photo: Nolan Gorman (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)
By Scott Schook and Brian Walton
The St. Louis Cardinals are back in Day 1 of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft after sitting out in 2017 due to forfeiting all three first-day selections. Under scouting director Randy Flores, the club is making its initial three 2018 picks on Monday evening, June 4, in rounds 1 and 2.
First up was power-hitting high school third baseman Nolan Gorman from Phoenix, Arizona, taken 19th overall.
St. Louis also lost one pick in 2018, the 59th overall, due to the signing of free agent reliever Greg Holland, who had received a qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies last fall.
Overall in Day 1, encompassing these first three picks, the Cardinals have been allocated $5,695,500 in bonus pool money. Their total through round 10 is $7,968,400.
Rounds 3-10 will occur starting at 1:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and rounds 11-40 will be completed beginning at noon ET on Wednesday
To reference the Cardinals new draft class on an ongoing basis, each player will have a profile located on a holding team called “2018 DRAFT UNSIGNED PLAYERS”. This can be accessed at the bottom of the drop-down menu in the red column at the left called “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES”.
St. Louis’ selections – 2018 Draft day 1
First round, 19th overall
3B Nolan Gorman
Sandra Day O’Connor High School (HS), Phoenix, AZ
6’1”, 210 pounds
For the third time in four years, the Cardinals spent their first selection in the MLB Draft on a high school hitter. When one of the most enticing prep hitters in the Draft pool fell to the Cardinals (just like in 2016 with Delvin Perez), the Cardinals made no delay in snapping him up.
Gorman has some of the best raw power in the draft with some scouts giving him a 70 grade. The third baseman won both the MLB All-Star Game High School Home Run Derby in Miami and the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He stood out in the summer circuit.
Gorman batted .419 (116-for-277) with 32 home runs, 118 RBI and 115 runs scored in his high school career. As a senior, he helped lead the Eagles to their first 6A State Championship, hitting .421 with 10 home runs, 46 walks, a .640 on-base percentage and .896 slugging percentage in 32 games.
His offensive game does have some swing and miss to it, though. Gorman can sometimes get out in front of himself, leading to holes on the inside of his swing. However, some of this may be due to pressing as he was by far the best player on his team and would have received precious little to hit. When he does make contact, the ball leaps off his bat in an unnatural fashion. When you see Gorman swing, he generates an excellent rubber-band effect with his upper half, and he possesses excellent body awareness. Gorman has received comparisons to both Kyle and Corey Seager on the offensive side of the ball.
The defensive side does have some questions. Gorman has a prototypical third baseman build with soft hands and good footwork. His arm is good enough to handle third base for now. His arm grades out as a 50, and his 40-grade speed keeps his range below average as well. Some believe that with enough instruction, he can continue to stick at third, but even a move to first base would be viable given his bat.
With this pick, the Cardinals have added something they desperately need in the system: power. If Gorman hits his potential ceiling, the Cardinals could plop a consistent 30-home run threat right in the middle of their lineup for several years. The Cardinals also made a little history with this pick: Gorman is the first MLB draftee in history born in the year 2000.
“We’re very excited for the opportunity to draft Nolan Gorman,” stated St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “You’re always looking for opportunities at every draft, and picking at No. 19, we weren’t sure what that would bring tonight. Gorman has a different profile than what we have picked before, and we’re excited to draft this kind of player into our system.”
“We were thrilled to take Nolan,” stated St. Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores. “The way the board worked out, you can’t believe a left-handed hitter as young as he is, who has performed with power on the biggest stage, was available to us.”
“Nolan Gorman is an analytical poster boy,” Sandra Day O’Connor coach Jeff Baumgartner told the Arizona Republic. “All the things they are looking for nowadays in baseball, with launch angle and exit velocity, is right up his alley.
“He has offensive tools that separate him from all the other high school players in the nation. His light-tower power is on display in every batting practice and home run derby he takes part in. And his knowledge of his strike zone will help to swiftly move him up the ranks.”
The pool amount for this pick is $3,231,700.
Last 3Bmen taken by #stlcards on day 1: Stephen Piscotty (25th overall), Patrick Wisdom (52) and Carson Kelly (82), all in 2012. Zach Cox was also 25th overall in 2010. Brett Wallace 13th overall in 2008.
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) June 5, 2018
Kelly was the only prep player in the above group , and as readers already know, he soon moved behind the plate.
First round, Competitive Balance A, 43rd overall
RHP Griffin Roberts
Wake Forest University, Junior
6’1”, 210 pounds
With their Competitive Balance Lottery selection, the Cardinals picked up a college arm who could be sitting down big league hitters sooner rather than later. Roberts was drafted last year by the Minnesota Twins in the 29th round as a draft-eligible sophomore, but he elected to return to Wake Forest for his junior year, and that choice most certainly paid off.
