2021 Draft recap
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Total|
After the conclusion of the draft, Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores commended his scouts for being “well prepared and agile”, while crediting many others, including the organization’s analysts and the resources given them by ownership.
Flores noted that in their selections, they continued the approach taken after their third pick, which was that they “still leaned to pitchers on ties.”
Questioned about 17th rounder Elijah Cabell, Flores replied that the Cardinals have been following him a long time back to the showcase circuit. The outfielder has “an immense gift to make hard contact” but his swing and miss, strikeout rate, is the likely reason the Florida State star was not taken earlier. The Cardinals “didn’t shy away from the opportunity,” with the belief that Player Development can maximize his “gift of hitting the baseball hard.”
As outlined below, 15th rounder Andre Granillo had very limited action this spring, but Flores said that the Cal Riverside hurler’s recent work in the Cape Cod League gave them “conviction” to make the selection. The scouts used a team approach whereby an out of area scout was also brought in to take another look.
The overall Day 3 approach was to avoid having an overwhelming voice governing the final 10 selections. Flores discussed striking a balance between scout picks and analytic-driven ones advocated by analysts. Of course, the standing questions of such matters like bonus expectations, signability and medicals are always important considerations.
Though the organization will likely be focused on getting these 21 draft picks signed by the August 1 deadline, Flores also said the Cardinals are also “open” to signing non-drafted free agents based on needs.
St. Louis’ 2021 Day 3 selections
11th round, 331st overall
Mack Chambers, SS
University of New Mexico
Mack Chambers had a productive sophomore season with the University of New Mexico. The shortstop slashed .371/.444/.624/1.068 with more walks (16) than strikeouts. (12), although he did not walk or strike out at a high rate. Of his 63 hits in the 2021 season, Chambers tallied 26 extra base hits, with seven landing over the fence.
The 21-year-old began his college career with Seminole State Junior College. In his two seasons there, Chambers batted over .400 twice and OPSed over 1.000 twice, while finishing his last season with a .472/.606/.764/1.370 slash line in an abbreviated 23-game season.
Coming out of his success with Seminole State College, the shortstop was selected by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2019 MLB draft. He declined to sign and was not selected in the five-round 2020 draft. Despite his strong production at New Mexico, he did not get selected any higher in 2021.
Throughout his college career, Chambers has been a strong producer at the plate, albeit against weaker competition against Junior College and Mountain West opponents.
The switch hitter will need to prove that he can hit against more advanced competition, but there is promise considering that he walked more than he struck out in his collegiate career and was immensely productive in both Junior College and Division One.
Chambers is the second infielder selected by the Cardinals and the first one who plays up the middle. His 6’0”, 180-pound size suggests that he will stick in the middle and not move to the corners, as he is more hit over power, although he did display solid power in college, and has solid athleticism.
12th round, 361st overall
Chris Gerard, LHP
Virginia Tech University
After selecting a productive college bat, the Cardinals have returned to a college arm.
Chris Gerard was a starter from day one at Virginia Tech, and he had three strong seasons in the rotation, with a career ERA of 2.63. The left-hander increased his strikeouts and decreased his walks from his freshman year, finishing the 2021 season with 10.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
Gerard threw just 41 2/3 innings in 2021 due to a groin injury that caused him to miss almost an entire month. In his career, he threw just 120 innings across three seasons.
The 21-year-old is small for a pitcher, standing just 5’10” and weighing just 175 pounds. However, he gets high marks for his pitchability as he is able to command four pitches.
There is not a lot of velocity in Gerard’s arm due to his size, so his fastball typically sits 88-90, but can tick into the lower 90s. The southpaw throws two breaking balls – a slider and a curveball – and they are distinct pitches, although both could be refined in order to gain sharpness.
Many scouts believe that Gerard’s low-80s changeup is his best pitch, but he is able to throw all of his secondary pitches for strikes.
Gerard fits the mold that the Cardinals have targeted in this draft. He has good pitchability and a feel for pitching but stuff that does not jump off the charts. Additionally, his success in an advanced conference in college is a good sign.
Adding a few ticks on his fastball would be helpful but considering his size it is unlikely that he will ever throw above the low-90s in the rotation. If he moves to the bullpen, his velocity could potentially tick higher.
13th round, 391st overall
Hayes Heinecke, LHP
Wofford College (SC)
Hayes Heinecke is another productive college arm with a chance to stick in the rotation. Heinecke is an interesting case, however, because he pitched better in his first two college seasons than he did in his final season.
The left-hander joined the starting rotation as a freshman and posted a 2.65 ERA in 15 88 1/3 innings as a starter. He improved in the shortened 2020 season, tallying a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings across four starts. However, in 2021, Heinecke finished with a 4.40 ERA in 43 innings and eight starts.
The 22-year-old has always been good at limiting walks (career 1.7 BB/9), but his strikeout rate jumped from 8.6 K/9 in 2019 to 12.6 K/9 in 2020 before dropping back to a 9.0 K/9 in 2021.
