The philosophy for the Cardinals while drafting under Jeff Luhnow was always “best player available”. Don’t worry necessarily about specific needs or who is already filling what position on the big league club, but rather create a good problem by having too many players for a certain position. That has created situations where The Cards have both Allen Craig and Matt Adams ready to be big league starters at first. And the idea that it’ll all work itself out was exemplified with the transition of Matt Carpenter to second base, where his fielding has been adequate (enough) and allowed that impressive bat to hit lead-off.
But the philosophy of drafting for need may have permeated itself back into the Cardinals since the departure of Luhnow. I want to focus on the Cardinals 2nd round pick (57th overall), Oscar Mercado. The Cardinals chose Mercado, possibly with pressure to fill the need they have at SS with underachieving Pete Kozma filling the role now and uncertain Ryan Jackson in the minors. Mercado, who was ranked relatively high by Baseball America, was selected over other players who they even ranked higher (and from some analysts and scouts, they believe Baseball America ranked him too high.) Higher ranked players available at the time of Mercado being drafted included RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Alex Balog and LHP Hunter Green.
Every report on Mercado states he provides basically no offense at all. The 2nd round seems to be awfully high to select a player solely on defense. He is stated as being able to possibly develop a “solid swing” that could lead to high-average, though minorleagueball.com states he COULD, with added strength, have a slash line up .280/.330/.400. But that is implied to be a ceiling for Mercado.
What else is troubling is the contention Mercado is highly overrated at defense. Scouting reports will comment on his skill at defense, including a recent Post-Dispatch article which quotes from the scouting report at BA claiming him to be a “smooth, fluid defender whose glove will give him a chance to survive as a pro while his bat develops and strength catches up.” But his abilities has been questioned by other writers and scouts who have seen him in person, including Keith Law, who wrote:
“Shortstop Oscar Mercado from Gaither HS in Tampa was similarly disappointing when I saw him over the weekend, playing a low-energy game on Saturday that featured two throwing errors to first on routine ground balls and a sloppy uppercut swing that helped him work his way out of hitters’ counts in two of his trips to the plate.
Mercado’s reputation in this draft is that he’s one of the only shortstops who is a lock to stay there, but he didn’t show the hands or the arm for that on Saturday and he certainly didn’t show the effort level, even in pregame warm-ups. He looked better last summer, but another scout who’s seen Mercado this spring said what I saw was representative of his showing so far this spring.”
2nd Round picks do not always transfer to good major league players, in fact they rarely do. Looking at the Card’s 2nd round picks during the 2000s, with the exception of Dan Haren, who was an all-star pitcher, most of the others never made it up or just had a cup of coffee in the majors. But I fear the draft of a shortstop who is only optimistically projected to have an OPS barely over .700 due to absolutely no slugging, is a predetermined destiny to begin with. And when you add possible holes at defense, which is his strength, it may all signal to a regressive philosophy of drafting on needs and desperation in spite of talent.