Cardinals use first four picks in MLB Draft on right-handed pitchers
JUN 06, 2014 1:37a ET
ST. LOUIS -- Dan Kantrovitz had prepared for several different scenarios going into the first two rounds of the MLB Draft on Thursday night. He didn't envision it unfolding like it did for the Cardinals.
St. Louis used their four picks among the first 71 selections in the draft to take four right-handed pitchers: Florida State junior Luke Weaver, California high school senior Jack Flaherty, Florida high school senior Ronnie Williams and University of California-Irvine senior Andrew Morales.
"Four righties, wow," said Kantrovitz, the Cardinals' director of amateur scouting. "I wouldn't have imagined that going into tonight but opportunity presented itself, and it started with (Jack) Flaherty when we saw a high school guy that had a strong commitment to North Carolina that we had been on all spring, and we really liked (him) and couldn't really pass that up.
"That meant, as I think was alluded to on MLB Network, that at some point we were going to have to anticipate saving some money somewhere, and I think we accomplished that while at the same time getting a pitcher we really liked with Morales from UC-Irvine. Morales was somebody that was really at the top of our list of college performers. That jives with what our scouts were telling us about his stuff and I don't think it could have worked out any better in that sense."
A year ago, the Cardinals used their two first-round picks on left-handed pitchers: Gonzaga's Marco Gonzales at No. 19 overall and New Jersey high schooler Rob Kaminsky at No. 28 overall.
This time, Kantrovitz and Co. went the other direction, just two years after taking righty Michael Wacha out of Texas A&M with their first pick in the first round.
The scouting director acknowledged that the Cardinals' first-day selections have some similarities to their predecessors Wacha, Gonzales and Kaminsky that made them more appealing to the Birds.
Weaver, their first pick at No. 27 overall, hoped to have an opportunity to land in St. Louis to begin his pro career.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound righty has a fastball that registered as high as 96 or 97 this season as a junior at FSU, going 8-4 with a 2.62 ERA in 106 1/3 innings over 16 starts. He struck out 85, walked 23 and limited opponents to a .226 batting average. He was rated by Baseball America as the 38th-best prospect available.
"I just try to go in there and I'll pound the zone and fill up the strike zone, try to get guys to ground out, fly out, make some contact, let the defense work early," Weaver said in a conference call with reporters. "If I get two strikes, that's when I start to get into strikeout mode and try to make some good pitches. I love my fastball and I love just whipping that in there and trying to strike people out on that. My changeup is something that has always been there for me, and I'm just loving the improvements every day from it. The slider is something that I've been really working on, and it's going to come around real shortly."
Flaherty, the 34th overall selection and pick awarded to the Cardinals for Carlos Beltran signing with the New York Yankees, starred as a pitcher and third baseman at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, Calif.
The 6-3, 217-pound right-hander went 23-0 over his final two high school seasons, including a 10-0 mark as a senior with a 0.63 ERA. Baseball America rated Flaherty as the 39th-best prospect.
Kantrovitz said the Cardinals were attracted to Flaherty because in addition to throwing four pitches, he has also exhibited stronger command than is usually seen by high school pitching prospects.
Flaherty figures to be the most difficult of the choices to ink to a deal, but Kantrovitz seemed optimistic that it could get done. Flaherty, during his conference call with reporters, seemed a bit overwhelmed at that moment but expressed hope that an agreement could get done.
"Right now, it's just been a crazy few minutes, just to think a few minutes ago I was taken by them," he said. "My family and I, we're still trying to take it all in right now. I'm committed to North Carolina, but I'm honored to be taken by the Cardinals, especially in that kind of situation. It's an unbelievable opportunity and I'm just hoping we can work something out."
Williams, the No. 68 overall pick, led American Senior High School in Hialeah, Fla., to the first state championship in school history this spring.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Florida A&M signee, rated No. 171 by Baseball America, went 8-2 with a 0.97 ERA over 65 innings as a senior. He struck out 72 and walked 22.
Kantrovitz said Williams is an electric athlete with a fastball up to 96 and 97 and was a player the Cardinals had more comprehensive coverage on than any other organization.
The No. 71 overall pick, Morales is a 6-foot, 195-pounder rated as the 232nd-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.
But the righty has been extremely successful during his college career, with a 40-3 record that includes two years at Rio Hondo (Calif.) Community College.
UC-Irvine is still playing in the NCAA tournament, but Morales is 10-2 with a 1.64 ERA over 120 2/3 innings in 17 starts. He's struck out 128 batters, walked 28 and limited opponents to a .182 batting average with just 12 extra-base hits allowed.