As a result, it is difficult to tell what Heinecke’s ceiling is. His four starts in 2020 were very promising and his success in 2019 is a good sign as well. However, after his step backward in 2021, it is unclear how good of a pitcher the southpaw truly is.
The Cardinals player development staff will have a bit of a project as they see if they can get him to recapture his early-college form and build on it.
At 6’0”, 210-pounds, there is little projectability left in Heinecke’s frame. In 2021, his fastball sat 89-91, but in 2020 the left-hander could touch 95.
Heinecke’s floor is a pitcher with a good feel for pitching who throws a lot of strikes and commands four pitches. At his ceiling, he is someone who can tick into the mid-90s with his fastball, miss bats with his slider and throw an average curveball and changeup while pounding the strike zone with four pitches.
14th round, 421st overall
Andre Granillo, RHP
University of California Riverside
Andre Granillo is the first pitcher selected by the Cardinals who appears to have no chance of being a starter in the professional ranks.
The right-hander spent his entire three-year collegiate career in the bullpen with UC Riverside and did not post good numbers, with a career 5.98 ERA.
There is some upside with Granillo, though. The 21-year-old had a career 12.0 K/9 in college. He also lowered his walk rate from 5.2 BB/9 as a freshman to 3.5 BB/9 in 2021. Adding to his promise is the fact that he pitched well in the brief 2020 season. That year he struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings and posted a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.
Granillo uses a fastball/slider combination that misses plenty of bats. The right-hander’s fastball lives in the lower 90s, but there is potential for it to jump into the mid-90s or higher due to Granillo’s 6’4”, 245-pound frame.
Granillo also has experience in summer leagues as he pitched well (2.29 ERA, 15.6 K/9) in the Northwoods League in 2020 and also pitched well (2.45 ERA, 13.9 K/9) in the Cape Cod League in 2021.
The 21-year-old threw just 10 1/3 innings for UC Riverside in 2021, but his history of strike outs and success in summer leagues provides plenty of appeal.
Granillo has an enticing fastball/slider combination that has the potential to play well out of the bullpen. The right-hander also developed a cutter in 2020, which adds to his arsenal and potential as a power reliever. With some refinement on his slider and cutter, and a velocity jump on his fastball, Granillo could build on his success in the summer leagues and see his numbers improve as a professional.
15th round, 451st overall
Alex Cornwell, LHP
University of Southern California
Alex Cornwell is another pitcher with promise despite not achieving much success in the college ranks.
The left-hander was selected by the Cubs out of high school in the 37th round of the 2017 MLB draft. After arriving on USC’s campus, Cornwell missed the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons with injury. When he finally took the mound in 2020, he pitched well, but the season was shut down after his fourth start.
In 2021, Cornwell finally got to play a full season. However, it did not go well for him as he finished the year with a 5.35 ERA in 79 innings while walking 21 and fanning 65.
The 22-year-old threw less than 100 innings in his college career, which makes it difficult to evaluate him after being a high touted prep pitcher.
The left-hander was ranked by Perfect Game as the 25th best prep left-hander in the nation going into the 2017 draft. This certainly gives him plenty of upside as a reclamation project for the Cardinals player development staff.
Cornwell throws a curveball with plenty of depth, a fastball that sits in the low 90s, and a changeup that gets a good amount of run.
He needs to sharpen the curveball and be more consistent with it as it can float in the zone when it does not break enough. When he snaps it off well it dives toward the ground and gets whiffs. The southpaw’s changeup also plays well on the outer half of the plate The 6’2”, 200-pound Cornwell is also likely a candidate to add velocity as he gets into pro ball.
This is an upside pick for the Cardinals on a player who will likely stay in the rotation to begin his career.
16th round, 481st overall
Aaron McKeithan, C
University of North Carolina Charlotte
Aaron McKeithan spent his first collegiate season at Tulane where he was a backup and only saw 27 plate appearances. He then transferred to UNC Charlotte where he slashed .278/.398/.394/.793 in 221 plate appearances as the team’s starting catcher in 2021.
Notably, the catcher walked (26) more than he struck out (20), but he displayed little power, homering just three times and recording an OBP higher than his slugging percentage. He was also hit by 12 pitches.
Following the 2021 season, McKeithan played in the Cape Cod League where he slashed .143/.333/.286/.619 in 30 plate appearances. He again walked more than he struck out, but he struggled with the bat.
Defensively, the right-handed hitter did not make an error or have a passed ball, and he threw out 3 of 9 base stealers in the Cape Cod League. For Charlotte, he threw out 9 of 53 base stealers, made four errors and allowed seven passed balls in 59 games.
The Cardinals need to select a catcher for minor league depth in this draft. McKeithan has promising OBP skills at the plate, but he has showed little power and did not throw out many base stealers. However, despite his arm he does have some quality behind the plate.
There is not huge upside with this pick, but if the 21-year-old can improve his hit tool, it would pair well with his ability to take walks.
