Draft Preview: St Louis Cardinals

by Gordon Watkin | Posted on Saturday, June 6th, 2015
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My Pick: Michael Matuella

RHP Duke University

The Rise and Descent: Tommy John Surgery in 2015 is the reasons the Cardinals have an opportunity to draft Matuella, a hard-throwing right-hander from Duke University. Should Matuella have been fortunate enough to have a clean bill of health, he could potentially have been the number 1 pick in the draft.

This sounds eerily familiar.

Brady Aiken experienced a similar feat, except was actually drafted and opted to not assign below slow average in 2014 with the Houston Astros.

Matuella’s injury woes do not end with the an ailing elbow, many Major League clubs according to Baseball America have inferred teams worry over the 6ft 6 pitcher’s back; another troublesome area for the 21 year old. Obviously Matuella possesses many assets, which will make him a first round pick in this coming draft, despite his injury concerns.

Why This Pick Makes Sense:

Organizational Tendencies  This past offseason, the Cardinals opted to ship out a very talented right-hander in Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward, a player who is eye candy for scouts but has not demonstrated any consistency in his Major League career. The Cardinals are debatably the best team in Major League Baseball at developing young players. Matuella fills the vacancy left by Miller (projectability prevailing), and gives the Cardinals another bullet in the prospect chamber. The Cardinals have never been shy of acquiring or extensively using who have had injury-filled pasts. John Lackey was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in 2014 in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, and proved valuable throughout the playoffs. Adam Wainwright who as been amongst the games elite right-handed starters for a half-decade, was given a lucrative 5 year extension two years following his Tommy John surgery, and of course we all know the extensive list of injuries Chris Carpenter suffered, yet always was retained and pitched effectively. The point is the Cardinals are very, very good at taking something that may appear broken, and fixing them to fit the integration of their organizational vision. The Cardinals not only make the high-upside selection in Matuella, but have shown an uncanny ability to restore damaged goods.

Prospectus: Matuella is a tall, competitive right-hander who owns a plus-plus fastball, and is described by Keith Law as being an intelligent, cerebral player. If I recall correctly similar adjectives were used when describing Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter. Matuella possesses the body, the arm and the mind to be a solid number 2 at the Major League level, assuming his recovery from Tommy John surgery goes smoothly, and his progression can continue. Additionally, Matuella was exclusively a four-seam fastball pitcher coming out of high school, and upon working with Duke University pitching coaches was able to determine his two-seam fastball to have the movement and location to be an out pitch. It would come of no surprise if the Cardinals reconcile Matuella’s past usage of the four-seam, and integrate it into his developmental curve.

OTHER DRAFT CANDIDATES

Brady Aiken LHP IMG Academy

Last years’ first overall selection is a talented left-hander who has experienced a stock regression due to Tommy John surgery. Opting to not sign below his draft slot due to a failed physical, was a learning curve for both the Astros and Aiken, who will surely not escape the first 25 picks in 2015. He provides a high-upside, front of rotation talent, with the potential to fall into the Cardinals laps. Given Aiken is nearly fully recovered from his surgery last year, it seems unlikely he will fall to the Cardinals, but should he what an interesting decision it will be. 

John Harris RHP Missouri State

John Harris is projected by many experts to have his name called after the Cardinals select in 2015, but that doesn’t mean the organization will turn their backs on a homegrown talent. Harris has experiences some volatility in his stock, rising as high as in the top-ten, to as low as 25, depending on team needs and recent injuries to some elite pitching prospects. Harris would correlate nicely into a Cardinals staff that possesses another local kid named Trevor Rosenthal. This past off-season, many experts had another locally produced talent in Max Scherzer linked for a homecoming tour with the Red Birds. Harris geographically has the propensity to be selected based on the organizations past trends, mind you the kid can pitch too. Harris throws from a three-quarter arm slot, sitting in the low to mid 90s with his fastball. Scouts project him to be a good number 3 or 4 starter, with a relatively high floor. This would be a conservative choice for the Cards.

Phil Bickford RHP JC of Southern Nevada

Bickford gives the Cardinals the high-upside potential that is sought of young, non-NCAA players. Bickford opted not to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, and landing in the Cardinals organization could allow the talented right-hander to flourish.

Ashe Russell RHP Cathedral Catholic High School

Russell is a prep pitcher from the state of Indiana, and grew up seeing at the very least Cardinals broadcasts on television. Russell is a big right-hander, standing at 6 ft 4 inches, and possesses a downward plane, and generates a TON of movement on his pitches. His versatility, and close geographic proximity both fit within recent draft behavior of the Cardinals.

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Gordon Watkin
About the Author

Gordon is a Sport Management graduate from Brock University. He has a background playing professional soccer, but is an avid sports fan particularly of the Cleveland Indians. Follow Gordon on Twitter @GordonWatkin.







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