The St. Louis Cardinals’ short-season teams are in full swing, and 2015 draftees such as Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong have been setting the world on fire in their first taste of professional baseball. So, it’s time again to look back at a previous first-year player draft for the Cardinals and evaluate what they did and what they could have done.
After redrafting 2009 last time, for this turn, we’re looking at the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, in which the Cardinals made their first selection at pick number 13. That was the earliest the Cardinals selected since they took Shaun Boyd with the 13th pick in 2000, and the Cardinals have never gone sooner than the 19th selection since.
So, obviously, this draft went phenomenally well for the Cardinals, right? Well…
Once again, with all the hindsight in the world, it is time to pit the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft team against the Alternate-World Cardinals’ squad.
Wallace was hailed as the best college bat of the entire 2008 class. He had a plus hit tool with strong plate discipline. Although he played third in college, most scouts saw a move to first base in the pros. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from trying, though, as he spent the vast majority of his reps in the minors at the hot corner. He wasn’t seen as a slugger but was expected to produce enough power to be a middle of the order bat. Wallace signed for $1.84 million.
The Cardinals used Wallace’s top prospect status to acquire Matt Holliday in their July 2009 trade with the Oakland Athletics. Wallace, however, never turned into the player he was expected to be. He’s bounced around from the A’s to the Blue Jays to the Astros to the Orioles back to the Blue Jays to the Padres. In more than 1000 career plate appearances, Wallace has been worth negative 1.2 fWAR.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Brett Lawrie, C from Brookwood Secondary School (CAN)
Maybe the Cardinals just scribbled the wrong Brett onto the paper, but Lawrie has been a solid player in the big leagues over 430 games for two teams: the Blue Jays and the Athletics. Like Wallace, Lawrie was drafted for the potential in his bat and was expected to find a new position in professional ball. Lawrie’s plus power was exciting, but he was moved to third base from behind the plate. Lawrie signed with Toronto for $1.7 million.
Lawrie had a fantastic debut in 2011 with Toronto hitting .293/.373/.580 in 171 plate appearances, but his bat cooled off from there. Still, he is a career .268/.322/.424 hitter over 1761 plate appearances with plus defense at third base, leading to 9.0 fWAR.
Round 1S, Pick 39 St. Louis Cardinals select: Lance Lynn, RHP from University of Mississippi
Lynn was looked at as a second-tier college arm behind the likes of Brian Matusz, Aaron Crow, and Christian Friedrich. Scouts saw him as a good pitchability type who would land in the middle of the rotation and eat up some innings without wowing you with his stuff. Lynn signed for $938,000.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Lynn
Lynn was absolutely the best pick between here and when the Cardinals would get another chance to come to the podium. He has put up 12.8 fWAR in 135 career appearances, 113 of which have been starts. The right-hander holds a career 3.27 FIP, on par with Johnny Cueto and Justin Verlander over the same period of time. Lynn has rounded into a very strong #2 starter who would be the ace on several second-division clubs.
A case could be made that the Cardinals could have taken Wade Miley or Tyson Ross here and saved some money, but Lynn has outproduced both pitchers and is more than deserving of keeping his spot in the Alternate World.
Round 2, Pick 59 St. Louis Cardinals select: Shane Peterson, OF from Long State Beach University
Peterson was drafted with solid but underwhelming tools. He had enough arm to handle right field, but wasn’t quite athletic enough to deserve an everyday spot there. Peterson showed a solid approach to hitting, but some scouts doubted his ability to hit professionally. He displayed power in batting practice, but it rarely translated to games. The Long Beach star finished his college career with a junior season hitting .390/.506/.582 in the Big West. Peterson had all the look of a fourth outfielder and signed for $683,000.
Peterson was another piece in the Holliday trade alongside Wallace, and he’s only received 86 plate appearances in the big leagues after debuting in 2013. (Fun Fact: Peterson got his first taste of the majors just six weeks before Michael Wacha.) Peterson is a career .286/.377/.427 minor league hitter and has turned into a solid bench player for the Milwaukee Brewers.
If the Cardinals wanted a college outfielder here, they probably should have looked east, not west. Blackmon had much less experience than Peterson, but he hit .396/.469/.564 in his final season in the ACC before signing for $563,000.
