photo: Joshua Baez (WCVB Boston)
By Blake Newberry and Brian Walton
The second of three days of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, with the St. Louis Cardinals selections’ being made by AGM/Scouting Director Randy Flores and announced by Xavier Scruggs in Denver, consists of 10 selections in rounds 2-10 on Monday, July 12.
St. Louis’ initial Day 2 selection is power-hitting Massachusetts prep outfielder Joshua Baez.
Overall, encompassing these 10 picks and the first rounder named on Sunday, pitcher Michael McGreevy, the Cardinals have been allocated $8,167,100, a signing bonus total which they will not exceed by more than 5%.
St. Louis’ extra pick on Monday was added via the Competitive Balance program and will be 70th overall, following the completion of the second round.
See full 2021 Draft Day 1 details here.
Return to this article at The Cardinal Nation often on Monday afternoon and evening as information about all St. Louis’ draft picks will be posted shortly after they are made. Also, at the end of the evening, we expect to add comments by Flores, so please check back here.
Quick draft day 2 summary with much more to come
Clear draft trend: Through day 2, 7 of the #stlcards first 11 draft picks are pitchers, 6 of whom are collegians. Also 3 OFs and 1 3Bman. 9 of 11 are from college with 2 high schoolers. Bios, scouting reports and videos on all picks at The Cardinal Nation. https://t.co/nUlSa3GA1V pic.twitter.com/6MzYDfwKF7
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) July 12, 2021
Update: Randy Flores Zoom
In his end of day 2 comments, the Cardinals scouting director praised second rounder Joshua Baez, noting his “physicality and baseball tools”, “athleticism and body control” and power potential that is “impressive”. Flores does not anticipate that Baez will be a two-way player, but noted his arm strength as shown while pitching could make him a right fielder in the future if he moves out of center.
The final selection of the day, Osvaldo Tovalin was “almost a no-brainer pick” after the Cardinals worked him out at various positions including catcher and his versatility showed well.
Comp pick Ryan Holgate’s power is “already there” in the Pac12, Flores said. The appeal included his “aggressive path” hitting with “zero fear: and “ability to make contact.”
In the general flow of the draft, Flores said the Cardinals “pivoted” after the comp pick of Holgate, their third player taken of 11 overall so far. From there, if players were close, which is often the case after the first 100 picks or so, the Cards “leaned to pitching”. The scouting director also acknowledged that pitching was the strength of the draft class.
(All player scouting reports are written by The Cardinal Nation analyst Blake Newberry.)
St. Louis’ selections – 2021 Draft Day 2
Second round, 54th overall
Joshua Baez – Outfielder
Dexter Southfield HS (Brookline, Mass)
Baez is one of the youngest players in the class, which seems to be an early trend for the Cardinals. First round selection Michael McGreevy was among the youngest college players in the draft, and Baez is one of the youngest high school players in the draft as he turned 18 at the end of June.
Baez fits the profile of a power corner outfielder with Baseball America giving him 70-grade power and a 70-grade arm. He is also listed at 6’4” and 220 pounds. This gives him a profile similar to last year’s first round pick, Jordan Walker.
Like most young power hitters, swing-and-miss is a concern with Baez. He will need to make enough contact to consistently tap into his power.
Baez has plenty of natural power in his swing, but he does like to swing hard. At times this can lead to him being off balance and pulling his head off the ball. He does have a moderate leg kick and can sometimes overextend his front arm pre-swing. The 18-year-old begins with his hands near his head and when he loads, his hands go further back. This is what gives him the risk of overextending his front arm, as his hands do not always get to the same spot.
Some more consistency with his somewhat complex loading mechanism would allow him to strengthen his hit tool. When his front arm is overextended, he runs the risk of getting beat by inside fastballs or offspeed pitches.
Baez has a decent eye at the plate but will need to work on making more consistent contact. This gives him the potential to draw a decent number of walks, but he may take longer to tap into his power given his inconsistent ability to hit for average.
This is likely something that the Cardinals will work on when he gets in the system, but his substantial power gives him a very high ceiling.
Defensively, Baez played center field throughout high school. Most scouts grade him as an above average fielder, which gives him the chance to begin his professional career in center field. It is unlikely that he will stay there long term due to his slightly below average speed, but his bat will ultimately be his carrying tool.
Baez has a strong throwing arm that makes him a good fit for a move to right field. The Vanderbilt commit was clocked up to 98 mph on the mound but will need to work on his accuracy.
Overall, a power corner outfielder with strong power, a strong arm, and decent athleticism gives Baez an intriguing and high ceiling package of skills.
The pool amount for this pick is $1,338,500.