The right hander went 5-4 for the Demon Deacons this year with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP over 96.2 innings in 14 starts. Roberts displayed his dominant stuff with 130 strikeouts to 38 walks, giving him a 3.42 K/BB ratio. Roberts’ first full season in the rotation for Wake Forest was definitely a success after proving himself in the bullpen in his sophomore year, when he picked up eight saves in 29 games with a 2.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Working in the Cape Cod League last summer, Roberts was absolutely dominant. He threw 32 innings and struck out 35 against just six walks, leading to a 1.96 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
Roberts has the best breaking ball of any college pitcher in the Draft this year. His slider hangs out in the mid-80s and has ridiculous break on it. The slider breaks hard down and away from right-handed hitters reminiscent of Carlos Martinez’s slider. His fastball is nothing to ignore. He works in the 90-95 mph range as a starter, but in shorter stints as a reliever, Roberts can sit at 95 and touch 97. He has an average changeup as well, most definitely his third-best pitch. His repertoire reminds me quite a bit of another high Cardinals’ draft pick, Dakota Hudson. There is some effort to his three-quarters delivery, and he has encountered some issues repeating his delivery in the past.
Roberts can struggle with command, which leads many scouts to believe he is destined to end up in the bullpen. Even if so, his mix of an upper-90s fastball and phenomenal slider could make him a top reliever in the Majors. In fact, Peter Gammons believes that combination could allow him to fly through the Minors and even pitch in games at Busch Stadium by September of this year.
However, the Cardinals have other plans.
“Roberts possesses a power arsenal and had success transitioning to a starter,” said Flores. “Our hope and aim is for him to be in the rotation and are excited to see what happens in his career.”
The pool amount for this pick is $1,664,200.
Second round compensation (loss of Lance Lynn), 75th overall
1B Luken Baker
Texas Christian University, Junior
6’5”, 265 pounds
Baker may sound familiar to draft followers as he was a highly-touted prospect leading up to the 2015 draft. Coming out of high school, Baker was projected to be a top-75 selection, most likely as a pitcher thanks to his fastball that reached 95 mph and some impressive breaking pitches. However, he was dedicated to honoring his commitment to TCU and sent a letter to Major League teams requesting they not call his name. The Astros took a shot at him with a 37th-round pick, but they weren’t able to lure him from his college plans.
Baker is a big boy. For reference, he has an inch in height and 40 pounds of weight on another large first baseman in the Cardinals’ system, Luke Voit. His size advantage coupled with some of the best bat speed in the entire draft gives him plenty of raw power. MLB.com grades his power at a 55, but I’ve seen others grade it as high as 70. To translate, that’s consistently anywhere from a hitter who puts up around 25 home runs to one that puts up around 40. His hit tool is at least average with a 50 grade from MLB.com and he has seasons of batting .379 and .317 at TCU. This year, Baker put up a .319/.443/.575 slash line with nine homers and 26 RBI, plus, he only struck out 18 times against 24 walks. Unfortunately, he only played 31 games due to a broken leg and torn ankle ligament in April from an awkward slide after his 2017 season ended with a serious elbow injury.
Not surprisingly from his profile as a pitcher, he has a plus arm. But, forget any ideas that he will play somewhere other than first base, although the Matt-Adams-in-left-field experiment makes me think anything is possible – at least to try. Baker is slow. I mean, sloooooooooooow. Like, Yadier Molina slow. He gets a 20 speed grade from MLB.com, the lowest possible grade on the scouting scale. And, coming off that broken leg, I can’t see the Cardinals pushing him to put more pressure on his wheels.
His bat speed and raw power more than make up for that drawback. Baker hit 19 home runs in 114 games during his time at TCU along with 24 doubles. He has shown good plate discipline as well with more walks than strikeouts. Another exciting factor is his performance in big games. For example, in the 2016 Big 12 Tournament, Baker hit .682 with four home runs and 11 RBI to take home MVP honors. One of those four homers ended up in the parking garage next to the stadium.
Looking into the future, I can see Baker ending up anywhere between the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell or the Cleveland Indians’ Edwin Encarnacion. Baker won’t be a Gold Glover at first, but he should certainly be capable of holding down the position during his team control years.
“Baker is an impressive player, and we didn’t think we would have the chance to draft a high-caliber player like him at that spot,” said Flores. “He’s proven himself at a high level and we admire his resiliency.”
The pool amount for this pick is $799,600.
As noted above, TCN draft analyst Scott Schook is once again writing the player capsules and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Class-A Pitching is Adjusted
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system. Annual members may purchase our new 193-page 2018 Prospect Guide for less than half price. Our limited edition printed version is sold out.
© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.