One has to go all the way back to 2002 to find a draft in which the St. Louis Cardinals did not have a first-round selection. That year, in fact, their initial pick was not made until the third round, as the club was docked their first two selections for the free agent signings of closer Jason Isringhausen and first baseman Tino Martinez.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Cardinals are again slated to sit out the entire first two rounds. Second-year amateur scouting director Randy Flores is going to be able to take off the entire first day of the 2017 draft - other than crossing names off his shopping list - while singing those no-first-two-rounds blues once again.
It begins with what would have been the 18th overall selection, forfeited due to the addition of center fielder Dexter Fowler as a free agent.
As most anyone reading this surely knows, on Monday, St. Louis surrendered its pair of second-round picks in the 2017 draft to the Houston Astros, along with the associated $1.85 million in slot allocation, as partial penalty in the Chris Correa hacking case.
As a result, Flores and the Cardinals will not be allowed to call out their first name until after 93 other players have been taken in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft.
While the Cardinals’ regular second-round selection was 56th overall, their other lost pick can be considered “found money”. The 75th overall selection, in the supplemental second round, had been awarded to St. Louis as part of MLB’s Competitive Balance system, in which an extra pick is given to qualifying clubs in the bottom-10 markets or bottom-10 in local revenue. Other teams have been known to grumble about a successful franchise like the Cardinals being eligible to participate in the competitive balance process.
Is there a second-round jinx?
Maybe in an odd way, Flores and the Cardinals are fortunate to not be making a second-round selection. Looking back over time, the Cards’ second-round choices have not been kind to the team.
Really unkind, in fact.
Jay plus 11 misses from 2002 through 2010
Of the 12 second-round selections made by the Cardinals between 2002 and 2010*, only outfielder Jon Jay has been a regular in the majors. The 31-year-old will be playing in his eight MLB season in 2017, his first with the Chicago Cubs. (* Note: In some years, St. Louis received additional compensation and/or supplemental picks in the second round.)
|Draft||2nd rounder||Pick #||Losing||Pos||School||Peak||PA/IP||Team|
|2003||Stuart Pomeranz||65||RHP||TN prep||MLB||6.0||Bal|
|2005||Josh Wilson||70 comp||Matheny||RHP||TX prep||A|
|Nick Webber||78||RHP||Cent MO||AAA|
|2006||Brad Furnish||54 comp||Morris||LHP||TCU||AA|
|Jon Jay||74||OF||Miami FL||MLB||3043+||StL/SD|
|Mark Hamilton||76 supp||Nunez||1B||Tulane||MLB||66||StL|
|2007||David Kopp||71 comp||Suppan||RHP||Clemson||AAA|
|2008||Shane Peterson||59||OF||Long Beach||MLB||234||Oak/Mil|
|2010||Jordan Swagerty||75||RHP||Arizona St.||AA|
The majority of the dozen - seven - never reached the majors. They include first baseman Mike Ferris plus pitchers Josh Wilson, Nick Webber, Brad Furnish, David Kopp and Jordan Swagerty. It should be noted that all except Wilson were collegians.
In an interesting trivia item, the former Texas prep star Wilson progressed the least far in the system of the club’s second rounders and was St. Louis’ compensation pick for the loss of catcher Mike Matheny as a free agent following the 2004 season.
To be 100 percent accurate, the last of the seven - Robert Stock - is not officially done yet, though his professional hopes are hanging by the slimmest of threads. Last season, the catcher-turned-pitcher played in independent ball.
The other four made it to the bigs briefly, but only two with St. Louis. None made an impact.
First baseman Mark Hamilton, now pursuing a career in medicine, made all of 66 plate appearances with the 2010-11 Cardinals before retiring. Pitcher Jess Todd had the prototypical one-game cup of coffee with St. Louis in 2009 before being traded to Cleveland and eventually fading away.
Right-handed pitcher Stuart Pomeranz kept plugging away after being cut loose by the Cards in 2008. Four organizations and two more releases later, he finally appeared in three games out of the Orioles bullpen in 2012. But that was it for the Texan.
Shane Peterson was part of the Matt Holliday trade in 2009 and received most of his 234 career plate appearances with the 2015 Brewers. The outfielder was injured in Triple-A last season and has moved on to the Tampa Bay Rays organization on a minor league contract for 2017.
A pair of youngsters on the cusp
While 10 of the aforementioned 12 second-rounders between 2002 and 2010 were collegians, the Cardinals’ approach has changed 180 degrees since. Five of the organization’s six second-round picks since 2011 have been high schoolers.
