When Guessing Meets Amateur Punditry: A Look At Some Scenarios For The St. Louis Cardinals In Tonight's MLB Draft

Heading into the MLB Rule 4 Draft this evening, the possibilities for the Cardinals at picks No. 19 and 23 are virtually endless. The exercise here is to look at what I would deem to be the best, worst and most probable scenarios in tonight's first round. All three will deal in plausibilities - projecting Mark Appel and Byron Buxton to the Cardinals is, by definition, probably the best-case scenario, but wouldn't happen even if the other 29 GMs were replaced by...someone bad at drafting. I'm having trouble coming up with a witty cultural reference. Pick a Rams GM from the past decade. Moving on.

With that, lets start with the best-case scenario.

Due to signability concerns and some lingering uncertainty about the strained ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) he suffered in March, Lucas Giolito has the ability to experience a significant fall in the Draft. It's not a complete impossibility, either. Consider Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein's thoughts on where Giolito, whom he has ranked as his No. 2 overall prospect in the Draft, might go:

If he goes in the top five picks, I will not be shocked. If nobody touches him in the first round due to signability fears, I will not be surprised.

With added cushion in their cap due to five picks before the second round, the Cardinals are one of the teams best positioned to cash in on the opportunity to obtain arguably the best arm in the entire Draft pre-injury. If the team has had their medical team a qualified medical team check out Giolito's elbow and feels comfortable with the findings, Giolito makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals. If they're confident they'll be able to strike a deal, the Cardinals should pounce on the young righty at No. 19.

At No. 23, the team will have to take a safer route, probably a college senior willing to sign for at or below slot. Duke's Marcus Stroman, another right-handed pitcher, has a lot of attractive qualities: he's widely considered the most MLB-ready of any potential draftee, he's got a secondary pitch, a slider, that many feel is as good as any secondary pitch in the draft and his floor seems to be a passable middle reliever at the major league level. Middle reliever is not a very sexy destination for a first-round draft pick, but there's some value in a player you feel comfortable will at least reach the majors.

The knock on Stroman is singular: at 5'9", he doesn't project to be able to handle the workload of a starting pitcher in the majors. Even Tim Lincecum stands at 5'11", and you'd be hard-pressed to find many starting pitchers in MLB who come in under 6'0". In a recent podcast, ESPN's Keith Law said he would still like to see Stroman given the chance to start in the minors, with the back end of the bullpen as a fallback.

Stroman is attractive to the Cardinals because he should a.) come cheap, and b.) offer something the Cardinals don't necessarily have in spades in late-inning relief options. For all the talk about the system's right-handed pitching depth, the majority of that depth is in starting pitching. It's true that starting pitchers can easily be converted to relievers if necessary, but they're much more valuable if they are able to remain as starters. For the sake of this discussion, lets assume they all do. The bullpen injuries this year have exposed a weak crop of relievers at AAA, and there aren't many exciting options at the lower levels, either. Stroman would, at worst, immediately give the Cardinals a guy they can project to be a bullpen stalwart for the foreseeable future. Exciting? No. But there's utility in such a pick.

Most mocks I've seen don't have either player lasting long enough to get to the Cardinals at their respective draft positions here, but, as I said in the beginning, this is dealing in possibilities, not probabilities. Both pitchers have their upsides; both have their faults as well. As far as ideal situations go, this ranks pretty highly.

Next, the worst-case scenario.

Doing a worst-case scenario is tough because, as with a best-case scenario, we on the outside have very limited information with which to work. Panning a pick is usually uninformed speculation - I don't like this pick because of the write-ups and limited amount of video I've seen on a few websites. In actuality, even the most surefire prospects sometimes fail, and even the most underrated succeed. It's an inexact science, as they say, and very few of us are scientists.

That said, I think a worst-case scenario involves pitchers with limited upside and light-hitting position players. Something like Lucas Sims and Stephen Piscotty fits the bill. Sims is a high school pitcher with stuff but not much room to grow, according to Goldstein, and Piscotty is a college third baseman who hits but not for a whole lot of power. The obvious comparison for Piscotty is Zack Cox, but I'm not qualified enough to say he's Cox 2.0. I don't know about a comp for Sims, but the last low-ceiling pick the Cardinals made on the first day of the draft was Seth Blair, so while we're throwing around irresponsible comparisons I'll go ahead and draw that line.

With so many early picks, and with early picks wanting big money, the Cardinals will probably have to sneak in another Blair type at some point. But I'd hate to see it so early, with a lot of upside arms and talented high school bats still available. Piscotty doesn't offer much to get excited about, either; the Cardinals system is bereft of power bats, so taking a hitter with little projectable power is problematic from a diversity standpoint. Still, all these marks against the picks come with the disclaimer that the guys making the picks know a whole lot more than I do.

A more probable scenario includes a mix of the first two scenarios. Knowing what we know about Toronto Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos' fetish for raw upside, it'd be a surprise to see a talent like Giolito slip past him at No. 17. And understanding where the system stands in terms of right-handed pitching, a pick like Sims would raise some questions about his ceiling.

Addison Russell is a name I've seen in connection with the Cardinals often in the mock draft process, and it's one I could see easily being called at No. 19. Whether he's a shortstop or a third baseman in the pros, the organization doesn't have an athletic fielder with a good bat on the left side of the infield. Not one knocking on the door, at least. Sure, Ryan Jackson has a sweet glove and Cox has plenty of time to get himself straightened out at the plate, but it's not as though either is a worldbeater at his position. Adding an athlete like Russell couldn't possibly hurt.

A lot of mocks have the Cardinals going bats with both first-round picks, but I don't think it's a lock. Another name being attached to the Cardinals, mostly by Law, is Hunter Virant, a lefty HS pitcher from California. Viva El Birdos prospect guru the red baron did a glowing write-up of Virant in January. When one of the best prospect writers around and the prospect guy for the smartest Cardinals blog in existence both tout a guy highly, that's enough for me. If Virant has reasonable contract demands, he'd be a nice addition at No. 23.

That's just one opinion. And opinions, as with Cardinals draft possibilities, will be virtually endless tonight.

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