ST. LOUIS -- After three straight years of using their top pick in the MLB Draft to nab an advanced college pitcher, the Cardinals returned to the high school ranks on Monday to take outfielder Nick Plummer out of Brother Rice High School (Mich.) with the 23rd overall pick.
The left-handed hitting Plummer, ranked by MLB.com as the 27th-best prospect available in this Draft class, later described his landing with the Cardinals as a "surprise."
"To be able to see my name be called out of nowhere, there was a moment of silence then the family just erupted," Plummer said, speaking from his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "I'm really happy to be part of the Cardinals and start playing with them."
Plummer, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, was the first of three players the Cardinals were to pick on the first day of the three-day Draft. The Cardinals followed by taking high school pitcher Jake Woodford with the 39th overall pick, which they were awarded through the Competitive Balance Lottery. They finished the night by taking another high schooler, third baseman Bryce Denton, at No. 66 overall.
The Draft will continue on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 p.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 12 p.m. CT.
Plummer, 18, celebrated his selection alongside members of his family, including his mother, Ann, and stepfather, Scott Leonard. His brother flew in from Minnesota and his aunt from Oregon for the occasion. It was a fitting circle of support given how much family played a role in the moment.
Plummer never knew his biological father and then lived through what he described as a "bad situation" with his first stepfather. Before Leonard would step in as a father figure, he served as Plummer's coach, in fact saving the center fielder from being cut on a 12-year-old team that was being coached by Leonard's twin brother.
Given the chance to continue to play, Plummer quickly improved his skill set. Situated in a part of the country where baseball talent can be tough to discover -- consider that Derek Jeter (1992) was the last Michigan prep position player to go in the first round -- Plummer's family embarked on a summer of showcase stops across the country last year. That put Plummer on the map.
"I think my performance last summer has really done it all," Plummer said. "Once I got my name up there and once I got the opportunity to be able to play in those big showcases, I performed the way that I normally performed. It just showed."
Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa said his staff saw Plummer "a lot last summer" and compiled about 20 scouting reports on him before making him their top pick.
After the summer showcases, Plummer then returned for his senior season at Brother Rice HS and hit .520 with 68 runs, 32 stolen bases, 23 RBIs and 22 doubles in 41 games. His team was eliminated from Michigan's high school postseason tournament over the weekend.
Correa described Plummer's mechanics as "very short to the ball, but with bat speed and strength." As such, the Cardinals project Plummer to be able to hit for both average and power.
There have been questions about whether he has the speed to stick in center field or whether he might profile long-term as a corner outfielder. The Cardinals think he could handle center field.
"He's a good runner," Correa said. "He's a very instinctive baseball player. Like any young player, he needs to work at it. But I think he has a good chance."
What is not in doubt is what's next for Plummer. He plans to forgo his college commitment to the University of Kentucky to begin his professional career.
"It was a pretty easy decision," Plummer said.
The bonus slot value for the No 23 pick is $2.1244 million, though the Cardinals are not required to offer Plummer that exact amount. The Cardinals have an overall bonus pool of $7.3876 million.
Plummer becomes the first high school player to become the Cardinals' top selection since Shelby Miller was taken 19th overall in 2009. The last high school position player the club used its top pick on was Pete Kozma, two years before that.
"I started playing when I was 4, and I think ever since I started playing, I've dreamed about this," Plummer said. "But the Draft is just part of the journey. This is just the beginning of a story, and my ultimate goal is to make it to the Major Leagues and help get wins and win a World Series."