(Baseball StL) -- OK, what do Donald Collins, Bob Meacham Mike Dunne, Paul Coleman, Bret Wagner and Brad Duvall have in common?
Well, it’s the same distinction that John Ericks,, Chance Caple, Nick Stocks and Calvin Hayes enjoy.
They were all number one picks of the St. Louis Cardinals in the first year player draft.
The reason you never heard of them is because none of them ever made it in the majors, for the Cardinals or any other team, despite being targeted as the best available player when it was the Redbirds turn to draft. That means the Cardinals’ player development wonks at the time targeted these players as among the best 30 players in the country.
Were they wrong? Probably not but where they erred was not in assessing those players’ current playing ability, but projecting how fast and how much they would develop. That is the key to a successful draft; what is their level of emotional and physical maturity and how much growth will there be?
The Cards whiffed quite a few times on their first round pick, just like every other major league team. For example the Los Angeles Angels in 2009 drafted someone named Randal Grichuk before Mike Trout.
About two-thirds of the Cards’ #1 picks in the last 30 years have been players who never made it in The Show. While none are among the game’s elite, a few #1 picks were minor stars, at least for a while.
Todd Worrell, Joe Magrane, Donovan Osborne, Alan Benes, Braden Looper and Matt Morris were all #1 picks. More recently, Dimitri Young, Luis Alicea, J.D. Drew, Adam Kennedy, Colby Rasmus and Chris Duncan were also first round picks.
But more often than not, draft selections in all rounds flame out somewhere along the way and never swing a bat or throw a pitch in a major league stadium.
In 1989, for example, not one of the Cards’ 56 picks lasted more than a September call up. The best player drafted that year made it to the majors for a few weeks and posted an ERA of 7.50.
In 1993, they Cardinals drafted 61 players. One made a brief appearance in the majors.
And sometimes, players are drafted for one position but play another. Jason Motte was drafted as a catcher in the 19th round in 2003.
That’s how drafts go for many major league teams and in some cases, the final few rounds are used to fill out rosters for extended spring training and rookie league teams. Baseball players are a disposable resource – there’s always another draft next year.
Most of the best players in baseball are NOT first round picks, but people who developed unexpectedly through hard work, maturity and the gift of good genes. We all know Albert Pujols was a 13th round pick in 1999.
In 2000, the Cardinals took Shaun Boyd and Blake Williams in the first round, and Chase Voshell and Chris Narveson before selecting Yadier Molina in the 4th round. He was the 113th pick overall, which means every major league baseball team with its army of scouts and evaluators passed on the best catcher in modern baseball 112 times.
But whether it is because of different scouts, a changing emphasis on what talent they were seeking or just blind luck, the Cardinals’ drafts got appreciably better in the last several years. One good draft might be luck, but several in a row is indicative of a shift is strategy and an adherence to an organizational philosophy.
Below are the highlights of the last seven drafts and the talent the Cards secured. The fact that this many players made it onto the big club’s roster and in most cases, the starting line-up or rotation is remarkable. Listed first is their #1 pick, followed by who else they took in that draft with the round they were taken in parenthesis.
2006 – Adam Ottavino. John Jay (2), Shane Robinson (5), Allen Craig (8, 256th overall).
2007 – Pete Kozma. Daniel Descalso (3).
2008 - Brett Wallace. Lance Lynn (2), Kevin Siegrist (41, 1,235 overall).
2009 - Shelby Miller. Joe Kelly (3), Matt Carpenter (13), Trevor Rosenthal (21, 639th overall), Matt Adams (23, 699th overall).
2010 - Zack Cox. John Gast (6), Tyler Lyons (9).
2011 - Kolten Wong. Seth Maness (11, 350th overall.)
2012 - Michael Wacha.