Luhnow speaks (via Goold’s Blog) and AZ responds

8 Jun

erik and I will continue to update the Draft thread for day 2 as we get into the deep rounds where the team is really reliant on individual scouts.  erik has his review of the first draft day below.

Derrick Goold had a late night interview with Jeff Luhnow regarding the draft, which he graciously put on his blog for all of us to pick over.  Let’s see what we’ve got.

We did that by starting off today by taking a young shortstop (Pete Kozma) who has the tools to play shortstop. He’s a good runner. He’s a good fielder. He’s got good hands. He’s got a good arm. And most importantly for us – he can hit. He doesn’t have a lot of power right now, but neither did a lot of power-hitting shortstops until they got further into the minors.  Our scouts compare him to Nomar Garciaparra, a guy who developed power a little bit later.

AZ says:  I’m gonna get real tired of hearing this Garciaparra comparison real quick.  Nomar slugged .603 and .599 in ’99 and ’00.  I’m curious what about Kozma makes Cardinal scouts think he’s going to develop the ability to slug in the .500s as a shortstop.  I haven’t heard any rationalization of it (i.e. we think he’s going to add considerable height and muscle up) from anywhere.  It’s not that this couldn’t happen; it just seems highly doubtful that Kozma has a Garciaparra-type ceiling.

I don’t see Pete Kozma as a “safe” pick. I think any time you have a player with that type of athleticism and that type of bat, who has a chance to play in the big leagues, that to me is a first-round player. For me it wasn’t “safe”.

AZ says: The general consensus is that the Cardinals reached.  Kozma is more of a supplemental round pick because he isn’t viewed as having a high ceiling.  A non-safe pick was someone like Andrew Brackman or Porcello.  Peter Kozma, fine athlete he may be, was a safe pick — especially in terms of signing dollar demands.

You can never have too many shortstops.

AZ Says: Correction, you can never have too many good shortstops.  I could have 20 Angel Berroa’s.  That’s too many.  Again, the problem isn’t Kozma as a prospect, it’s Kozma as the Cardinals #1 draft choice.

When you’re in the (fourth) round and you have a chance to get a guy [Kyle Russell] with that kind of bat … now, obviously, we have to work on signing him. Obviously that is not a straight-forward situation.

AZ Says: Please sign him.  A true right-fielder that can mash — he’d immediately land himself in the tail end of the Cardinals top 10 prospects given his power potential.  He is liable to strikeout alot (we heard the same about Rasmus) so people who don’t like strikeouts should close their eyes.

Early this year, his very first outing of the year, we happened to have two scouts there. Those two scouts were not there to watch Mortensen. They were there to watch their own team. … They immediately made phones after that game and said: The best player was not on the team I went to go scout, it was this guy Mortensen.

AZ says: I’m intrigued.  Tell me more.

This guy has got everything you’re looking for in a pitcher. He’s got size. He’s got stuff. [...] And he’s a groundball pitcher. He’s everything we look for in a Cardinal pitcher. Durable. He’s got the types of mechanics that we look for, that we think are going to lend themselves to durability. He’s has a breaking ball. He has a changeup. When he throws his changeup, you think it’s a fastball coming.

AZ says: Mortensen is scouted to top out at 94.  He sits around 89-92 and maintains his velocity into games.  That’s not terrible.  I’m also reading the groundball pitcher quote and just shaking my head.  Matt Harvey was still on the board here.  I’m gonna have to chalk this up to some persuasive scouts because I don’t think this was a good pick — but I also wasn’t the one who went and saw Mortensen. 

Yes, he’s [Mortensen] a senior. Yes, he was undrafted last year. Were we looking to get a discount? No. We were looking to get the best player available and he was, in our minds, by a long shot at that point.

AZ Says: You know Luhnow is aware of how the Cardinals are coming off right now (i.e. cheap) and he attempts to adress it and again, it’s hard to refute what he says.  I don’t know what the conversations were that went on in the draft room.  I do think it’s odd that for a club who signed zero major offseason free agents (not saying they didn’t spend other places or didn’t try too) they managed to snag two players that rate high on “signability” according to most.

He doesn’t need to be projectable. We saw his last four starts and he could probably pitch in the Florida State League right now.

AZ Says: (Whoosh) That was the sound of Jeff Luhnow punching me in the stomach and the air exiting my lungs.  The draft is about projectability.  I don’t care if he can pitch in the FSL now.  Can he ever pitch in the majors???  Obviously the Cardinals think he can but that quote is distressing.  I like Luhnow; I respect his work, by and large, but I vehemently disagree with saying that a draftee doesn’t need to be projectable.

