By Jack Stephens, from Cardsblog.com
The MLB draft is perhaps the most anti-climactic of the four major sports. Both NFL and NBA drafts dominate media coverage, while the MLB is much more underwhelming. As I see it, there are three main reasons for such a phenomenon.
First and foremost, there is virtually no immediacy in the MLB draft. While the first picks are somewhat likely to contribute in their careers, it is usually not for 2 to 3 years after they are drafted.
In stark contrast, football, basketball, and hockey players usually contribute straight away, sometimes turning around an entire franchise in their rookie season. Put simply, there is little reason to waste energy and excitement, as the grand majority of draftees will not become relevant for a while.
The second reason for the MLB draft's nature is its timing. As it falls in the thick of the season, fans are simply invested elsewhere. They care for the everyday state of the big league club, not the uncertain future of young prospects.
Lastly, the MLB draft is painstakingly long. With 40 rounds, the draft serves two distinct purposes. One is to find prospects (obviously). The other is to quite literally fill minor league systems, to supply competition with whom the relevant prospects can compete. For this reason, there is very little glamour to the MLB draft, especially after the first round.
While the draft may not be overly exciting, it is nonetheless important. Franchises make decisions with huge implications, often finding value in unsuspecting areas. Accordingly, I will now supply a brief overview of the first 5 players drafted, the picks from rounds 3-7.
Without further adieu, let's get to know the 2017 draft class.
Round 3 - Scott Hurst, CF
A junior outfielder hailing from Glendora, California, Hurst is a three-year college player. A product of the impressive Cal State Fullerton program, he bats left-handed and throws right-handed. He is about average sized for a center fielder, perhaps a tad on the smaller side. Specifically, he is listed at 5'10", 190 pounds.
In his junior season, Hurst tore it up, slashing .332/.424/.585, hitting 12 home runs and driving in 39 runs. As you can tell from his statistics, Hurst has phenomenal pop for a rather slender player, a trait that will only improve as he matures physically. Most notably, Hurst hit four (yes, four) home runs a couple weeks ago against Cal State Northridge. In that game, he was 5-5, hitting 4 dingers and a double.
Although Hurst had a phenomenal junior year, it didn't always appear this easy for the lefty. As a freshman, he suffered a spinal cord injury, perhaps leading to a sub-par sophomore campaign, in which he hit only .215 with 15 RBIs. Obviously, then, Hurst has shown phenomenal resilience and passion, a trait that will only help him as he climbs the ranks for the Cardinals.
Side note - If you want to see Hurst live before he hits the minor league grinder, tune into the College World Series, where Cal State Fullerton will be battling it out with Oregon State.
Round 4 - Kramer Robertson, SS
For the second year in a row, the Cardinals selected a college shortstop in the first 6 rounds. Robertson played four years at LSU, serving his last two years as team captain. Robertson thrived in his junior campaign, hitting .324 with 20 doubles and 39 RBIs. For his efforts, Collegiate Baseball selected him as a Second-Team All-American.
In 2017, Robertson hit nearly just as well, slashing .319/.421/.504. He served as the leadoff hitter for the Tigers, acting as the team's main leader and spark plug. He plays with athleticism and tremendous fire, two attributes that led to his selection in the fourth round. Overall, Robertson seems like a prime candidate to play quintessential Cardinals baseball, playing with effort, polish, and consistency.
Round 5- Zach Kirtley, 2B
The second California product of the class, Kirtley played his college ball for Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, a college more often known for basketball. During his junior season for the Gaels, Kirtley hit .292, boasting a .433 on-base percentage. He hit five home runs, knocking in 42 RBIs and collecting 16 doubles.
Notably, Kirtley killed his freshman season for St. Mary's, slashing .346/.429/.418. As a result of these efforts, Kirtley found himself on the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team, the highest honor for first-year collegiate players. Also due to such success, Kirtley spent the summer before this season playing for the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod summer league, the most prestigious opportunity for college draft prospects.
Round 6 - Zach Jackson, C
The first high-school prospect on this list, Jackson went to Winter Haven HS in Florida. Jackson has committed to play college ball for the University of Florida, however his draft position could change that decision. With his slot value at approximately $245,000, it is relatively unclear whether or not Jackson will attend Florida or sign as a professional.
As a player, Jackson's draft stock can be explained quite simply, void of advanced statistics or inferences. For one, he is a left-handed hitting catcher, one who has showed impressive power in his high-school career. Second, and deeply intertwined with the previous point, is his size.
Jackson is huge, listed at 6'3" 215. Obviously, he has much room to grow into this humongous frame, an extremely exciting notion considering his pre existing power. As a defender, Jackson is said to be very raw, however scouts have faith he will develop into at least an average receiver behind the plate.
Round 7 - Chase Pinder, CF
The fifth position player taken thus far, Pinder played collegiate ball at Clemson. A four year player, he measures in at 6'1", 190 pounds. Pinder hit .289 in his career at Clemson, hitting right about at that number for his junior and senior campaigns. In 2017, specifically, Pinder racked up 71 hits, knocking 16 doubles and 7 home runs. He hit in the leadoff spot, showing solid speed and a patient approach.
Importantly, Pinder demonstrated competence as both an outfielder and infielder during his college career. As the Cardinals love versatile players, perhaps this trait will allow Pinder to ascend through the system with more haste than his sheer talent may suggest.