ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores arched his back, raised his arm and pointed to a far off point beyond the right-field wall at Busch Stadium. He was demonstrating where the Cardinals hope their latest first-round pick will soon be depositing baseballs.After sitting out the first round last
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores arched his back, raised his arm and pointed to a far off point beyond the right-field wall at Busch Stadium. He was demonstrating where the Cardinals hope their latest first-round pick will soon be depositing baseballs.
After sitting out the first round last year, the Cardinals used their top pick this year to inject light-tower power in their system, drafting prep infielder Nolan Gorman with the No. 19 overall pick. A third baseman from Sandra Day O'Connor High School in Phoenix, the left-handed-hitting Gorman is considered one of the top slugging prospects in this year's class. If the Cardinals can convince him to bypass his commitment to the University of Arizona, Gorman would add exceptional raw power to a farm system low on sluggers outside No. 2 prospect Tyler O'Neill.
"I think it really came when I was 12 years old," Gorman said. "I hit about 18 home runs over three trips to Cooperstown for tournaments. That's when I really knew that I had some power."
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A half decade later, Gorman leaped to the top of Draft boards in part by flashing that strength on the national stage. Showing raw power some scouts consider as high as 70-grade (on a 20-80 scale), Norman captured both titles at the All-Star Game High School Home Run Derby in Miami and the Under Armour All-American Game Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field. Both crowns came last summer, before Gorman returned to school to help lead O'Connor to a state championship this spring. Under the tutelage of former MLB infielder Damion Easley, who coaches at the school, Gorman hit .421 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs across 32 games as a senior.
"He's been a huge help to develop the swing that I have now," Gorman said. "I've got a natural upward angle in my swing, so we really haven't worried about launch angle or anything. He just thinks getting in the right position on time to hit the ball is good enough, and that's pretty much what we focused on the whole year."
But like with most young sluggers, some of Gorman's power came with a trade off. Projected by some to go as high as the top-10 picks, he dropped to St. Louis at No. 19 in part because of his inability to make consistent contact at times this spring.
"We love what he brings to the batter's box, and we're curious to see how that develops when we give him time," Flores said. "When you're younger, there is uncertainty, and sometimes that uncertainty is a good thing. If you go through three years of college with swing-and-miss issues, there is certainty there are those swing and miss issues. With youth, you'll see. There is time to settle through those."
The slot value for the 19th overall pick is $3,231,700.
Born on May 10, 2000, Gorman is the first child of the 2000s to be drafted. He is also close childhood friends with left-hander Matthew Liberatore, who was drafted No. 16 overall by the Rays. He represents a stark shift in strategy for the Cardinals, who targeted either toolsy outfielders or projectable arms with their last dozen first-round picks dating back to '12.
"He has a different profile than what we've drafted before," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said.
The club's second pick of the night profiled in a more familiar way. With the final pick of Competitive Balance Round A, the Cardinals selected right-hander Griffin Roberts from Wake Forrest. A star of the Cape Cod League last summer, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Roberts went 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts for the Demon Deacons this spring, striking out 130 batters across 96 2/3 innings. The No. 43 pick, where Roberts was selected, is valued at $1.7 million.
Roberts is the eighth pitcher taken by the Cardinals in first round since 2012, the fifth from the college ranks. He also has experience as a reliever and is considered a candidate to rise quickly if used in that role.
"This year, he wound up taking a power-closer arsenal, and took it into a starter role," Flores said. "Our hope and aim is for him to be in the rotation, but candidly, we all see how big league bullpens and rosters are expanding, also."
After targeting power and experience with their first two selections, the Cardinals combined that approach with their final pick of the night, selecting college slugger Luken Baker at No. 75 overall. A former two-way player, Baker switched full-time to hitting as a sophomore at Texas Christian University. He hit .319 with nine home runs as the Horned Frogs' first baseman this spring before a broken leg truncated his season after 31 games.
"If he did not get hurt, it's tough for me to think he's in play for us," Flores said.
The Draft continues Tuesday. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 11:30 a.m. CT and takes you through Rounds 3-10 with live analysis from Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.