He’s an extreme groundball pitcher, sinkerball pitcher.

AZ Says: I don’t even want to talk about it.

He’s going to go into pro ball and he’s going to be a better pro ball pitcher than he was a college pitcher. We’re going to look back on this draft in a few years and he’s going to be one of the superstars of this draft.

AZ Says: Well I hope he’s better in pro ball cause he wasn’t that good in college.  I’ll say it right here:  I do not think Clayton Mortensen is going to be a superstar.  I hope he proves me wrong.

No, no it’s not (conservative). We had several high school players that we were going to take. Players were taken right in front of us that we were going to take. That happened a lot to us. With the high school players though, after a certain point it takes a lot of money to convince these guys not to go to school. That does become a consideration. We’re trying to be a good citizens and stick to our budget and do all the things that will ultimately help stabilize the economics of the draft and we did. [...] Those players were the best players on our board that we knew were signable – with the exception of Russell – at every single pick along the way.

AZ says: Luhnow responds to criticism that taking college arms is safe.  He does say that they could target HS players in the second day.  That line in the middle — “stabalize the economics of the draft” — is pure bumpkis.  This smacks of DeWitt not opening the purse strings for players.  I get that it’s hard to convince HS players not to go to college.  They want money.  I’m not asking for EVERY player to require a large signing bonus but preserving the economics of the draft is the last thing I’m concerned about.

Porcello is one of the best high school pitchers that’s been in any draft the last couple years. The reality of it is: Given our understanding of what it was going to take to get that deal done relative to the probability of a player like that – there are a lot of players like Porcello that have gone high in the draft, been given a lot of money, and when you look at the chance that this guy pays back that investment, it’s not a slam dunk.

AZ Says: I’ll get off my Porcello soapbox now.  There were a lot of teams (the 12 or so immediately before the Cardinals and another 9 after) that were scared off by his monetary concerns.  Don’t make any mistake though — Porcello was the best pitcher available after Price.  It’s unfortunate that money plays this large of a role in the draft but it’s fact.

We’ll take a look at it there. … Right now, given the fact we’re full at Quad Cities with good pitchers, they’ll probably all start in short-season.

AZ Says: All the college pitchers are going to just short-season ball?????  That means they won’t see full season till they are 23????? Ugh.  Tick Tock Tick Tock.  College pitchers are drafted because they are supposed to move through the system quickly.  Starting them off in short-season isn’t a good start to this.

Luhnow is a very smart man.  The Cardinals have a lot of information that we as the general public don’t.  I still don’t like this draft.  His comments on Kozma are mildly reassuring but what I can’t say enough is that it isn’t Kozma as a prospect that I have a problem with; it’s Kozma as the top draft choice.  

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16 Responses to “Luhnow speaks (via Goold’s Blog) and AZ responds”

  1. Andrew June 8, 2007 at 2:08 pm #

    The most discouraging line is the last one. I understand college pitchers are known commodities relative to HS arms, but if they aren’t able to start any higher than short-season, then those known commodities must not be perceived to be better than what’s in place at A ball. Ugh is right.

    Even if pitchers in years past got out of ss and into A ball during the summer, it sounds like they are happy with the current crop at QC.

    If you could slot them in at QC (or PB — think Mortensen = able to pitch there), where would you? Who would you bump?

  2. azruavatar June 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    Andrew – I’d check back to this post. There’s a lot of pitchers in the lower minors that the Cardinals need to sort through. I wish they’d move the ones that are dominating (Degerman, Ottavino namely) so they can better look at other pitchers and establish talent level. There’s a lot of garbage pitchers in AAA (some in AA) that I’m going to look at next week that the Cardinals just need to cut bait on and can move some prospects up there.

  3. MikeJ June 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm #

    The part of that interview that really torques me off is the “trying to be good citizens” bit. The only reason to be a good citizen is if MLB has some leverage over you, like if they have to approve the sale of the club or something as in the Cub’s case. Does MLB have some leverage over the Cards that I am not aware of? Do the Red Sox, Yankees, or Tigers give a crap about being a good citizen?

