Cardinals Pick Kozma First

With the 18th selection in the 2007 First Year Player Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected shortstop Pete Kozma, a high schooler from Oklahoma. Some watchers were unimpressed.

St. Louis Cardinals' scouting director Jeff Luhnow wasn't kidding when he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "it is possible our first pick or second pick will be a little bit of a head-scratcher for the pundits who have predicted (those) rounds". With the 18th overall pick, the Cardinals' highest since 2000 (13th), they selected shortstop Pete Kozma from Owasso (Okla.) High School.

Despite being regarded as the top middle infielder available, Baseball America ranked Kozma as the No. 39 draft prospect and describe him as having "no true standout tool, but he also has no glaring weakness. He grades out as average to slightly above-average in every tool except power, and he does have pop. His instincts help him play above his physical ability at bat, on the bases and in the field. He has good plate coverage and uses the entire field, projecting as a future No. 2 hitter in a big league lineup".

"Despite what ESPN is saying, we are very excited about getting Kozma at No. 18, Cardinals' scouting director Jeff Luhnow told the media at Busch Stadium. He hits, runs throws and fields, but the most important thing is he hits.

"His bat stands out and he reminds me of Nomar Garciaparra at the same stage."

In his senior season, in which his team won the Oklahoma State 6A Baseball championship, Kozma hit .522 with 11 home runs, 55 RBIs, 21 doubles, six triples and 14 stolen bases, striking out just five times in 113 at-bats. He hit the game-winning home run in the championship game.

The 18-year-old had signed a letter of intent with Wichita State, but that was meant only as a back-up plan in case the draft fell through.

"We think we will get a deal done with him quickly and he'll play this year," Luhnow said. "And I feel he'll be an impact player at this position."

Steve Gossett, the Cardinals' area scout that watched Kozma play, also spoke to the media.

"(Kozma) has an advanced approach at the plate, a plus arm and you can expect him to reach the majors in four to five years," Gossett said.

Speaking about ESPN slamming the Cardinals for the selection, Gossett said Kozma said, "I'm not worried about those guys".

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