Drafted but Unsigned Cardinal: Roy Smalley

Profiling another Minnesota Twins star who had earlier been drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but turned them down.

A second consecutive former Minnesota Twins star is our newest top 10 player once drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but signed elsewhere and performed well. The covered period runs from the start of the modern draft in 1965 through 1980.

Shortstop Roy Smalley III preceded our prior honoree, Rick Aguilera, having starred for the Twins from 1976 until 1982 and again from 1985 through 1987. Smalley originally came up with the Rangers and also played for the Yankees and White Sox before returning to Minnesota to conclude his 13 years in the Majors as a World Champion.

Coming out of a Los Angeles-area high school as the successful and high-profile son of major leaguer Roy Smalley Jr. and nephew of MLB manager Gene Mauch led Smalley to be drafted by St. Louis in the second round of the 1971 draft. It was the third time he had been taken, back in the days when there were drafts in both January and June.

Playing at the University of Southern California rather than sign with St. Louis, Smalley was part of the 1972 and 1973 Trojans national championship clubs. Drafted for the fifth time in January 1974, he signed with Texas after being taken number one overall.

Smalley reached the Rangers in 1975, but just 41 games into the 1976 season, he was part of a six-player trade that sent Twins ace Bert Blyleven to Texas. At that point, Smalley’s career batting average was just .227, raising questions as to whether he had enough bat to be a long-term regular.

Playing every day for Minnesota, Smalley manned shortstop for the next six years as his hitting improved substantially. The switch-hitter was named an American League All-Star in 1979, as he played in all 162 games while hitting 24 home runs and driving in 95.

After being limited by injuries in 1980 and 1981, Smalley was dealt to the Yankees in April 1982 for three players. Though he hit 38 home runs combined over the 1982 and 1983 seasons, New York traded him to the White Sox in July of 1984. There, he played under a former MLB infielder in Sox manager Tony La Russa. Among the players heading the other way in the Yankees deal was future Pirates pitching star Doug Drabek.

Another trade, this time in the spring of 1985, brought Smalley back home to the Twins, where less than three years later, he concluded his 13-year MLB tenure on the highest possible note. In his only career playoff action, Smalley doubled and drew two walks in four plate appearances against the Cardinals as a member of Minnesota’s 1987 World Champions.

Smalley’s final line was .257/.345/.395/.740. He hit 163 home runs and drove in 694 while amassing a career bWAR of 27.8. With Bucky Dent manning shortstop on our almost-Cardinals team, Smalley slips into the designated hitter spot, a position he manned in 271 regular-season games.

The USC Athletics Hall of Famer currently works as an analyst during Twins games on FOX Sports North.

Stay tuned as the final three members of this team are named, with the most career bWAR. For more details on the All-Drafted, but Unsigned Team, click here.



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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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