The Cardinals’ first pick on the second day of the Major League Baseball draft is an imposing specimen at 6 feet 8 and 235 pounds. But the giant righthander they took from Loyola Marymount threw nary a pitch this year.
Third-round pick Trevor Megill had Tommy John elbow surgery last May and missed what would have been his junior season after making the all-conference squad his first two seasons with LMU. But his workouts lately in California impressed scout Mike Garciaparra so much that the Cardinals took a chance on Megill, who next will pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer.
Not only has Megill not pitched for an entire season, but he will have two years of eligibility left and may choose to go back to school.
“It’s a really interesting situation,” said Dan Kantrovitz, the Cardinals’ director of amateur scouting.
The risk is lessened to a degree because if the Cardinals don’t sign Megill, they would get that third-round pick back next year, although they would have the bonus pool money slot of $504,400 count against them this year.
The hoped-for reward, said Kantrovitz, is a pitcher who throws 93 miles per hour with late movement and a “12 to 6’’ curveball that Kantrovitz translates to an out pitch at the major-league level.
“He wants to show the baseball world he’s healthy by pitching in the Cape Cod League,” said Kantrovitz.
The Cardinals will be part of that baseball world, too. They don’t want to commit what would be a seven-figure signing bonus offer to Megill until they see him pitch themselves.
“I think there might be a fit for us here,” said Kantrovitz. “but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. We want to track his progress.
“But it’s worth a risk in the third round because he’s a talent that potentially is more commensurate for a much higher pick.”
Megill was the fifth consecutive righthanded pitcher the Cardinals chose in the draft after taking two college pitchers, Luke Weaver of Florida State and Andrew Morales of California-Irvine, and high schoolers Jack Flaherty and Ronnie Williams the day before.
They then chose 6-foot-5 lefthander Austin Gomber, a junior from Florida Atlantic, in the fourth round.
“I’m sure some people thought we were going to take all pitchers,” joked Kantrovitz, who then spread the wealth on day two of the draft (rounds 3 to 10), by taking a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, an outfielder and a catcher besides another pitcher.
Kantrovitz is hoping the Cardinals made something of a steal, too, in Gomber, who didn’t throw as hard for a while this year when he had some general soreness in his body, perhaps souring some scouts.
But the Cardinals had seen him throw 94 to 95 miles an hour with two types of breaking balls and a changeup in FAU’s season opener against Notre Dame and then also were impressed by him at a recent workout in Jupiter, Fla., home of the Cardinals’ spring training.
The other pitcher the Cardinals chose Friday was ninth-rounder Daniel Poncedeleon, who already has been drafted three times and pitched for four schools, including a junior college and for both the University of Arizona and the University of Houston, where he was the top starter in 2013.
Poncedeleon was drafted in the 14th round by the Chicago Cubs last year but after lengthy negotiations stalled, Poncedeleon then became ineligible to return to Houston and he wound up at NAIA school Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he was 9-2 with a 1.60 earned run average.
“Charlie Gonzalez (a Southeastern area scout) fell in love with him from day one and he kept texting me over and over,” said Kantrovitz. “I said, ‘Who is this Poncedeleon guy?’’’
Poncedeleon also was at the recent Jupiter camp, displaying what Kantrovitz called a “nasty, sinking fastball at 92 to 95 and a cutter in the upper 80s. I don’t think he could throw a straight fastball if he tried.
“He’s got an outstanding slider and an above average changeup and he’s got a chance to move quick if he stays healthy.”
In the fifth round, the Cardinals took a Curacao native, second baseman Darren Seferina, who projects as the fastest player they will take in the draft and who batted .405 with 34 steals for junior college runner-up Miami-Dade South.
“He’s an explosive player, very exciting,” said Kantrovitz. “I’d be pretty surprised if he didn’t have immediate success.”
In the sixth and seventh rounds, they took Western Michigan shortstop Andrew Sohn and St. Joseph’s catcher Brian O’Keefe, who, said Kantrovitz, offer both defensive and offensive abilities.
Sohn hit .323 and O’Keefe led the Atlantic 10 Conference with 58 runs scored and threw out 15 of 34 basestealers.