Long Wait – Revisiting Recent Cards' Drafts

Regular message board contributor Lou Schuler provides a detailed look back at the last ten Cardinals draft classes, from 1997 booms to 2005 busts, and pretty much everything else in between.&nbsp&nbsp

So, the first day of the draft is done. The Cardinals did what no one expected, giving us an extended dance remix of the 2001 draft (three college pitchers in first four picks), after first scaring us with what looked like a replay of the 2004 draft (all college players, top to bottom).

I'm sure we'll see some fascinating picks Wednesday, as baseball rips through rounds 19-50. We'll get to see many of them in action in a couple of weeks, when
Johnson City and State College start their seasons.

But when will we know anything about their potential as major-league players?

That'll take a while, and if recent drafts are any indication, the guys who make it won't be the ones we expect.

A brief walk down recent-draft lane:


The Cardinals took Adam Kennedy in the first round and Rick Ankiel in the second, and you can't fault the Cards' scouts for either choice.

Interestingly, this draft is among the few in which the top two choices really were the top two players.

It also included three future major leaguers they drafted but couldn't sign: Xavier Nady (4th), Seth Etherton (9th), and Jason Michaels (15th).


At the time, this draft was notable for the Cards' "let's see how rich we can make Scott Boras" strategy. After spending hideous sums on J.D. Drew and Chad Hutchinson, though, the draft turned out to be most notable for its role in landing them Scott Rolen (in trade for fourth-rounder Bud Smith) and Adam Wainwright (for whom they finally dumped Drew, who was later dumped by Atlanta without so much as a draft pick as compensation). And the last anyone heard of
Hutchinson, he'd failed at quarterback for the Cowboys after Boras snookered them into giving him another big paycheck. Nice work if you can get it.

There was another major-leaguer in this draft: 9th rounder Jack Wilson, starting shortstop for the Pirates, a guy who was traded away with nothing to show for it.


This was the Cardinals' anti-Moneyball draft, with something like $5 million in bonuses paid to Chance Caple, Nick Stocks, and Chris Duncan, and $60,000 paid to the 13th-rounder who eventually saved our franchise.

Curiously, this draft yielded a bunch of guys with so-far brief major-league careers -- Josh Pearce (2nd), Ben Johnson (4th), Mike Crudale (24th), Bo Hart (33rd) -- and Coco Crisp (7th), a guy many really, really wish hadn't been traded for Chuck Finley back in 2002.

That's a lot of major-leaguers. They just weren't the ones anyone expected.


To be fair, just about everybody had a bad draft in 2000. But the Cards at least had an instructively bad draft, selecting Shaun Boyd with the 13th overall pick (in case you haven't noticed, he's below the Mendoza Line in the PCL right now), along with future Memphis teammates Carmen Cali (10th) and John Gall (11th).

This time, the Cards' best pick came early, with Yadier Molina in the 4th round. The next-best choice was in the 34th round, when they got Tyler Johnson, who was signed as a draft-and-follow in 2001.

In between Boyd and Molina they got Blake Williams, Chris Narveson (who, to be fair, was a devastating lefty before his injury), and Chase Voshell.


On the bright side, it was better than 2000, with second-rounder Dan Haren the best player drafted since the 13th round in 1999. And it was also considerably cheaper, with the Cards taking a breather from their contributions to the Scott Boras Retirement Fund.

But the Cards had a lot of flat-out curious picks here, starting with first-rounder Justin Pope (now a reliever in the Yankees' system) but peaking with fourth-round pick Josh Brey, a lefty who was known by everyone to have a sore arm.

Fifth-rounder Skip Schumaker has made the most of his talent -- props to the Cards for that pick, and to Skip for his perseverence -- but the rest of this draft class that's still in baseball seems mired in the sand at Palm Beach: Joe Mather (3rd), Tyler Adamczyk (7th), Blake Hawksworth (28th), and Terry Evans (47th).

With Hawksworth, of course, you can blame injuries. And Evans is having the kind of breakout season we all hoped for from a guy with power and a cannon arm.

Still, it's hard not to look at the 38th pick in the 2001 draft -- future Hall of Famer David Wright -- and wonder what the Cards (and every other organization, to be fair) didn't see in him that they did see in Justin Pope.


With their first- and second-round choices burned off for signing Isringhausen and Tino, the Cards went with Cal Hayes in the 3rd and Kyle Boyer in the 4th, and then couldn't sign their fifth-round pick, catcher Josh Bell.

So far, the best pick in the draft looks like 16th-rounder Brad Thompson, although Cody Haerther (6th), Travis Hanson (9th), and Reid Gorecki (13th) still could make it to the varsity.


Here we see a theme developing: The 16th-round pick, Anthony Reyes, looks like the most valuable choice, although there's nothing to complain about with the first two picks (Daric Barton and Stuart Pomeranz).

Several other guys still look like good choices: Brandon Yarbrough (5th), Brendan Ryan (7th), Jordan Pals (20th).

This draft also gets a minor footnote for the trivial fact that the Cardinals drafted but didn't sign three pitchers who went in the first round in 2006: Ian Kennedy (14th), Brent Sinkbeil (38th), and Max Scherzer (43rd).


Every now and then, a team just blows one, and this could be the worst ever for the Cards.

I know first-rounder Chris Lambert still has potential, and Eric Haberer (3rd) could probably move up the ladder quickly as a situational lefty, and that Mark Worrell (12th) could be a useful middle reliever.

But I still have a hunch that this will become the textbook example of what not to do on draft day.


This draft marked the return of the Cards' "let the Wookiee win" policy toward Scott Boras. Although it's way too soon to make judgments, some trends just aren't very encouraging.

Tyler Greene (1st) was thought to be just a couple short steps away from replacing David Eckstein at the end of Eck's three-year contract. Now I think I speak for every Cardinal fan when I say I really, really hope the team is working up an extension for the guy who put the "short" back in shortstop. Greene sure doesn't look like he's getting near a major-league stadium anytime soon.

While the first pick, Colby Rasmus, looks like a keeper, and Bryan Anderson (4th) and Nick Stavinoha (7th) have been pleasant surprises, the biggest surprises have gone the other direction.

Mark McCormick (1st round, supplemental, our 3rd pick) was just DL'd in the Midwestern League, while Nick Webber (2nd) and Mitch Boggs (5th) struggle in the pitcher-friendly FSL.

Tyler Herron (1st, 4th pick for the Cards) and Josh Wilson (2nd) aren't yet ready for full-season ball, and Daryl Jones (3rd) showed last summer he wasn't even ready for short-season ball.

I know it's unfair to write them off; I haven't and I'm not.

But it is worth noting that the real find of this draft so far looks like the 22nd-rounder, Jaime Garcia.

So, think about this progression of best choices:

1999: 13th round (Pujols)

2002: 16th (Thompson)

2003: 16th (Reyes)

2005: 22nd (Garcia)

If this trend continues, the Cardinals' best choice from the 2006 draft could very well be a guy selected on the second day, a guy none of us notices who signs for pocket change.

However it works out, one thing is clear: It'll be a while before we know how it worked out.

Readers, join the discussion about this topic and many more related to the draft at our fine Message Board.

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