I am among the guilty, analyzing past Rule 5 selections by the St. Louis Cardinals and projecting future ones, but hey, that's my job!
The reality is that extremely rarely do either the lost or chosen players become big-leaguers. That is especially the case in the minor league phases of the draft. As far back as my records go, ten years, the Cardinals selected a dozen players and lost just five in the minor league phase prior to this last draft. None of them reached the majors.
That changed after the actions since this past winter. St. Louis had its first major leaguer come from the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft – left-hander Barret Browning.
After the major league phase in which the Cardinals selected outfielder Erik Komatsu from Washington (and later waived him) but lost no one, the club selected Browning from the Angels and since-retired Twins pitching prospect Shooter Hunt in the minor league phase.
In recognition across baseball of the higher talent levels in the Cardinals system, the organization lost three players in the minor league Rule 5 Draft last December. Catcher Charlie Cutler went to Pittsburgh, infielder Domnit Bolivar to Milwaukee and pitcher Javier Avendano to Toronto.
Since we already know about Browning's rise and Hunt's demise (having never left training camp as a Cardinal), let's look at the three ex-Cardinals after a full season in their new organizations.
The left-handed hitting Cutler continues to hit well, though not quite as strongly as with Springfield last year. This season, he played for Double-A Altoona of the Eastern League. His line was .296/.407/.421. Cutler had just 19 RBI in 55 games, but drew more walks, 21, than strikeouts, 17. Cutler is currently playing for Team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifier Pool competition.
In hindsight: Not missed
Middle infielder Bolivar continued his past pattern while a Cardinal. Now with Huntsville of the Double-A Southern League, the right-handed hitter's line was just .198/.260/.271 in 207 at-bats over 78 games. The 23-year-old Venezuelan's 2012 tepid OPS of .530 makes his career-best .768 mark between Palm Beach and Springfield last season appear to be an outlier.
In hindsight: Not missed
Avendano, just 21 years of age, had struggled with injury as a Cardinal, pitching just 14 1/3 innings for Batavia last year. The right-hander from Venezuela saw an uptick in his fortunes in the Jays' system this season, however.
He began in the Midwest League with Lansing, where he posted a 1.48 ERA in relief, while fanning 39 in 31 1/3 innings. Mid-season, Avendano moved down to Vancouver of the short-season Class-A Northwest League and was returned to starting, a role he had played for the Cardinals from 2008-2010.
Though this level is comparable to Batavia, a healthy Avendano's results are impossible to ignore.
In 78 innings with league champion Vancouver including 13 starts, Avendano logged a 91:25 strikeout to walk ratio, a 8-1 record and a 1.27 ERA. Opposing hitters batted just .193 against him. He was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week three times in the last two months and topped the league in both strikeouts and wins (tied) and was second in ERA.
In this recent interview at our companion Toronto site, FutureJays.com, Avendano mentioned an improved changeup and curveball as factors in his improvement this season. Significantly fewer walks ensued.
Had the Cardinals been prepared to put Avendano on the Memphis roster for Rule 5 purposes, then the only way they could have lost him would have been had some other organization been willing to put him in the majors – a virtual impossibility.
By instead leaving Avendano on the Springfield roster for Rule 5, the Cardinals signaled they were willing to lose him. Perhaps they thought his injury history would lead to no interest. If so, they were wrong.
While Avendano is still a long way from the majors, I am going to call this one a miss.
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