Blackmon went on to hit .309/.376/.467 in the Colorado Rockies’ system, and he got his call-up in 2012. Over 1509 plate appearances in the majors, Blackmon is a .290/.337/.438 hitter worth 5.7 fWAR.
Round 3, Pick 91 St. Louis Cardinals select: Niko Vasquez, SS from Durango High School (NV)
Vasquez was a player with tools to make scouts salivate. He could handle shortstop, but he was expected to move to third base at some point down the line. The Las Vegas native displayed plus power and looked like he could be a future 25 home run type hitter with a solid batting average. However, scouts didn’t get much of a chance to look at Vasquez during his senior year as he missed a good portion due to being academically ineligible. Vasquez signed with the Cardinals for $423,000.
That exciting bat, however, never materialized. Vasquez hit .234/.328/.358 in 1896 minor league at-bats. He showed a decent amount of power with 36 home runs, which translates to about 12 per year. But, he could never make enough contact to be a valuable player as he struck out nearly 25 percent of the time. Vasquez never advanced beyond Double-A and retired from baseball in 2012.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Craig Kimbrel, RHP from Wallace State Community College
In Kimbrel’s final year in college, he struck out 123 batters in 81 innings. He struggled with his command, however, walking 51. The right-hander signed with the Braves for $391,000.
Kimbrel’s command issues continued throughout the minors with a 5.66 BB/9 rate over his 151 minor league innings. But, his 14.42 K/9 rate and 1.85 ERA more than made up for it. In fact, despite his high walk rate, his WHIP sat at just 1.12 thanks to allowing only 74 hits. Kimbrel became Atlanta’s closer in 2011 and has established himself as arguably the most dominant closer in the game today, now with San Diego.
Round 4, Pick 125 St. Louis Cardinals select: Scott Gorgen, RHP from University of California-Irvine
The Cardinals turned to another college pitcher and to another Big West Conference product in the selection of Gorgen. Gorgen had a strong junior season for Cal-Irvine, going 12-3 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with an improved strikeout rate over his previous years. He carried a solid three-pitch mix with a fastball, curveball, and a changeup and inked a deal for $250,000.
Gorgen spent six years in the Cardinals’ system including an injured 2011 season. The 5-foot-10 right-hander couldn’t gut it out on pitchability alone, though. While he struck out nearly a batter per inning, he couldn’t get over the hump past Double-A Springfield for any extended period, and he has not pitched professionally since 2013.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Dee Gordon, SS from Seminole Community College
The son of former pitcher Tom Gordon was very much a project when he was taken in the draft. Gordon hadn’t taken up baseball until his high school years, but he had phenomenal speed. A signing out of a junior college, Gordon agreed to a $125,000 signing bonus.
Gordon immediately showed off that speed stealing 18 bases in 60 games in his first pro year. Over 497 career minor league games, Gordon stole 227 bases. He eventually was moved off of shortstop due to shockingly poor range, but he has found a home at second base. In his 413 career games, Gordon has compiled 5.2 fWAR.
Round 5, Pick 155 St. Louis Cardinals select: Jermaine Curtis, 3B from UCLA
Curtis was an All-Star in the Cape Cod League during the 2007 summer, but he failed to live up to expectations during his 2008 season in the Pac 10. The junior showed little authority when he made contact putting up a .306/.426/.426 line for the Bruins. Curtis didn’t show enough arm to stick at third base, but he didn’t have the range to be regular at second base, either. His profile looked everything like a utility player at best. Curtis agreed to a $181,000 bonus.
Curtis went on to play seven seasons with the Cardinals before becoming a free agent in 2014. He is currently playing for the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A team. In 720 minor league games, Curtis has hit .272/.378/.348, evidencing his severe lack of authority in the box. He received a brief call-up with the Cardinals in 2013 during which he made five plate appearances.
If the Cardinals wanted players from the 2007 Cape Cod League, they should have looked behind the plate. The lefty-hitting catcher dominated the SEC for Alabama. In his junior year, Avila hit .343/.441/.615 with 17 home runs. This wasn’t an aberration as he had knocked 14 homers the previous season. Taken by the Tigers in the fifth round, Avila signed for $169,000.