Competitive Balance Round B, 70th overall
Ryan Holgate, OF
University of Arizona
Holgate is another power bat, this time from the college ranks. The 21-year-old has a highly productive season for Arizona after struggling to hit for average as a freshman. Holgate played just 15 games in 2020 due to COVID, but showed massive improvement. This improvement continued in 2021 as he slashed .351/.421/.576/.997 with 11 home runs.
Holgate played all 55 games this season in right field for Arizona, but he profiles better as a left fielder in the professional ranks. The California native has below average speed and grades out as a below average fielder with a below average arm.
This general lack of defensive promise will put more pressure on Holgate’s bat, which will need to be his carrying tool.
Holgate is a left-handed hitter who stands at 6’1” and 205 pounds. His size, left-handedness and profile make him similar to Alec Burleson who the Cardinals took with the 70th pick in the 2020 draft.
The 21-year-old did have a high strikeout rate in his junior year, striking out at a rate of nearly 19%. This is high for the college ranks, but it did not hinder his ability to hit for average. Additionally, of his 86 hits, 32 went for extra bases.
Holgate is quiet in his setup at the plate with a small load and a small stride. He generates plenty of power though and hit a monster home run off Kumar Rocker in the College World Series. He can hit all types of pitches but will need to cut down on his swing-and-miss against breaking pitches.
Also notable is that Holgate led the Northwoods League with 13 home runs in the summer of 2019 and walked 34 times in 222 at-bats.
If he can manage his strikeouts, Holgate is a candidate to rise quickly through the Cardinals organization as a productive college bat.
The pool amount for this pick is $906,800.
Third round, 90th overall
Austin Love, RHP
University of North Carolina
Austin Love spent his first two collegiate seasons in North Carolina’s bullpen. He showed an ability to pitch in longer stints and eventually moved into the rotation in 2021. The right-hander did redshirt twice, once in 2018 as a freshman, and again in 2020 due to COVID. As a result, he pitched as a sophomore in 2021.
While in the rotation in 2021, Love finished the year with a 3.71 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 102 innings. Love also tallied just 2.82 walks per nine innings while averaging over six innings per start.
Love has a starter’s frame at 6’3” and 232 pounds and there is not much projection left on it. However, he should remain a starter in the professional ranks with three above average offerings and at least average control.
Love’s fastball typically sits in the lower to mid 90s, but it can work up to 95 semi-consistently as a starter. If Love was moved to the bullpen, his heater could tick up to 98 or higher. This is strong velocity for a fastball, which when commanded well, should give Love a solid pitch.
Love has a pair of strong secondary offerings in his slider and his changeup. They both could use some refinement, but he gets good movement on both pitches. His slider gets good break, with more depth than run. The 22-year-old’s changeup also breaks well to his arm side and has shown an ability to dip underneath bats.
He has not always been consistent with these pitches, but a three-pitch mix with control gives Love good upside. Additionally, his ability to move to the rotation and post a strong strike out rate while still limiting his walks is a good sign that he can develop as a starter.
There is little reliever risk with Love, but if he does move to the bullpen, he would profile as a strong contributor at the major league level. As of now, Love appears to have the ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter with room to grow into a mid-rotation starter if he can become more consistent with his secondary offerings.
As an experienced college pitcher with no glaring holes in his game, Love could be a fast mover in his first couple professional seasons.
The pool amount for this pick is $657,600.
Fourth round, 120th overall
Zane Mills, RHP
Washington State University
Mills is the third college pitcher that the Cardinals have selected through their first five picks. Mills also fits the classic Cardinals profile as a pitchability right-hander with more command than pure stuff.
The 21-year-old began his college career in the bullpen with Washington State, but moved to the rotation in the COVID shortened 2020 season. In 2021, Mills finished with a 4.15 ERA in 80 1/3 innings with 83 strikeouts and 22 walks.
Mills also spent two summers in the Northwoods League, performing well both seasons. In the summer of 2019, the right-hander finished with a 2.89 ERA while working out of the rotation and the bullpen. In 2020, he finished with a 0.58 ERA while working as a starter. Mills joins Ryan Holgate, the Cardinals third pick of the draft, as Northwoods League veterans.
Despite his 6’4”, 215-pound frame, the 22-year-old sits 88-92 mph with his fastball, with good run on the pitch. The Cardinals may believe they can add more velocity to the heater given his size. Scouts also praise Mills’ ability to throw his slider and his changeup for strikes, which gives him a solid three pitch mix and good control.
The Oregon native has a clean, repeatable, low-effort delivery. This projects him for strong control and an ability to pitch deep into games. It also makes him a candidate to improve his velocity in the professional ranks. If he can tick into the 90s consistently while reaching the mid-90s, he could improve his ceiling.
Mills does not project to be a high-strikeout pitcher. Rather, he profiles more as a dependable, strike-throwing, innings eater.
