Cards Sign Two "Draft and Follow" Pitchers

The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with two "draft and follow" selections from the June, 2006 First Year Player Draft, right-handed pitchers Mark Diapoules and LaCurtis Mayes.

The newest St. Louis Cardinals are right-handed pitchers Mark Diapoules and LaCurtis Mayes.

Diapoules was the organization's 21st round pick (646th overall) last summer out of Martin County High School in Stuart, Florida. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound hurler was 8-3 with a 3.00 ERA as a starter for Palm Beach Community College this past season. Diapoules allowed just 56 hits and fanned 78 in 84 innings of work at PBCC.

Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch discussed the new signees. "Both of them have average velocity. Neither are big power arm-type guys, more command. Diapoules has real good sink on his fastball. He has a real nice arm, along with good movement and command."

Mayes, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, was the Cardinals 23rd round selection (706th overall) last year and just finished up his season at Riverside Community College in California. The 18-year-old posted a 2-1 record with a 3.00 ERA in 11 games, 10 of which were in relief. Mayes fanned 11, but also walked 11 in 24 innings-pitched.

"More than anything his arm [drew the scouts' attention]," his father LaCurtis Mayes Sr. told MLB.com last June. "A lot of teams like him to pitch because he throws in the 90s -- that's the biggest thing that got him noticed right away."

Vuch agrees. "Mayes has some arm strength. According to our scout, his junior college had him back off on his velocity some to improve his command."

The organization sees upside in Mayes. "Of the two, I think Mayes is the one most likely to add more velocity as he comes out. He has the makings of a pretty good changeup, has pretty good command of his breaking pitch and a tight slider," explained Vuch.

The roles in which the two will be used after reporting to Extended Spring Training will not be determined until they pitch, says Vuch. "They will have plenty of opportunity to earn starting roles, as we will be using tandem starters in all our short-season clubs. So, there are 24 starters jobs open."

"Draft and follow" heading into the sunset

The 2006 Draft was the end of the "draft and follow" process, now eliminated after having been in place for 20 years. It essentially allowed an organization to hold onto the rights of a drafted player until a week before the next draft if and only if the player attended a junior college. All bets were off if he attended a four-year college.

The Cardinals have used the draft-and-follow process to their distinct advantage and will likely miss it. In recent years, three solid pitchers who were nabbed in this manner quickly come to mind – and there are likely others.

Left-handed specialist Tyler Johnson, who was a key member of the World Champions' bullpen in 2006, was originally a 34th round pick (1013rd overall) in 2000. He signed with the organization in May, 2001 at the age of 19. By 2002, he was the Cards' Minor League Player of the Year.

Coming out of high school in Washington, right-handed starter Blake Hawksworth had early-round talent. The Cardinals struck quickly, taking the then-18-year old in the 28th round (854th overall) in the 2001 draft. After attending community college, Hawksworth signed the next May. After a series of injuries, Hawksworth has battled back to be our number two-ranked prospect in the entire Cardinals' system.

The club used "draft and follow" again in 2005, selecting hard-throwing Oklahoman Blake King in the 44th round (1334th overall). After signing for 2006, Mickey Mantle's great-grandnephew's domination of the Appalachian League placed the now-19-year old as the organization's 22nd-ranked prospect, following his initial season as a professional.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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