ST. LOUIS - It hasn’t been a year to remember for the St. Louis Cardinals so far. It’s the ball club's worst record at the All-Star Break since 1986, one that’s been plagued by a lack of pop and a pack of pitching talent.
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There can be a positive that comes from a season where the 38-52 Cardinals occupy the cellar of the National League alongside the 36-54 Washington Nationals and the 34-57 Colorado Rockies: it is a chance for the Cardinals to honestly assess what they have in the system, give young guys a chance, and address future needs in the MLB Draft.
Over the course of the three-day MLB Draft, the Cardinals picked 19 prospects that they hope will cure some of the team’s ailments that have become glaringly obvious in 2023. Their first order of business was drafting an outfielder with pop, and they got one of the best in the draft for just that in Chase Davis from the University of Arizona.
While at Arizona, Davis’s stats were incredibly impressive (.362 average, 21 home runs, 74 RBIs), but what has caught the eye of pro scouts goes beyond the standard slash line. Davis has tremendous plate discipline and has slashed his strikeout rate from 22.8% as a sophomore to 14.4% last season as a junior.
Davis has been followed closely by the Cardinals since his high school days. He was thought to be selected out of high school, but a pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB Draft set him on course for college, where he’s honed his craft over the past few years.
“The statistics are there for all to see, tremendous power, he increased his plate discipline,” Cardinals assistant GM/director of scouting Randy Flores said Sunday.
“He’s shown an ability to move very well in the outfield and is someone we think could play multiple positions. He’s a man who’s very confident when he’s in the batter’s box.”
Much like Cardinals rookie sensation Jordan Walker, Chase Davis isn’t expected to spend too much time in the minors before making an impact on the big league club. Of all the picks available in the 2023 MLB Draft, Davis might be one of the closest to being MLB-ready.
The Cardinals drafted another outfielder who can hit in the third round, Travis Honeyman from Boston College. Honeyman hit .304 with six homers and 30 RBIs in the spring for BC.
The first pitcher the Cardinals took in this year’s amateur draft was Quinn Mathews, who made national headlines during the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals last month. Mathews threw 156 pitches in a complete game 8-3 win over the Texas Longhorns.
156 pitches is the second-most thrown by a Division I baseball player this year. A Major League Baseball pitcher hasn’t thrown that many pitches in a single game since 1997.
Mathews doesn’t have the velocity some other arms in the draft may possess, his fastball sits in the lower 90s. In his 156-pitch outing against Texas, he threw 80 changeups. He spent 2023 as the ace of the Stanford pitching staff, and earned a Science, Technology, and Society degree.
It might not be the velocity that won the Cardinals over on Mathews, but his approach when it comes to pitching and his body. In college, Mathews spoke regularly with Stanford orthopedic surgeon and elbow specialist Dr. Michael Freehill. When he threw 156 pitches in a single game in June, Stanford’s coaching staff let Mathews decide when he would come out of the game.
In the 15th round, the Cardinals selected shortstop Tre Richardson from TCU, who was a high school teammate of current Cardinals rising prospect Masyn Winn. Winn celebrated the selection on Twitter, and was influential in the team’s scouting of Richardson.
Tre Richardson jumped onto the national stage with an NCAA Tournament record 11 RBIs in TCU’s 20-5 regional win over Arkansas last month. Richardson hit two grand slams, and added another home run and two singles for good measure.
In total, the Cardinals used 18 of their 19 picks on college players. Many of those college players come with years of experience,
Their 19th and final pick was used in the 20th and final round, where the Cardinals selected fireball lefthander Cameron Johnson out of IMG Academy.
Johnson, the second-rated lefty pitcher nationally in the 2023 high school recruiting class, boasts an imposing 6’5” 240-pound frame and an even more imposing mid-to-upper 90s fastball. He’s been committed to LSU for some time, and it would take some convincing from Randy Flores and crew for the Cardinals to lure him away from that commitment.
“That’s like a little bit of a prayer, a little bit of a Hail Mary,” Flores said to the media Tuesday. “We’ll see how it shakes out.”
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