  4. azruavatar June 8, 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    MikeJ — totally with you. It’s a line that really makes the Cardinals look like a collective tool for Bud Selig. If you were the Marlins trying to get a new Stadium, or the Reds with a grievance being filed against the Nationals, I would understand somewhat. This “being good citizens” and “stabalizing the economics of the draft” is the MLB company line — Luhnow, in this case, chose to tow it.

  5. azruavatar June 8, 2007 at 2:55 pm #

    I of course meant to type toe it.

  6. SleepyCA June 8, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    “I’m curious what about Kozma makes Cardinal scouts think he’s going to develop the ability to slug in the .500s as a shortstop. ”

    just out of curiousity, what would have had to be different about Kozma’s high school performance to give him “projection”? The guy had an OPS of 1.720(!!!) his senior year, batted .522 (103 points higher than ARod in high school), slugged over 1.100 and homered every 10 at-bats. I’m really not sure how he could have performed at a higher level there (unless he had been like middlebrooks and pitched a no-hitter as well). He put up simply incredible numbers.

    Anyway I have to believe he has to potential to be as good as any MLB shortstop. Looking at pictures, I’d say JJ Hardy is a good comparison… 6’1″ 180 as an 18yo, hardy is 6’2″ 190 as a 24yo.

  7. SleepyCA June 8, 2007 at 5:32 pm #

    Correction, Kozma is 19yo, 6’1″, 180 lbs.

  8. lboros June 8, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    azru, i have a question —- and this is not intended to be flip, although it might sound like it. you and erik did wayyyyy more research and preparation than i did before the draft, and that might explain why we have different reactions to how the draft went down. you guys had formed much firmer, and better informed, opinions than i did. so i’m asking this question with great respect for the work you guys did on the draft, and do here on a regular basis.

    here’s the question: let’s say the cards had taken kyle russell at #18. still would have been a reach, but many projectors had russell as a late first-rounder / early supp pick, and i believe that if the cards had grabbed him at 18 it would have been perceived less as a “reach” than as a team being really excited about a player with a great power-hitting record. he fits the profile of a #1: high ceiling, plus tool(s), and a bit of financial risk, because russell won’t be an automatic sign.

    then, at 36, let’s say kozma is still on the board and the cardinals grab him there — about where he was projected to go. good player for a 1A — good, safe insurance policy in case the riskier pick at #1 washes out.

    let’s say the 2d round goes exactly the same — kopp and todd go at 71 and 82, which is about where they both were projected to go.

    in the 3d round, at 112, the cards take mortensen.

    in the 4th, at 142, they take descalso.

    the cardinals would have ended up with the exact same players, but they just would have taken them in a different order. if it had gone down that way, do you believe it would have felt differently to you — would it have seemed like a better draft?

  9. SleepyCA June 8, 2007 at 5:58 pm #

    BTW I strongly agree with your concerns about starting the college players at short season ball. If anything, throwing against younger players will teach them bad habits that may take a lot of time to unlearn.

  10. erik June 8, 2007 at 6:39 pm #

    lboros. i see your points. my main issue is that high school pitchers were the strength of this draft, the cardinals had several shots at them and passed on several occasions for players that i did not like, IE kopp and mortenson.(todd is ok with me) and descalso would’ve been there rounds later, it made no sense. the bottom line is that they had several chances to take guys who i felt probably had higher ceilings. but they selected guys like kopp and mortenson, players with shaky college records, etc based on their project ability. i’d sooner they take younger players for those reasons, not college seniors.
    as for Kozma, i don’t mind the pick really. i think they maybe could’ve done a little better, but Toronto and Texas did a good job of picking their pockets. people don’t like kozma because he’s comped with jack wilson and mark loretta, and no one wants that type of player in the first round, they want a future star. he’s said to have solid but not spectacular tools across the board. anyway, i think making comps like that are totally premature. i seem to remember rasmus being comped with steve finley, i wasn’t happy about that either but i didn’t jump to the conclusions. what happened? he’s filled out, enhanced his game and is looking like a star in the making. i say kozma has time to do the same, though i don’t he’ll be on the same level as rasmus.

