In a year in which the Cardinals had 5 of the first 59 picks, it looked great for them to continue to stock an already solid farm system. However, with the new rules in place that put a cap on the money that can be spent, the loss of picks if you go over it and how all that might influence the minds of high ceiling high school picks, the Cardinals went in a safe direction on the first day of the draft to say the least. The Cardinals have only $9.1 million to spend on the first 14 picks. In any other year before these new rules, the Cardinals could have had the draft to put the team over the top for years to come.
For those that might be new to the MLB draft, I feel it’s important to point out that it is a very uncertain thing. While the NBA and NFL expect first and second round talent to produce right from the start, MLB doesn’t work that way. On average, only 41% of players taken in the first round make it through the minors to the show. Only 7% of players taken in the first round play more than 3 years at the highest level. It’s an uncertain thing to say the least. Those numbers are higher than any other round, but being a 1st round pick doesn’t guarantee greatness.
With that being said, this year’s draft still held the chance for the Cards to move into the top 3 of all the farm systems if they nailed it on the early picks. Well, they didn’t as far as most of the experts are concerned, but they really are hamstrung because of the new rules.
There are a couple of things to note here. One, perception on a young player in the system is everything within the first 2 or 3 years. If the Cards would have taken some of the high ceiling players, they could have traded them (after 1 year by MLB rules) later for more proven players like they did for Matt Holliday before another team could figure out if those particular players were a bust or not. However, the new rules penalize a team by taking away the money for an unsigned pick in the new slot system. In other words, high school kids that have high ceilings have more leverage, and teams can’t afford to be wrong in projecting their signability because of the losing that slot money.
Getting to the 5 picks the Cards had in the 1st and supplemental 1st round, it’s easy to see the disappointment from the fans, but the first 3 out of the 5 actually show great promise.
1st round–19th overall pick—Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
Wacha was rated 11th on Baseball America’s top 100 before the draft, so the fact that he was still there at 19 is a good thing. He’s 6’6”, 205. A lot of the same things that were said about Lance Lynn are being said about Wacha such as being projected as a mid to back end of the rotation starter. Has a fastball that sits between 90-94. His changeup is his best pitch, and they say it’s the best changeup in the draft. He is expected to move through the system quickly and possibly be a starter in St. Louis in 2014-15 if he can get a better feel for his curveball. In his 16 starts for the Aggies in 2012, he went 9-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 113 1/3 innings. He struck out 116 and walked only 20.
The MLB network had Wacha compared to Jon Garland. Of course, that doesn’t mean much at this point. It seems most experts agreed with this pick, and when the showed the Cardinals draft room they were pumped. With this pick, the consensus is the Cards nailed it.
1st round—23rd overall—James Ramsey, OF/INF, Florida State
This is the pick that brought some of the crazies out. Ramsey was taken the year before by the Twins in the 22nd round at 688th overall. He went back to college and played in the Cape Cod League since then. Ramsey was the ACC Player of the Year in 2012. Baseball America had him at 41, and the MLB Network called this pick a reach for the Cards. They also compared him to Skip Schumaker. Again, this is where the new rules come into play. Ramsey is in his senior year at FSU, and has no leverage. Unless he wants to play independent baseball, he’ll sign quickly. Many think this kid will be a bust, but there’s something to note here, and that’s the Cards recent recognition of the Cape Cod League.
The CCL uses wooden bats, and that helped make the Cards decision for their 2011 1st round pick, Kolten Wong. Ramsey not only played there, but was an AS. With all the pitching still available, maybe it was a reach. I would like the Cards to draft as many pitching prospects as possible so that they can learn as much as possible in ST from Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. Again, though, the Cards draft room was excited when they selected Ramsey, so let’s wait and see.
Ramsey hit .365, scored a team best 72 runs in 61 games, had 11 doubles, 6 triples, 13 HR’s, 55 RBI’s and an OBP of .520. He’s 6’1”, 190.
Supplemental 1st round—36th overall—Stephen Piscotty, 3B, Stanford
Another pick that the experts liked, Piscotty was ranked in the top 20 by just about every expert out there. He moved from 26th to 18th on Baseball America within the last 2 weeks. Once again, the Cards paid close attention to the Cape Cod League. Piscotty wasn’t just an AS there, he won the batting title. Once again, there were a lot of prep arms available, but the Cards have to find a way to squeeze $9.1 million into their first 14 picks.
#52 and #59
The next two picks are where the Cards really lost most people. I say it’s because of the new rules, and their hand was forced. $9.1 million over 14 picks is not going to sit well with some of the players agents. Patrick Wisdom was pick #52 and Stephen Bean was #59. Wisdom hit .262 in college. Future Redbirds does have some nice things to say about Bean when you click on the link to him. That’s just not first round quality for Wisdom though, that’s not quality in the top 20 rounds. Bean was the 7th best catcher on the board, and while he draws high praise for his throwing ability, that’s about it. There’s nothing special about either one, and it’s disappointing to say the least. In a year in which they could have had it all, the new rules killed the Cardinals.
What will be interesting are the picks the Cards have after the 10th round. The money restrictions and penalties loosen a bit, and hopefully a few gems fall that far because of the way these rules play out. You’ll see some first round money being offered to kids that fall that far coming out of high school, and they’ll have to weigh that decision. Honestly, I have no idea how these new rules will continue to play out in the first 10 rounds. I think the Cards may take a high school kid or two and take a chance that they’ll sign, but this year is new for everyone, including these power agents that are in the ears of these kids and their parents.