Every year the MLB draft brings in young prospects all looking to continue their quest to one day play at the big league level. With a new freshman class inbound, let’s take a glimpse at the notable progress of three of last year’s draftees.
Jake Woodford (Competitive Balance Round A; Overall Pick: 39)
In his second season in the Cardinal’s farm system, prospect Jake Woodford has already shown great potential. In his first year, pitching for the GCL Cardinals (rookie league), Woodford possessed a very solid 2.39 ERA through 26.1 innings of work. When he was transitioned to the class A Peoria Chiefs at the beginning of this year’s season, he initially struggled: holding a 4.86 ERA through his first two starts of the season. However, since those two starts things changed for Woodford. In eight consecutive starts he only gave up a total of six earned runs, working down his season ERA to 2.23 last week. In his last start, Woodford gave up six runs in his first inning of work, but put up scoreless innings the next three frames.
One thing that is both somewhat worrisome, and actually quite impressive, is the number of walks that Woodford has given up. In 64.2 innings of work so far this year, he has given up 22 free bases. Although not incredibly high, it shows that Woodford still needs work on control. But the silver-lining here is that he has been able to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA even though he has walked a good amount of batters. That means if he works on control, and can begin to limit the amount of walks, he could become a very dominant pitcher.
Harrison Bader (Round 3; Overall Pick: 100)
Quickly moving up tiers in the farm system due to his fantastic performance so far, Harrison Bader is looking like one the Cardinal’s most promising prospects. Last season, Bader played 54 games for the class A Peoria Chiefs (and 7 for State College), where he batted .311 with 11 HRs. After a promotion at the beginning of the season to the Springfield Cardinals (class AA), Bader has hit .303 with 13 HRs in only 60 games. With a good amount of pop already in Bader’s bat, who knows what kind of extra power he could grow into.
As a result of his play so far, Bader was just recently named the Cardinal’s minor league player of the month. However, looking forward, Bader really needs to cut down on how many times he strikes out. He has struck out 61 times in 231 at-bats this season. That’s a K% of 26.4%, which is very very high. But once again, the silver-lining here is that Bader has been able obtain a hit over 30% of the time, even though 26.4% of the time he’s striking out. So, roughly, Bader is putting the ball in play 73.6% of the time, and getting a hit 30% of time time. Therefore Bader has has a batting average of [(30/73.6)*100]=.408 in balls hit in play, which in the MLB currently would tied for second in the league. This hints to the fact that Bader hits the ball hard and efficiently, which means if Bader can work on striking out less, we could see a steady increase in batting average over the upcoming years.
Ryan Helsley (Round 5; Overall Pick: 161)
Since being drafted, Ryan Helsley has put up fantastic numbers for both the GCL Cardinals and the Peoria Chiefs. This season, for the class A Chiefs, Helsley holds a 6-1 record with an 1.94 ERA. He has also possessed a strike-out per inning ratio of 1.09 and a low WHIP of 1.08.
Helsley’s two main pitches are his 93-96 mph fastball, and a 12/6 curveball. The problem going into the draft was that a lot of the time he would leave that curveball hanging up in the zone. The farm system’s pitching staff has no doubt been working on getting as much spin as possible on that curveball, and working on its ability to pound the bottom of the zone. Helsley, unlike both Woodford and Bader, is not ranked in the Cardinals top 25 current prospects, but with the farm system’s track record of success, especially with pitching, it would not be a stretch to say that Helsley could eventually become one of the Cardinals top prospects in years to come.
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