Avila spent only 151 games in the minor leagues before getting his call to the majors in August 2009. He hit .280/.372/.424 in those 151 games with 13 home runs and 37 doubles. Since he arrived in the majors, he has hit .244/.345/.403 despite struggles in a few seasons. Collectively, Avila has put up 10.8 fWAR.
Round 6, Pick 185 St. Louis Cardinals select: Eric Fornataro, RHP from Miami-Dade Community College
When Fornataro was selected by the Cardinals, the overwhelming response from those following the draft was, “Who?” Fornataro did show some impressive numbers with Miami-Dade including a strikeout per inning and a 2.99 BB/9 rate. He kept hits down as well and produced just a 1.10 WHIP. Fornataro received $150,000 to sign with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals tried to turn him into a starting pitcher, but his lack of a third offering left him incredibly vulnerable. The strikeouts never piled up, and the walks weren’t good enough to counteract the lack of swing-and-miss stuff. As he advanced to full-season ball, the hits mounted, as he gave up better than one per inning in Quad Cities and Palm Beach. His command improved some moving to the bullpen in 2011, but his strikeout numbers still struggled, and Fornataro continued to be far too hittable.
Harrison put up an exceptional career in the Big East Conference. He put up OPSes of .966, .948, and .996 in his three years in Cincinnati. He didn’t show a ton of power, but he consistently made contact with a .358 average in his college career and walking 43 percent more than he struck out. Harrison signed with the Cubs for $144,500.
In the minor leagues, Harrison continued to make great contact with modest power. In more than 1700 minor league at-bats, Harrison hit .308/.358/.437. Much of his value has come from his ability to play all over the diamond. Between the minors and the majors, Harrison has played every position except first base and catcher. Yes, he even pitched to one batter in 2013 for the Pirates. That versatility has allowed him to put up 6.8 fWAR in his career.
Round 7, Pick 215 St. Louis Cardinals select: Anthony Ferrara, LHP from Riverview High School (FL)
The Cardinals reached into the high school ranks for the first time since the third round, taking a left-handed pitcher. The Cards attempted to develop Ferrara as a starting pitcher, but his ability never fully materialized. He tossed 462 career innings in the minor leagues striking out 7.32 batters per nine innings, which isn’t terrible. However, he gave up too many hits (8.2 H/9) and allowed too many walks (4.07 BB/9). He was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2014, but he still was not effective, and he never advanced past Double-A Springfield. Ferrara had originially signed with the Redbirds for $150,000.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Will Smith, LHP from Gulf Coast Community College
This Smith did not come from West Philly or Bel Air. Instead, Smith was drafted out of Panama City, Florida. He signed with the Angels for $150,000. Smith spent the vast majority of his minor league career as a starting pitcher and had a reasonable amount of success. His ERA and WHIP were a bit high at 3.80 and 1.28, respectively, but he put up solid peripherals. He struck out 7.58 batters per nine innings while walking 2.17 batters, and those numbers spiked when he was moved to the bullpen.
Smith has started 17 games in the majors with poor results: a 5.48 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP, and an .861 OPSA. From the bullpen, however, Smith has been great. He’s held opposing batters to a .658 OPS with a 2.94 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Furthermore, Smith has carved up left-handed batters in his career. He has struck out 32.9 percent of lefties with a nearly 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His career fWAR is 2.3.
Round 8, Pick 245 St. Louis Cardinals select: Ryan Kulik, LHP from Rowan University
The senior left-hander put up a spectacular year in his final college season. Kulik struck out 144 batters in 94.1 innings while walking just 24. Batters hit just .181 against him, and he only allowed nine extra base hits on the year. Kulik put up a sparkling 1.84 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. He had experience in the Cape Cod League from the 2007 season as well. With such little leverage, Kulik agreed to a $58,000 bonus.
