Cardinals' Rule 5 Draft Targets?

If the St. Louis Cardinals decide to be active in the Major League phase of this year's Rule 5 Draft, a few names stick out as players that could help the organization in the future.

With the Winter Meetings underway this week in Nashville, one of the highlights of the event is always the Rule 5 draft that takes place on Thursday morning.   High schoolers drafted in 2003 and college players drafted in 2004 must be on the 40-man roster or are eligible for selection in the Rule 5. Also, international signees and all others signed before age 19 in the year 2003 must be protected or their team risks losing them.  Players selected cost $50,000 and must remain on the team's major league roster for the entire 2008 season or offered back to the players' original team for $25,000. 

 

The Cardinals did not participate in the Major League phase in 2006 but the draft did prove to be very valuable for a few teams. Last year's Rule 5 draft witnessed picks such as the selections of Josh Hamilton and Jared Burton who ended up helping the Reds, Joakim Soria being picked by the Royals and the Padres' selection of Kevin Cameron.  Hamilton hit 19 home runs in only 90 games on his way to being the feel-good story of the year.  Burton posted a 2.57 ERA in 47 appearances.  Soria became the Royals' closer, finishing with 17 saves and a 2.48 ERA.  Cameron made 48 appearances and posted a 2.79 ERA for the Padres. 

 

Also, the Nationals nabbed Jesus Flores from the Mets and now Flores sits number one on the catcher depth chart for Washington.  Flores' play in limited action made last year's starter, Brian Schneider, expendable. 

 

The Cardinals selected Juan Mateo from the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and later returned him during Spring Training.  Hector Luna was selected in the 2003 Rule 5 and became a contributor before later being traded to the Cleveland Indians for Ronnie Belliard. 

 

To participate in the Rule 5 draft, an organization must have open spots on its' 40-man roster.  At this time, the Cardinals are at their maximum of 40, but can make a quick move as they did when designating John Rodriguez for assignment last weekend.  Even though the Cardinals may not participate in this year's draft, there were a few names that caught my eye as players that could help the organization, though none appear ready to make a major contribution in the short term. 

 

 

Diory Hernandez (Atlanta Braves) SS 

 

The odd man out in an organization loaded with middle infield prospects.  The 23-year-old provides solid defense and exciting speed on the bases.  For Double-A Mississippi, Hernandez hit .307/.370/.418 with 22 steals (he did get caught 20 times) and 59 RBIs.  So far in the Dominican Winter League, he is hitting .248/.311/.248.  He has good range and a very strong arm and could provide depth in an organization lacking in impact middle infielders. 

 

Van Pope (Atlanta Braves) 3B

 

A fifth-round pick in 2004 out of Meridian College, Pope is eligible for the Rule 5 for the first time this year.  An outstanding defensive third baseman, Pope has an arm that reminds one of Scott Rolen.  The Jackson, Mississippi, native really struggled in 2007 playing in front of his hometown fans, hitting .223/.298/.340.  The 23-year-old was named the best defensive third baseman and best infield arm in the Southern League in a poll of the league's managers taken by Baseball America.  With good make up and a super work ethic, Pope could be primed for a bounce-back season in 2008.

 

Jose de la Cruz (Seattle Mariners) RHP

 

The 24-year-old has a big 6-foot-6 frame and possesses a low nineties sinker with a developing splitter.  At Double-A West Tennessee, the Dominican posted a 1.25-to-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio and 3.18 ERA.  The right-hander struggled at Triple-A Tacoma, posting a 11.32 ERA and a .375 batting average against.  He can touch 95 at times with a full-effort delivery.  Has the upside and stuff to eventually be a late inning reliever. 

 

Matt Moses (Minnesota Twins) SS

 

The 21st overall pick in the 2003 draft, Moses has struggled to live up to the hype of being a first-round selection.  In 1542 career minor league at bats, he has a career line of .257/.312/.391. Early in his career, the Twins really pushed him and he has seemed to regress.  The left-handed hitter has above-average bat speed but gets pull happy at times which causes him to go into long-lasting slumps.   Moses is still only 22 years old and still has time to live up to his potential, though he is considered to be more of a third baseman at this point. 

 

Randor Bierd (Detroit Tigers) RHP

 

A Tommy John survivor, he missed half of 2005 and most of 2006.  Bierd bounced back in 2007 with 52 strikeouts in 45 innings and a 1.49-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio at Double-A Erie.  The 23-year-old Dominican possesses a low nineties sinker and a good slider. Starting the year in the Midwest League, he posted an almost 4-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio before moving on to Double-A.   Now playing in the Dominican, he has made only one appearance, giving up one run. 

 

Nick Debarr (Tampa Bay Rays) RHP

 

Selected by the Boston Red Sox in last year's Rule 5 draft and later returned.  A 14th round pick in the 2002 draft, Debarr missed all of 2005 due to Tommy John surgery.  Debarr has a big, projectable frame and ranges from 89-93 mph with his fastball, sitting at 91 consistently. He also features an average slider that still needs work.   

 

Sean Thompson (Colorado Rockies) LHP

 

The 25-year-old bounced around in 2007 playing in three organizations while posting a 9-8 record with a 3.70 ERA.  Thompson represented Colorado in the Arizona Fall League and notched two victories in spite of a 4.43 ERA as he allowed 10 earned runs in his last 10 innings.  The lefty only throws in the upper eighties but shows good command with an above-average change up and a very solid curveball.

 

 

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.com.

 

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