  11. fewgoodcards June 8, 2007 at 9:35 pm #

    i still don’t understand why everyone is calling kozma such an overdraft. in baseball america’s first draft projection in the middle of may they had him going to the blue jays at 21, they ranked him 24th in their final draft tracker saying he was a step ahead of the deep crop of toolsy high school middle infielders, and they had him going 15th overall to the reds in their final mock that came out on draft day. jonathan mayo had him going 21 to the blue jays in his final projection. he was the best position player on the board, he was the best shortstop in the draft, and there was no way he was going to make it to 36. please explain to me how that is an overdraft. sure he is not porcello, but we can’t complain about that one until the guy actually signs. he wouldn’t be the first guy selected in the first round to go to college.

    here is what john manuel said on the cards pick in a chat today

    Q: Jared from St. Louis asks:
    Pete Kozma at 18? Couldn’t we have gotten him at 36? Also, based on your scouting reports seems like the Cards picked up some good arms in the supp. and 2nd round. Your thoughts? Will they get Russell signed?

    A: John Manuel: Au contrare . . . I like Kozma at 18 a lot, he’s a HS bat who can stay at SS, and he makes sense at 18, you could make the case that he’s better than Kevin Ahrens who went at 16, and I think it was a good pick.

    he doesn’t think it was a reach

  12. erik June 8, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    FGC, i was hoping you would chime at some point. i know you had kozma at 36 on your mock. really i don’t have problem with the pick. i would’ve preferred main, or a few others but that’s ok. i just hope i haven’t come off anti-kozma, honestly i have a good feeling about him. i know AZ isn’t a fan of the pick, but like i said, i’m OK with it now.

  13. azruavatar June 9, 2007 at 12:25 am #

    Let me try and address several of the comments.

    SleepyCA – Slugging in high school does not equate to slugging in the majors. Kozma doesn’t have a muscular frame that lends itself to power. It’s the one tool that he’s weakest in. The list of SS that hit 30 HRs isn’t very long and Kozma isn’t going to join it unless he takes a tremendous leap forward. I’m sticking with my Marcus Giles comparison. There’s no one who projects Kozma as a middle of the order slugger.

    LBoros – The Russell pick was great in the fourth round. I probably would have been ok with it in the 1st round. The hoard of college pitchers being selected was incredibly frustrating to watch being selected because they all seem to be largely the same player. Not only that but we have half a dozen of those players in our system already. And then, they’re all going to start at short-season ball. That’s a huge let down for the draft in my mind. I’m not sure I like any of the pitchers except Todd who probably winds up in the bullpen.

    Given that they snagged Russell in the 4th, that literally saved the first day’s draft in my opinion as he’s the only high ceiling player (despite the Garciaparra comparisons for Kozma). The Cardinals played it safe in day two and drafted a bunch of older college players again. For a team that wants to build for the long term they need to find more Colby Rasmus’s.

    FGC – I won’t say overdraft. That’s too strong a connotation for me. He was a reach and I think Kozma had a good chance of falling to the supplemental round. One problem with draft mock ups is that they aren’t based on talent alone. Talent-wise Kozma is middle of the supplemental round. Signability moves some players up and some down. Kozma moved up. The Cardinals had a chance to really make a splash with their first pick. They decided to sit on the side of the pool and ease their legs in. Again, I think Kozma is a fine prospect. . .just not who the Cardinals should have taken at #18. Even if Kozma had been taken, Jackson and Cumberland lasted until 45 and 46 who would have been respectable choices at 36.

  14. azruavatar June 9, 2007 at 12:33 am #

    I want to add an addendum here as well. There’s a lot of questions about how I thought the draft went. Do I think it was the worst Cardinals in recent memory? Not at all. Do I think the cardinals played it safe? Yes.

    My concern now is that I think the mistake is being componded by ideas like not starting the college pitchers at a higher level. I hope that isn’t the case because the low minors are already crowded by finesse guys with questionable stuff.

    I’ve been impressed with Luhnow but some of the things from this interview were mind-boggling answers. Stabalizing the economics of the draft? Mortensen doesn’t need projection? The constant rambling about Kozma’s intangibles. I’m baffled by some of what is said.

  15. fewgoodcards June 9, 2007 at 6:22 pm #

    “One problem with draft mock ups is that they aren’t based on talent alone. Talent-wise Kozma is middle of the supplemental round.”

    like i said, baseball america had him ranked 24th in their final draft tracker. that is not a mock, that is their ranking of the top 30 players available for the draft. 24th overall is not middle of the supplemental round talent. he was the 2nd best position player that was still available according to that top 30 behind julio borbon, and personally i would rather have the shortstop than another speedy leadoff type centerfielder. if they wanted a position player, he was the best one available.

  16. azruavatar June 9, 2007 at 9:16 pm #

    FGC – I digverge with BA there. I think Kozma is a middle (perhaps early) supplemental round pick.

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