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Cards take 6 more college arms on Day 2

June 4, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores said after Day 2 of the 2019 MLB Draft that if the situation was close, the Cardinals leaned toward arms. And that they did. • Draft Tracker Out of eight picks in Rounds 3-10, six were college pitchers, adding to the Cardinals’

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores said after Day 2 of the 2019 MLB Draft that if the situation was close, the Cardinals leaned toward arms.

And that they did.

Draft Tracker

Out of eight picks in Rounds 3-10, six were college pitchers, adding to the Cardinals’ first-round selection of Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson. With as many pitchers as they took on Tuesday, St. Louis could pivot from that strategy in Rounds 11-40.

But first, let’s take a look at who the Cardinals selected Tuesday:

Round 3 (96th overall): RHP Tony Locey, 20, Georgia

The Cardinals started Day 2 as they did Day 1: taking a college pitcher from the Southeastern Conference. Locey was a key starter on a Bulldogs team that won a school-record 21 SEC games this season, as well as being part of a pitching staff that set a school record for strikeouts. He had an 11-2 record with a 2.53 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 89 innings over 16 appearances (15 starts) this year.

Draft Central

Strong and powerful, Locey could potentially work shorter stints out of the bullpen -- he touches 97 mph with his fastball and maintains velocity through his starts, indicating he could hit triple digits. If he commands it, his slider can be sharp, and he’s working on what could be a promising curveball.

“It was very intriguing to get the fastball velo of Locey,” Flores said. “Someone even in short stints, we’d imagine him going maybe a tick more. He’s someone who has sustained that velocity and that workload. He’s got the physicality to start. He has the mentality to be a starter or reliever.”

MLB Pipeline had Locey ranked just outside the Top 100 prospects at No. 105.

Round 4 (125th overall): RHP Andre Pallante, 20, UC Irvine

Sticking to their M.O., the Cardinals selected another college pitcher in the fourth round. After spending time in the bullpen at UC Irvine his freshman year, Pallante jumped on the national radar as a sophomore All-American starter in 2018. His 1.60 ERA led the Big West, ranked sixth in the NCAA and was the second-lowest in a season in UC Irvine history. He went from walking 32 in 47 2/3 innings his freshman year to walking 30 over 101 1/3 frames last year.

“It just wasn’t there as a freshman,” UC Irvine head coach Ben Orloff said. “He was pitching as hard as he could, but he wasn’t good enough. The change was unbelievable. The delivery got cleaner. It was a dramatic change.”

Pallante had a good year in 2019, too, going 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA while striking out 89 and walking 29 in 94 innings.

The six-foot right-hander has a lot of arm speed and strength, sitting in the low 90s for his fastball that has some cutting and sinking action to it. Along with a slider and a curve, Pallante could stick as a starter in the long term.

“The fastball really plays up,” Orloff said. “He really gets down on the mound. A couple of years ago, we played a kid throwing 97, Andre was throwing 93 and looked way harder. He’s got two good breaking balls. Both of those at times, when they’re on, have been a strikeout pitch. The change has been a work in progress for him.”

Round 5 (155th overall): LHP Connor Thomas, 21, Georgia Tech

After getting three high-velocity guys in Thompson, Locey and Pallente, the Cardinals went with a pitcher with something different. Thomas has an 86-89 mph fastball and a deceptive slider that is devastating against left-handed hitters. He went 9-2 with a 3.11 ERA in a team-high 16 starts this year for Georgia Tech, which earned the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament this year.

In 113 innings pitched, he had 103 strikeouts to 19 walks, but he also allowed 118 hits and 10 home runs -- one of those being a walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in his complete-game start at the NCAA Tournament.

“We liked his ability to spin the ball,” Flores said. “The way he controlled the strike zone. Although the velocity wasn’t elite, the command has a chance to be a difference-maker. Where other guys in that spot, you might be betting on the velo and corralling some command, our bet is he is doing something right.”

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound lefty might seem undersized, but Thomas knows how to pitch.

“I’m an undersized guy, but it hasn’t stopped me before,” Thomas said. “I’m not the biggest guy on the field, but I’ll be your hardest worker. I play with emotion and pride, and my competitiveness can’t be matched.”

Round 6 (185 overall): C Pedro Pages, 20, Florida Atlantic

The Cardinals had to grab a guy who can catch all these pitchers in this year’s Draft. Right in the club’s Florida facility’s backyard, Pages hit .310 in 60 games for FAU this year. He slugged .438 with six home runs and showed plate discipline with a team-high 43 walks.

Flores believes Pages’ development is not over. It helps that Pages is bilingual, too, which might give him a leg up if all else is equal.

“For a bigger guy, he moves well back there,” Flores said. “For a catcher, he’s got some sock in his bat. You add to that his coaches rave about him, we really do think that if there’s continued improvement to his game, his better days are ahead.”

Round 7 (215 overall): RHP Jack Ralston, 21, UCLA

St. Louis couldn’t stay away from the mound for long. Back to college pitchers, the Cardinals nabbed a 6-foot-6 righty with an unorthodox delivery who improved vastly from his sophomore season to his junior year at UCLA.

In 14 appearances (nine starts) in 2018, the right-hander had a 6.44 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. This year, after figuring out his delivery, he became one of the Bruins’ most reliable starters. He had an 11-1 record and a 2.55 ERA in 95 1/3 innings. He struck out 107 to 33 walks.

UCLA head coach John Savage -- Flores’ pitching coach while at Southern California -- raved about Ralston’s work ethic enough that the Cardinals felt comfortable making the pick.

“When you’re making bets on people, you’re making bets on improvement and aptitude,” Flores said. “You could argue that someone who went from a spot where they could not pitch for a major DI school, a perennial powerhouse, to a spot where they are a foundation of the weekend rotation, shows in fact that they have the aptitude to keep going.”

Round 8 (245th overall): RHP Logan Gragg, 20, Oklahoma State

Gragg spent two seasons in junior college before transferring to Oklahoma State, which won its NCAA Regional on Monday night. Appearing mostly out of the bullpen but giving the Cowboys a few starts this year, Gragg has put up a 5.26 ERA in 39 1/3 innings.

The 6-foot-6 righty came back from Tommy John surgery while in junior college to go 6-0 (13 games) with a 2.06 ERA during his sophomore year. Flores said Gragg is recovering from the surgery well and pointed to a velocity spike this year as evidence.

Round 9 (275th overall): OF Todd Lott, 21, University of Louisiana-Lafayette

Standing at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Lott had a breakout junior year for the Ragin’ Cajuns. While lowering his strikeouts and increasing his walks, Lott batted .332/.395/.505 with eight home runs and 12 stolen bases.

Round 10 (305th overall): RHP Jake Sommers, 22, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The Cardinals ended the day much like they started: a college pitcher. Only this time, they picked a closer, filling out the depth in the lower rungs of the farm system.

After filling a starting role during his junior year, Sommers went back to the bullpen this year and had a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings. He notched 10 saves while whiffing 37, walking 16 and giving up just one home run.

“At the end of the day, looking at some of the velocity we got, mixed with some of the performance we got, along with our catching position and good value out of our seniors, I think it’s a really intriguing group of guys,” Flores said.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on beginning at noon ET.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.