Rule 5 & the Cards: A Historical View – Pt. 2

In the second of a three-part series, our resident historian Jerry Modene looks back at St. Louis Cardinals players taken in past Rule 5 drafts. Part three will recap the club's entire Rule 5 history.

In the first installment of this series, we highlighted the best players the St. Louis Cardinals lost in past Rule 5 drafts. As for the best players the Cards ever got in Rule 5, I'd rate them thusly:

Reliever Joe Hoerner was drafted from Houston after the 1965 season, when he was already 28 years old going on 29. The left-handed Hoerner quickly became the bullpen ace, along with Hal Woodeshick and, later, Ron Willis and Chuck Taylor, saving 60 games in four seasons with the Cards and appearing in 146 other games.

Hoerner also holds the distinction of being the only man to hit a fair ball out of Busch Memorial Stadium – of course, it was a golf ball, which he hit with a fungo bat. Hoerner was traded to the Phillies in that famous deal after the 1969 season and bounced around from the Phils to Atlanta, Kansas City, Philadelphia again, Texas, and finally finishing up with the Reds in 1977.

Catcher Alberto Castillo (pictured) was drafted by the Cards from Philadelphia in the winter of 1998, only a few days after the Phils had purchased him from the New York Mets. St. Louis only had him for the one season, but he proved a valuable pickup as Eli Marrero missed considerable time in that 1999 season.

Castillo had a career year with the Cards, batting .263 after tailing off towards the end. He was a solid defensive catcher, although he did, apparently, rub the pitchers the wrong way with his assertive game-calling behind the plate. The Cards dealt him to Toronto that off-season for pitcher Pat Hentgen and then, going on Hentgen's recommendation, signed the non-tendered Mike Matheny, who would only become the best defensive catcher in Cards history.

Roger Freed was mentioned in part one. He spent three years as the Cards' top pinch-hitter after being taken from the Expos in the winter of 1976, batting .398 in 83 AB's in 1977 and, of course, hitting that famous 11th-inning pinch-grand slam on May 1, 1979 at home against Houston, turning a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 win: link

Kurt Kepshire was taken from the Reds in the winter of 1982. The Cards worked out a deal to keep him even when he didn't make the 1983 squad – my memory tells me they gave the Reds infielder Kelly Paris, but I can't confirm that. Kepshire would eventually get called up in 1984, going 6-5 (with a couple of shutouts) that season, then going 10-9 for the Cards in 1985. He may have hurt himself, though, as he only pitched twice in 1986.

Rich DeLucia led the Cards' pitching staff in 1995 with nine wins (all in relief) and was traded that winter in the Royce Clayton deal with San Francisco.

And, of course there is Hector Luna (right), who hit a home run in his first at-bat with the Cardinals, but never really made it. He wound up back in Cleveland, and ultimately was returned to the minors.

So, while the Cards did get some help from Rule 5 in years past, they've rarely been helped to the extent that the guys that were lost (Colbert, Davis, Gott, and Fassero) did for their new teams. Hoerner is the only one who really contributed to pennant-winning ball clubs, although Luna did help in 2004.

Yet it should be noted that Colbert and Fassero were taken by Houston and the White Sox and didn't do anything for them either; it was on their next stops – San Diego and Montreal – where they found success.

That all could change with the Rule 5 acquisition this past winter of Brian Barton, the young outfielder who seems to be turning heads in Florida thus far this spring. It'll be an uphill battle for Barton to make the team, competing as he is with uber-prospect Colby Rasmus, versatile slugger Joe Mather, and veteran Juan Gonzalez – and competing as he also is with history.

Barton does have the tools, though, and if things fall right for him, might well wind up going down as the best Rule 5 acquisition in Cardinal history.

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