The right-hander appears to be another strong candidate to enter the rotation in the professional ranks. It seems that the Cardinals are looking to replenish their minor league pitching depth with college pitchers in this draft. These college arms are candidates to move quicker than high schoolers, which may be part of the appeal for St. Louis since the organization is struggling to pitch effectively at all levels.
The pool amount for this pick is $478,300.
Fifth round, 151st overall
Gordon Graceffo, RHP
Gordon Graceffo is another classic Cardinals selection. The right-hander is another productive college starter, with low reliever risk and high marks for pitchability.
Graceffo has been a starter for Villanova since he set foot on campus. After finishing his freshman season in 2019 with a 4.88 ERA, Graceffo improved to a 1.42 ERA in the abbreviated 2020 season and a 2.63 ERA in 2021.
The right-hander finished his final collegiate season with 86 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 82 innings. Following the season, Graceffo pitched in the Cape Cod League where he made three starts and posted a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings.
Graceffo increased his velocity throughout the year and was sitting 89-93 to finish 2021. He is another candidate to add another tick or two to his fastball considering his 6’4”, 210-pound size.
The 22-year-old also throws a fastball and a slider with both pitches grading out as average but flashing plus according to Baseball America.
Graceffo is able to manipulate his slider in a way that makes it look like two distinct pitches. He is able to take a few ticks off it and give it more of a curveball shape with loopier movement when he wants to. When he throws it like a slider, it is a bit faster and has sharper break.
Graceffo also like to manipulate his changeup by speeding it up or slowing it down. The pitch gets good arm side run and sink, and it typically between 9-14 mph slower than his fastball.
The native of New Jersey has also received high marks from scouts for his makeup and competitiveness on the mound.
The right-hander has a starter’s frame and will join Zane Mills as a candidate for increased velocity as he works in the minor league rotation. Graceffo is the third college right-hander selected in a row, with all three having a similar profile, although Austin Love has better pure stuff than Mills and Graceffo.
The pool amount for this pick is $353,700.
— Villanova Baseball (@VUBaseball) January 26, 2021
Sixth round, 181st overall
Alfredo Ruiz, LHP
Long Beach State
Alfredo Ruiz is another college starter with more pitchability than stuff. However, Ruiz throws from the left side and has a bit more reliever risk than the previous selections.
Ruiz tossed 57 2/3 innings in 11 starts for Long Beach State with a 3.75 ERA while fanning 59 and walking 23. This gives him a walk rate (3.6 BB/9) that is a bit higher than the last few picks by the Cardinals. When this is combined with his 6’0”, 200-pound size, there is some reliever risk with Ruiz.
The southpaw has shown plenty of improvement throughout his college career. As a freshman, he operated as a swingman before moving into the rotation as a sophomore. Ruiz improved his strikeout rate dramatically since his first season, going from 6.58 K/9 as a freshman to 9.21 K/9 in his third collegiate season.
Ruiz is smooth and athletic on the mound, which may give the Cardinals confidence that he can develop as a starter. This gives him a repeatable delivery, and if he can limit his walks then he has a chance to stick in the rotation. His solid 3.75 ERA for a strong collegiate baseball program in Long Beach State also offers hope that he can remain in the rotation.
The native of California throws a fastball that hovers around 90-92 mph with a slider and a changeup as his secondary pitches.
Like the rest of the pitchers that the Cardinals have selected, Ruiz gets good arm side run on his fastball. His changeup sits in the low 80s and his slider is more slow and loopy than hard and sharp. He is able to control all three of his pitches and is at his best when he is locating them at the bottom of the strike zone.
The pool amount for this pick is $270,300.
Seventh round, 211th overall
Alec Willis. RHP
Regis Jesuit High School (Denver, CO)
The Cardinals will likely be able to save money on their string of college pitchers, which should free up enough money to sign Alec Willis to an over-slot bonus. The prep righty stands at 6’6” and 225 pounds which gives him plenty of projectability.
Willis already underwent ulnar decompression surgery, so there is a bit of injury history on his young arm. However, there is also plenty of promise. The right-hander throws four pitches – a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup.
On his fastball, the right-hander sits around 93 mph but can touch 96. At his size, there is a chance that it can tick even higher with more refinement. Most scouts already regard the fastball as a plus pitch.
Willis’ secondary offerings are more refined than most prep pitchers’, with his slider being his go-to breaking ball. His curveball sits in the lower to mid 70s. Like most high school pitchers, Willis could stand to separate the two pitches more as either one can get slurvy. He also needs to refine his changeup more, although it does show promise with some sink and fade.
Unlike the previous pitchers selected by the Cardinals, Willis will likely take more time to develop. He has plenty of size and promise but could use some refinement on all his pitches.
