I have read with interest a growing number of recent articles, blog posts and message board entries where writers look back using newly-acquired 20-20 hindsight at players, usually high schoolers, that the Cardinals drafted in late rounds during this decade, only to not sign them.
In later years, with more experience and success on the field, these players move up in the draft and eventually extract a pretty penny from other organizations, leaving the hindsighters to loudly exclaim, "What if?"
Examples frequently cited include names like three very good pitchers originally drafted by the Cardinals in 2003: Ian Kennedy – 14th round, Brett Sinkbeil -38th round and Max Scherzer – 43rd round (pictured).
All three became a first-rounders in 2006. Scherzer joined the Diamondbacks after being taken 11th overall, Sinkbeil went to the Marlins at pick number 19 and Kennedy was taken by the Yankees two picks later that year. In other words, all three were gone by the time the Cardinals selected Adam Ottavino at number 30 overall.
Some leave the wondering at that, but others have seemingly taken it too far, grasping onto the tired old straws that Cardinals ownership is obviously too cheap or they would have spent whatever necessary to have lured these players away from college three years prior.
Other all-knowing fans wiggle their fingers at team management, asserting they have undoubtedly been incompetent for drafting unsignable players in the first place, thereby wasting precious draft spots.
While I am not here now to defend or attack the team's recent draft strategies and results, I have to point out that those who espouse such theories simply lack the facts and perspective to back up such assertions.
Even worse, in reality these unhappy fans are just playing one side of the street in their impassioned arguments – looking only at the players "lost".
Instead, why don't any of these dissertations also consider the players drafted first by other organizations, only later to end up as Cardinals because their initial team did not sign them? At least then, one could have a balanced discussion.
To that end, listed below are some of the front-line prospects who would not be Cardinals today if they had been signed by the organizations that drafted them the first time around.
To keep the analysis relevant, I selected only those players taken by the Cards in the early rounds the last few years. I didn't have to go any farther back in history to make my point that there are two sides to this argument.
The players are listed here in draft round by year sequence. Suffice it to say that most of these names already have appeared or will be appearing in our ongoing Cardinals Top 40 prospect countdown. In other words, the Cardinals might be in trouble today if most of these nine prospects weren't around.
The list is headed by first-rounders from each of the last three draft classes. Note the aforementioned Ottavino is among them.
Recent Cardinals originally drafted by other organizations
|Player||Cards draft||First Club||Year/Round|
|Clayton Mortensen||2007/1st||Tampa Bay||2005/25th|
|Adam Ottavino||2006/1st||Tampa Bay||2003/30th|
|Mark Worrell||2004/12th||Tampa Bay||2001/11th|
In closing, I am not suggesting this is any more profound than that those people who carp about the players that got away or weren't taken in favor of others make sense. Every year, teams take long-shot attempts at players, only to see some of them return to school instead. It happens to pretty much every organization.
It is far easier to sit back and second-guess those who draft than to stand on the line and be accountable yourself. The Cardinals haven't been perfect in their execution, but which other organizations with prudent financial policies have, either?
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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