⬆️1️⃣ | HOSE ALERT!!! McKeithan takes care of the runner who reached on a free pass to eliminate the base runner!
— CHARLOTTE BASEBALL (@CharlotteBSB) April 4, 2021
17th round, 511th overall
Elijah Cabell, OF
Florida State University
Elijah Cabell was a three-year starter for a strong Florida State team. He takes a lot of walks and has a lot of power, but there is some concern with his hit tool. The right-handed hitter slashed .264/.397/.560/.957 with 15 home runs in 2021. However, the 22-year-old also struck out 78 times in 194 plate appearances.
In his career, Cabell has struck out in 40% of his plate appearances. With the jump in competition, Cabell may struggle to make enough contact to tap into his power. However, if he can hit the ball enough, then he has ample power and takes enough walks (16% walk rate in 2021) to potentially become a productive hitter.
The outfielder has a legitimate power tool, and at this point in the draft there are always going to be other flaws with a player when he has such a strong tool. In Cabell’s case, he strikes out too much.
During Florida State’s season, Cabell hit a 489 foot with a 114 mph exit velocity. This gives Cabell a high ceiling if he can ever develop his hit tool and make more contact.
Defensively, Cabell played primarily played left field for Florida State and he will likely stay there as he does not have the necessary speed and defensive ability to play center field and his arm is not strong enough for right field (four career outfield assists).
The Cardinals have been targeting power corner players recently and Cabell fits into that mold.
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 1, 2021
18th round, 541st overall
Andrew Marrero, RHP
University of Connecticut
Marrero is the second pitcher the Cardinals have selected that will likely not have a chance of developing as a starter in the professional ranks.
Marrero spent two seasons in the bullpen for UConn and threw just 26 innings. He pitched well in four appearances in 2020 but struggled in 21 1/3 innings in 2021, posting a 4.64 ERA. Despite his struggles, Marrero fanned 11.8 batters per nine innings in his career, while walking just 3.1 per nine innings.
Following the 2021 season, Marrero went to the Cape Cod League where he compiled a 5.40 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Clearly the Cardinals are taking a chance on Marrero’s ability to generate whiffs, while hoping that he can become more effective in the professional ranks that he was in college.
With a small frame, there is not much projectability left in Marrero’s body. However, his fastball already sits comfortable in the 90s, and his slider generates plenty of whiffs. This is a promising profile for a reliever and makes him different than most of the other pitchers slected by the Cardinals.
19th round, 571st overall
Thomas Francisco, 1B
East Carolina University
Thomas Francisco is another productive corner bat selected by the Cardinals. The first baseman slashed .354/.416/.557/.973 in 282 plate appearances in 2021 with an equal number of walks and strikeouts (23).
Throughout his college career, Francisco showcased an excellent hit tool. He does not strike out much and has shown an ability to hit for a high average (career .348 hitter). This season, though, Francisco showed increased power, hitting 13 home runs after hitting just five in his previous 175 plate appearances.
As a first baseman, it is important that Francisco can hit for power, so this was a key development for him in 2021.
The left-handed hitter also performed well in the Valley Baseball League in the summer of 2019, batting .412 with a .965 OPS in 124 plate appearances.
Francisco makes plenty of contact and has shown an ability to hit the ball to the opposite field to beat the shift. If he can prove that his power surge was legitimate, then Francisco could move quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues.
There is not much defensive value for Francisco as a first baseman, so his bat will need to be his carrying tool. If his power fades, then he has a lower ceiling, but if his power stays, then the 21-year-old could be a productive overall hitter and a good value pick in the 19th round.
20th round, 601st overall
Xavier Casserilla, 3B
V.R. Eaton HS, Haslet, TX
he St. Louis Cardinals concluded their draft with a corner infielder from V.R. Eaton High School in Texas.
Listed at 6’0”, 215 pounds, Casserilla has a strong arm and a good hit tool. He touched 91 mph with his fastball on the mound, and that gives him more than enough arm strength to make a strong throw from third base. He also has good athleticism which gives him the ability to field the ball well at the hot corner.
Casserilla has a bit of a leg lift when he strides, but his hands are quiet, and he can find the barrel consistently. The right-handed hitter has good gap-to-gap power with emerging over-the-fence power.
Despite being just 18 years old, he has already matured physically, which gives him the ability to hit and throw the ball with authority.
As a 20th-round selection out of high school he will likely take longer to develop than most of the players selected in front of him if he decides to forego college.
He is currently committed to Wichita State University, and it would likely require a signing bonus of over $125,000 to convince him to sign. Thus, without knowing how much money the Cardinals will have available in their bonus pool, it is difficult to determine if he will sign, though the fact that he was selected is a draft that was recently shortened to 20 rounds could be an indication of his signability.
Regardless, he is another corner player with some power who fits with the archetype that Scouting Director Randy Flores likes to target.
TCN analyst Blake Newberry is writing the player capsules and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.
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