Looking specifically at the Cardinals’ second-rounders in 2011 and 2012 provides a more youthful and optimistic near-term outlook. However, one is already an ex-Cardinal.
|Draft||2nd rounder||Pick #||Pos||School||Peak||PA||Team|
|2011||Charlie Tilson||79||CF||IL prep||MLB||2||ChW|
|2012||Carson Kelly||86||3B/C||OR prep||MLB||14||StL|
Outfielder Charlie Tilson suffered a heart-breaking season-ending injury in his very first game with the White Sox last summer after being traded away for left-handed relief pitcher Zach Duke. This coming spring training, the Chicago-area native should have a good chance to earn the Pale Hose’s starting job in center field.
Since 2002, the relative position of the Cardinals’ 18 second-round picks in the drafts have ranged from as low as 54th to as late as 86th overall. Ironically, the player from this group who seems to have the best chance of going furthest is the latest overall selection in his draft, the 86th overall pick in 2012, Carson Kelly.
When Kelly stepped onto the PNC Park field in Pittsburgh last September 5, he became just the fourth Cardinals second-rounder taken since 2002 to make his Major League debut for St. Louis, following Jay, Hamilton and Todd.
Only seven of the 14 second-rounders drafted between 2002 and 2012 reached MLB for even one game. As noted previously, Jay is the only one of them who can be considered even a moderate success to date.
That is how dry the Cardinals’ second-round well has been.
Four still trying
The final group in the post-2002 period consists of the four other second-round draftees still in the system trying to reach St. Louis.
|Draft||2nd rounder||Pick #||Pos||School||Peak||Top 50|
|2013||Oscar Mercado||57||SS/CF||FL prep||TBD||NR|
|2014||Ronnie Williams||68||RHP||FL prep||TBD||28|
|2015||Bryce Denton||66||3B/OF||TN prep||TBD||26|
|2017||Lost to Houston||56|
|Lost to Houston||75 bal|
The quartet begins with 2013 second-rounder Oscar Mercado. The former shortstop was moved to the outfield last summer at the high-A level. While the ex-Florida high school star steals a lot of bases, his success ratio needs improvement. Worse is his continued problem of not reaching first nearly often enough. As a result, Mercado has fallen off Cardinals top prospect lists.
It is too early to tell about the others taken by St. Louis in the second round since 2014, but more optimism surrounds them.
Bryce Denton has joined Mercado in a position change, having moved from third base to the outfield, but has a promising bat. Denton, along with pitchers Ronnie Williams and Connor Jones, are clustered between #24 and #28 in The Cardinal Nation’s new top 50 prospect rankings for 2017. You can read much more about their potential there.
From what I have seen so far, I like Kelly’s chances the best to alleviate the Cardinals’ second-round blues – at least until Flores gets another shot to make a second-round selection in June 2018.
Time does not heal the wound
Expanding the historical aperture all the way back to the beginning of the draft in 1965 does not improve the Cardinals’ second-round deficiencies one bit. In fact, over the 37-year period from 1965 through 2001, the club landed just four second-rounders who made a sizeable impact in MLB - Jerry Reuss (1967), Todd Zeile (1986), Rick Ankiel (1997) and Dan Haren (2001).
And even so, the four did not realize their full potential with St. Louis.
As a 22-year-old, Reuss was traded away by Gussie Busch in a salary dispute, and the left-hander went on to win 220 MLB games over parts of four decades. Due to control issues that began in his age 20 year of 2000, Ankiel abandoned his extraordinary pitching potential but later made it back to MLB and became a journeyman outfielder. At age 23, Haren was shipped away in the Mark Mulder trade, but pitched for 11 years more in the majors, logging 153 wins.
Zeile was a compensation second-rounder, taken four picks after regular selection Reed Olmstead in 1986. The catcher, then third baseman enjoyed a steady, if unspectacular 16-year MLB career, with the most of that time occurring after he was traded away in 1995.
Sadly, the vast majority of these important early picks fell short of St. Louis altogether like Olmstead or were flops like Chad Hutchinson (1998).
A closing factoid
The Cardinals have selected 57 players in the second round since the draft began in 1965. Of those signed by St. Louis, not a one has earned a National League All-Star berth while with the team.
(Haren and Reuss became All-Stars after being dealt away. So did unsigned Cardinals second-rounder Dan Plesac (1980) with the Brewers later in his career.)
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