St. Louis Cardinals 2014 Mock Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 1st-Round Targets

Tyler Poslosky@@TylerPosloskyContributor IIIMay 22, 2014

St. Louis Cardinals 2014 Mock Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 1st-Round Targets

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    Drafting future superstars has rarely been a concern in St. Louis. The Cardinals consistently rank in the top tier of that category. In 2013, Baseball Prospectus ranked the Cardinals organization No. 1 in all of baseball.

    This season, the Cardinals slipped a few spots to No. 6 due to the promotions of Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Matt Adams.

    In last season’s draft, the Cardinals selected three pitchers (left-handers Marco Gonzalez and Rob Kaminsky and righty Mike Mayers) and a shortstop (Oscar Mercado) with their first four picks. As the 2014 draft nears, they own the 27th pick (their own) and the 34th pick as compensation after free agent Carlos Beltran signed with the New York Yankees last offseason.

    What will general manager John Mozeliak and his staff do in the first round? Will Mozeliak select a player to fill depth needs, or will he take the best possible player?

    If I were a betting man, I'd bet on the latter. 

    Let’s take a look at five players the Cardinals should target in the first round.

Casey Gillaspie (1st Base, Wichita State)

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    If you want power, look no further than junior first baseman Casey Gillaspie (ranked No. 29 by Baseball America) of Wichita State. Gillaspie’s .394 average, .700 slugging percentage and .525 on-base percentage lead the Shockers offense. Adding to his impressive statistics at the plate are his 15 home runs and 50 RBI this season. 

    The 6’4", 238-pound switch-hitter leads the Missouri Valley Conference in average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits (80) and home runs.

    Over his three-year career at Wichita State, Gillaspie’s average has gone up considerably. As a freshman, he hit .274. Last season, the slugger hit .299.

    Impressive would be an understatement.

    Gillaspie’s size is similar to current Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams. However, Gillaspie has power from both sides of the plate, while Adams is more of a left-handed power hitter. 

Nick Howard (3rd Base/Pitcher, University of Virginia)

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    The University of Virginia’s Nick Howard provides both hitting and pitching. The junior third baseman and right-handed pitcher has racked up both plate appearances and innings pitched. 

    His overall offensive production is down considerably from last season's impressive .323 average. This season, Howard is hitting just .250. On the mound, though, he has been a solid pitcher for the Cavaliers. In 24 appearances this season, he (2-1, 2.08 ERA) has recorded 17 saves.

    Howard has been a big reason why the Cavaliers are ranked No. 3 in the country by

    Baseball America ranks Howard the No. 25 overall prospect.

Nick Burdi (Pitcher, University of Louisville)

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    The Cardinals are known for their ability to draft and develop pitchers. See: Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.

    It wouldn’t be surprising to see general manager John Mozeliak use one of his two first-round picks on Louisville’s Nick Burdi.

    At 6"4", 215 pounds, Burdi has been a dominant force for the Cardinals this season. He’s 3-1 with a microscopic 0.58 ERA. Moreover, the junior right-hander has recorded 14 saves.

    As a sophomore in 2013, Burdi was named First Team All-Big East and earned Big East Pitcher of the Week (May 20, 2013).

    Baseball America ranks him as the No. 27 prospect.  

Mike Papi (Outfield/1st Base, University of Virginia)

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    He’s not Big Papi, he’s Mike Papi, outfielder and first baseman for the University of Virginia.

    David Ortiz has about 40 pounds on Papi. However, don’t let size fool you. Papi, a 6'3", 210-pound junior, is loaded with power. He’s hitting .299 on the season and leads the Cavaliers with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

    The power hitter was named First Team All-American by Baseball America during his sophomore season in 2013.

    Baseball America has Papi at No. 45 overall. 

Luke Weaver (Pitcher, Florida State)

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    Luke Weaver won’t intimidate hitters with his size (6'2", 170 pounds). Instead, he will challenge hitters with his impressive changeup, which is his "out" pitch.

    Weaver leads the Florida State Seminoles in wins (8-3), innings pitched (95.1) and strikeouts (75), but what really jumps out at you is his durability. Weaver threw a complete game, one-hit shutout in the Seminoles’ 6-0 win over Boston College March 28. The righty needed only 105 pitches in that early season start.

    He also threw a complete game against Wake Forest April 18, allowing a run on three hits, tallying seven strikeouts to one walk and throwing 111 pitches en route to a 7-1 victory.

    The Cardinals are loaded with power arms. Adding Weaver, who prefers finesse over heat, to the mix would be a great addition for the future of this organization.

    Baseball America has Weaver as the No. 36 overall prospect.