Draft Preview: Lefty may be in the Cards
St. Louis will look to bolster already deep farm system
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have gotten a bit harder to predict on Draft day in recent years, getting away from their long-held tradition of selecting college pitchers in the first round. They've taken hitters with their first pick in each of the past two Drafts and four of the past six, a trend that has coincided with a rise in the farm system's standing, as players like Colby Rasmus and Brett Wallace have made good impressions.
With the 19th pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, however, St. Louis may turn back to pitching. One element the club feels is in very short supply in its farm system is left-handed pitching, and a few first-round-caliber lefties are available.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Here's a glance at what the Cardinals have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Cardinals intend to draft for quality, rather than need, at No. 19. With that said, a left-hander such as Mike Minor or Rex Brothers would likely be hard to pass up. St. Louis is more open to drafting younger players this year thanks to an increase in the talent level in the high Minors.
"One of the themes that sort of emerged from a lot of the thinking we've been doing for the last couple weeks is that we can probably afford to be patient with some of our top picks. Maybe get a younger player that requires more development time because our upper Minors are pretty jam-packed with quality players that we need to give more time and development to." -- Jeff Luhnow, vice president of scouting and player development
Multiple projections have connected the Cardinals to left-handed pitchers, notably Minor and Brothers, with their first pick. Luhnow says that he has a pretty good idea of whom the club will take, down to a pool of four or five players, and also that the Cardinals will not be limited to (or eliminated from) any one subset of the Draft class -- including high-school pitchers. But even with recent trends, a college pitcher is rarely a bad bet when you're trying to figure out what the Cardinals will do on Draft day.
The Cardinals are deep in outfielders, and they have a good number of pitchers in the high Minors who can confidently be predicted to pitch in the Majors. What they could use are high-upside arms and lefties. The middle-infield crop looks better than it did a year ago, thanks to the emergence of 2005 first-rounder Tyler Greene, but the club could always use middle infielders. There's also somewhat of a dearth of right-handed hitters.
Early in the Draft, the Cardinals may keep up their recent pattern of a decent mix of high school and college players, hitters and pitchers. But as the Draft goes on, they likely will tilt toward college players in an effort to fill out the rosters at the lower levels of the Minors.
Recent top picks
2008: Third baseman Brett Wallace, Arizona State -- Wallace has already made it to Triple-A despite some concerns about his glove. He's on a fast track to the Majors, so long as the Cardinals can find a position for the lefty swinger who has raked at every level.
2007: Shortstop Peter Kozma, Owasso (Okla.) HS -- Kozma has ascended rapidly for a high school player, arriving at Double-A this year at the age of 21. He's also found the going tough in the Texas League. Kozma has shown some nice all-around skills, including on-base ability and some speed, but he's likely still a good way away from the Majors.
2006: Right-hander Adam Ottavino, Northeastern U. -- Ottavino has been alternately exciting and frustrating, but he has made it to Triple-A in his third full pro season. He has yet to harness his command fully, but on nights when he's good, he's very good. Ottavino remains an intriguing arm but still has plenty of developing to do.
That would be Wallace, who had all of 153 professional at-bats before he was promoted to Double-A last year. He proceeded to thump Texas League pitching (.367 batting average, .456 on-base, .653 slugging) before doing the same to the Arizona Fall League. Wallace spent 154 at-bats back at Springfield this year before getting the call to Memphis.
P.J. Walters, an 11th-rounder in 2006, made his Major League debut this spring and was the organization's 2007 pitcher of the year. His velocity doesn't wow anybody, but his ball moves and he's gotten outs at every level.
In The Show
A few members of the 2006 Draft class have made the Majors, including one to stay. Righty Chris Perez has established himself as a valuable part of the Cardinals' bullpen, and the hope remains that he could close someday down the road. Outfielder Shane Robinson, a fifth-rounder in '06, got a cup of coffee earlier this year, as did Walters.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.