The Cardinals used the 19th pick in the draft Monday night on high school third baseman Nolan Gorman, considered to have the best raw power in this year's draft class. (Perfect Game)

By Rob Rains

As their pick in the first round of the draft Monday night drew closer and closer, Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores studied the board in front of him and came to a realization.

What Flores had forecast a couple of days earlier indeed was coming to pass: expect the unexpected.

Going through his second day one of a draft after having to sit out the opening night last year, Flores expected there would be players projected to go early in the draft who would fall for one reason or another, perhaps all the way to their pick, the 19th overall selection.

He didn’t know Nolan Gorman would be that player.

“You can’t believe that a guy, left-handed like that, young as he is, someone who’s done it on the biggest stages and has done it with power, was available to us,” Flores said.

Gorman, a third baseman from Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Arizona, is a third baseman who is considered to have the best raw power of any hitter in this year’s draft.

“It doesn’t take someone who’s too smart to see that he can hit the ball really hard,” Flores said.

Gorman, who turned 18 last month, won numerous home run derbies and excelled on the showcase circuit last summer. One of his long home runs came at the Perfect Game All-American Game at Petco Park in San Diego.

As a senior this year, Gorman led his team to the state championship with a .421 average and 10 homers in 32 games. In many games he did not have much of a chance to hit as he walked 46 times. In 128 plate appearances, Gorman struck out just 16 times.

Gorman is committed to Arizona, as was his best friend, left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore.

Gorman said the two first became friends when they played on the same team when they were five years old. Liberatore was drafted by Tampa Bay, three spots before Gorman went to the Cardinals. Gorman’s team defeated Liberatore’s team for the state title, although Liberatore had pitched the previous game.

Flores was on hand for at least one of the matchups between the two. “He had a very professional at-bat,” Flores said.

“What we saw was, at the bigger stages where he was going to get pitched to, he handled those situations,” Flores said. “Like anyone who gets frustrated when you’re not getting pitched to, and you start pressing, there are going to be things he has to work through just like any player. Time is on his side. I can’t wait to see how he develops.”

Many mock drafts projected Gorman could be selected as early as eighth overall. Whatever the reason why he fell to the Cardinals did not matter to Flores.

“I hope he feels the weight of the world off his shoulders,” Flores said. “It’s such a fish bowl. Here’s a kid who just turned 18 and we’re asking how did he slip to 19th in the draft? That’s a scary world we live in. My hope is that he feels, ‘Look I was drafted, I’m with the St. Louis Cardinals and I’m going to work my tail off to one day contribute on this field.

“All the reports we have is that he is a tremendous worker, is coachable and willing to put in the time. And he will have time.”

Gorman said he really did not have any idea where he would be drafted.

“The draft is pretty crazy,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Gorman, speaking on a conference call to St. Louis media, said he was 12 years old, playing in three tournaments in Cooperstown, N.Y., when he realized he had more power than his teammates.

His performance on the showcase circuit since has only increased that belief. In addition to the game at Petco Park, he also participated in the high school home run derby at the All-Star game in Miami last summer and another event at Wrigley Field.

"Nolan Gorman is an analytical poster boy,” his high school coach Jeff Baumgartner told the Arizona Republic last week. “All the things they are looking for nowadays in baseball, with launch angle and exit velocity, is right up his alley. He has offensive tools that separate him from all the other high school players in the nation. His light-tower power is on display in every batting practice.”

One of Gorman’s coaches all four years in high school was former major-leaguer Damion Easley.

“He’s been a huge help to help develop the swing I have now,” Gorman said.

The Cardinals followed the pick of Gorman with two more selections Monday night. They used the 43rd overall pick on right-handed pitcher Griffin Roberts from Wake Forest, who has been both a starter and a closer. He was considered to have the best slider in the country among college pitchers, according to Baseball America. Roberts, who walked on to the Wake Forest team as a freshman, had a career strikeout rate of 12.39 strikeouts per nine innings. As the closer as a sophomore he had 80 strikeouts in 53 innings and had 35 strikeouts in 32 innings in the Cape Cod League last summer.

Flores said at least initially the Cardinals project that Roberts will be a starter.

“Candidly we are all seeing how major league rosters and bullpens are evolving also so if he turns into someone we feel can relieve with that power stuff we will see what happens in the next couple of years.”

With their final pick of the night, the 75th overall choice, the Cardinals selected TCU first baseman Luken Baker, ranked by Baseball America as the third best power hitter among the college prospects in this year’s draft. He had nine home runs this season before he suffered a season-ending broken leg in April. Baker’s sophomore season also ended early last year because of a broken arm.

When he was on the field for TCU, Baker hit 28 home runs and had 129 RBIs in 145 games.

“With him fighting through those injuries and producing the way he has, we don’t think we have a chance to draft him at that spot if it weren’t for those things.”

Flores said he hopes the Cardinals will have a better read on when Baker can play later this summer.

The draft continues on Tuesday with rounds 3 through 10, with rounds 11 through 40 coming up on Wednesday.

“Last year (on day one) we were spectators,” Flores said. “At this time last year it was ‘Alright let’s get to work.’ At this point it’s ‘Let’s continue the job.’ We still have 37 more picks, so the message to our guys is let’s be excited. We’re thrilled with where we’re at, but there are 37 more players that we want to win with.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains for complete draft coverage