Cardinals close gap to previous years signees

The St. Louis Cardinals have added their ninth and tenth non-drafted free agents this month.

In 2012, the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft was cut 10 rounds, from 50 to 40. Since then, the St. Louis Cardinals have acted in symmetry, having signed their ninth and tenth undrafted free agents this month.

With 30 of their 44 total draftees having signed contracts, the Cardinals have three weeks to close the others. In the meantime, they have been aggressive in signing additional players.

The two newest Cardinals, both assigned to the Gulf Coast League, are pitcher Burny Mitchem and outfielder David Popkins.

Mitchem, a big man at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, played his college ball for the Dayton Flyers. There, he was Atlantic 10 First Team All-Conference in 2011 and A-10's Championship Most Outstanding Player as a senior in 2012.

In 17 relief appearances this spring, the 23-year-old posted an ERA of 1.18 with seven saves, but his overall ERA was 4.00, including his nine starts. In the Dayton record books, Mitchem ranks second in career wins (24), first in career strikeouts (320), first in career appearances (88), second in career saves (14) and third in single-season saves (7 in 2012).

Popkins, 22, was a senior at the University of California Davis in 2012. The outfielder's numbers fell in each of the last two seasons. As a sophomore in 2010, the switch-hitter batted .388 and led his team in hits and RBI while also pitching in relief. Popkins dropped to .321 with only 23 RBI compared to 43 the season prior.

Focusing on hitting as a senior, he batted just .276 with 18 RBI in 181 at-bats. Popkins was an All-Big West Conference first team selection in both 2010 and 2011, but did not repeat as a senior. As a junior, he was also a member of the All-West Region second team.

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