He does have a good foundation as he has an easy delivery and scouts like his feel to pitch despite his young age. Despite this, he does need to work on his control and command. Willis is a promising but raw pitcher with plenty of projection, but he also needs a lot of refinement.
After picking a string of college pitchers, the Cardinals can afford to make a riskier, high ceiling selection while still injecting plenty of experienced pitching into the organization.
Willis will almost certainly require an over-slot deal to convince him to sign with the Cardinals instead of playing in college with the University of Minnesota.
The pool amount for this pick is $211,500.
Eighth round, 241st overall
Mike Antico, OF
University of Texas
Mike Antico is the first hitter the Cardinals have selected since Ryan Holgate in Competitive Balance Round B. He is also a prime candidate for an under-slot deal due to being a college senior.
Antico began his college career with St. John’s where he played four seasons. He then joined the University of Texas as a graduate transfer for the 2021 season.
The 23-year-old’s best tools are his plate discipline and speed as he stole 41 bases and had an absurd 20.3% walk rate in 2021. In 219 career college games, Antico stole 85 bases and walked (143) more than he struck out (137).
Depite batting just .273, Antico finished the year with a .436 OBP and .926 OPS. He also played every game in center field.
The native of New Jersey profiles as a centerfielder in the professional ranks due to his speed. He could stand to improve his hit tool, but his excellent eye at the plate gives him a high floor as an OBP-first player.
Antico was not known for his power throughout his college career, but he did hit 10 home runs and 16 doubles with Texas. This gives him an intriguing skillset centered around speed and on-base abilities with sneaky power.
He has the profile of a player who could move quickly through the Cardinals organization. If the power is real or the hit tool improves, then his upside increases substantially. If not, he can still add value through defense, base running, and walks.
The pool amount for this pick is $171,200.
Ninth round, 271st overall
Trent Baker, RHP
Angelo State University
Trent Baker is another productive pitchability starting pitcher. The right-hander walked just 18 batters in 106 2/3 innings Angelo State University in 2021. Baker finished the year with a 2.11 ERA and 120 strikeouts.
The 22-year-old improved his control every season after finishing his freshman year with 5.1 walks per nine innings and ended 2021 with 1.5 walks per nine innings.
Baker generates plenty of power from his 6’3”, 240-pound frame as his fastball can touch 97. He also commands a slider and a changeup, which gives him a solid three pitch mix. Baker’s slider is capable of generating whiffs, especially when it is thrown below the knees.
Even though Baker has good pitchability, he also has intriguing stuff with his fastball and two solid secondary pitches. He did throw against lower quality, Division Two competition, so it is still unknown how well Baker will be able to handle professional hitters. However, he has been one of the best Division Two pitchers for a couple seasons and also performed well in the Northwoods League in 2019 (2.32 ERA), the same league that previous Cardinals’ selections Zane Mills and Ryan Holgate participated in.
Baker has also received plenty of praise for his work ethic from the Angelo State coaching staff. In his senior year of high school, the right-hander threw around 85 mph on his fastball without a developed breaking ball. He has since added around 10 mph on his fastball in college, while also developing his secondary pitches and adding polish.
The right-hander is another starter who will likely get the chance to work as a starter with the Cardinals. If he does not make it in the rotation, he has a fastball that could tick into the upper 90s out of the bullpen.
The pool amount for this pick is $153,300.
10th round, 301st overall
Osvaldo Tovalin, 3B
Azusa Pacific University
Tovalin is the first infielder that the Cardinals have selected in this draft and the second straight division two player selected. Like previous selections Joshua Baez and Ryan Holgate, Tovalin profiles as a power corner player.
The 21-year-old slugged .705 in his final collegiate season in 2021. His overall slash line was .387/.439/.705/1.145. Tovalin struggled a bit in the shortened 2020 season, but he hit the ball well in 2018 and 2019, so this was likely a result of an early season slump that he never got the chance to fix.
Tovalin hit 15 home runs in his final collegiate season and finished his college career with 43 home runs in 769 plate appearances. He also walked (17) more than he struck out (16) in 2021, but he did not do much of either. The left-handed hitter had a career slash line of .353/.415/.616/1.031 without many strikeouts. That is a solid overall profile, but it is important to note the weaker Division Two competition.
The 21-year-old also played in the Northwoods League in 2019, but he struggled to the tune of a .717 OPS in 243 plate appearances.
Tovalin has experience playing both first base and third base, but it is his bat that is likely what drew the Cardinals to him. If his bat translates to the professional ranks, then Tovalin should be able to produce enough at the plate to play first base.
The corner infielder stole nine bases in the 2021 season, so he may have enough quickness to stick at third base long term. Regardless, he will likely begin his career at the hot corner.
The pool amount for this pick is $144,600.
As noted above, TCN analyst Blake Newberry is writing the player scouting reports and Brian Walton is filling in the rest.
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