That batting average quickly changed once Kulik stepped into professional baseball. He gave up 404 hits in 339 innings in the Cardinals’ organization. Yes, that is 10.73 hits per 9 innings. His strikeout ability never came back as he punched out only 210 batters for a 5.58 K/9 rate. He was released in 2011 and has mostly played in independent leagues since.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: Brett Oberholtzer, LHP from Seminole Community College
Oberholtzer, a teammate of Gordon’s, struck out a lot of batters in his year at Seminole - 76 in 58 2/3 innings. He also walked more than one would like with 26 free passes, but his command tightened up significantly in professional baseball. In his minor league career, Oberholtzer walked just over two batters per nine innings while striking out a respectable 7.74 per nine. He has tasted modest success at the big league level, but just turned 26. His performance in 45 career starts has led to 3.7 fWAR. Oberholtzer signed for $150,000.
Round 9, Pick 275 St. Louis Cardinals select: Aaron Luna, LF from Rice University
Luna was taken from Rice thanks to his exceptional plate discipline. In his final two years there, Luna drew 97 walks while striking out 73 times. He put up on-base percentages of .447, .447, and .469. He also showed a solid amount of pop with 39 homers and 41 doubles over 654 at-bats. Luna agreed to a $150,000 signing bonus.
Luna hit quite well in the minors with a career .249/.388/.444 batting line. The Cardinals tried him at second base, but he returned to the outfield after just one season at the keystone. Unfortunately, a foot injury derailed his career in 2012, and he retired that fall.
Milone had an impressive junior year for the Trojans in 2008. He tossed 97 1/3 innings and struck out 98 batters while walking only 20. He gave up nearly a hit per inning, but his command kept his WHIP at just 1.17. All of those numbers were improvements that didn’t look out of the ordinary from his previous two years at USC. He signed for $65,000.
Milone continued his impeccable command and strong strikeout totals through his minor league career. Over 583 minor league innings, Milone has struck out 532 batters while walking 98, a better than 5:1 K/BB ratio. He has received 94 starts and three relief appearances in the majors with a 3.85 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 2.88 K/BB ratio, leading to 5.4 fWAR.
Round 10, Pick 305 St. Louis Cardinals select: Alex Castellanos, 2B from Belmont-Abbey College
Castellanos terrorized pitchers during his time in junior college. In 436 at-bats, Castellanos hit 28 homers, 53 doubles, and six triples. He struck out just 48 times while drawing 35 walks. In a sophomore year that was actually worse than his freshman season, he hit .390/.452/.683. He signed for $70,000.
Castellanos spent four years in the Cardinals’ organization. He hit .276 with 45 home runs, 94 doubles, and 22 triples in 384 games. He has since spent time in the Dodgers’, Padres’, and Mets’ organizations. He has received just 43 plate appearances in the big leagues leading to negative-0.5 fWAR. Fans should remember Castellanos as the player that fetched Rafael Furcal from the Dodgers in the summer of 2011.
Alternate-World Cardinals select: J.J. Hoover, RHP from Calhoun Community College
The Cardinals could have gone with a different junior college product with their 10th rounder. The actual 310th overall selection went to the Atlanta Braves for a whopping $400,000. Through his minor league career, Hoover dominated hitters, striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings and walking just 2.7 per nine. His WHIP sits at a tidy 1.16 with a 2.95 ERA over 443 innings. In fact, a good portion of that came as a starting pitcher: Hoover has 61 starts and 72 relief appearances in the minors.
In the majors, Hoover has seen his command regress while his strikeout rates have stayed high. He has a career 9.2 K/9 rate against a 3.9 BB/9 rate. Hoover keeps missing bats and generating weak contact, though, with a 1.14 WHIP and 3.10 ERA from the middle of Cincinnati’s bullpen. He has a career fWAR of 1.4.
Lynn was the crown jewel of this draft class - both for the real life Cardinals and my Alternate-World version. If the 2009 redraft we covered last time was the one that would have built a dynasty, the 2008 redraft is the one that put the depth behind the stars of 2009 and also locked down the back of the bullpen. The 2008 class could have resulted in three strong to elite relievers, three everyday players, one of the best supersubs in the game, a great backup for Yadier Molina, and a couple depth starting pitchers.
The real world Cardinals spent $4.893 million for a collective 11.2 fWAR. All of that positive fWAR is from Lynn while Wallace and Castellanos have cost their teams 1.7 fWAR. The Alternate-World version spent $4.6545 million and produced 75.4 fWAR.
Follow Scott Schook on Twitter @scottschook.
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