Why did StL draft 3 3B in their 1st 6 picks?

St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz outlines his approach early in the 2012 draft, farm director John Vuch explains how that plan continues to evolve for 2013 and one of the key players involved shares his view.

Many observers of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals, wondered aloud about the club's strategy when it chose three third basemen in the first 86 picks of the entire draft. That represented half of the Cards' top six selections, all made by first-year Director of Amateur Scouting Dan Kantrovitz.

Yes, the position seemed thin across the system, but at that point, Zack Cox was still a Cardinal and David Freese and Matt Carpenter were set in St. Louis. There were also other needs to be addressed in a most unique draft – one in which the Cardinals had four compensatory selections early on.

The first of the three new third sackers, Stephen Piscotty, taken 36th overall, opened his professional career at the highest level of the group, at full-season Class-A. Though he played at third base there, the organization has clarified matters a bit by making the decision following the season to move the just-turned 22-year-old to the outfield in 2013. The right-handed hitter had played both positions as well as several others during his collegiate career at Stanford.

"If someone would have asked me before the draft, ‘What does your draft board look like?', I would have told you there were a lot of really good players in our third base column," Kantrovitz said. "I remember having a meeting with some of our top evaluators the day before the draft to discuss exactly that – to rank those guys. We had five or six third basemen on the draft board in or close to the first round."

16 picks after Piscotty, the Cardinals were up again. This time, they announced the name of St. Mary College's Patrick Wisdom, the second of the three. Assigned to the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League, Wisdom did not disappoint in his professional debut. We named the now-21-year-old our 2012 Rookie Player of the Year for the Cardinals system.

Kelly: "dripping with tools"
At 86th overall, Oregon high schooler Carson Kelly became a Cardinal. Placed at rookie-level Johnson City, where he faced a number of college pitchers, the then-17-year-old blasted nine home runs. (For Kelly's 2012 highlights, click here.)

As the organization looked at the talent in the market leading up to draft day, they saw a surplus at third base, but made their selections with the full understanding that all three would not be required to remain at the position. With the most versatile being the first taken in Piscotty, the Cardinals' options were expanded.

"Going into it, we would not have selected all three of those players if we thought there was a 100 percent chance that all those players would remain at third base and not be able to play somewhere else," the scouting director noted.

Despite initially playing the same position, each of the three brought a specific advantage to the Cardinals.

Wisdom: future Gold Glover?
"We knew Wisdom - in our scouts' eyes - was a potential Gold Glove defensive player," Kantrovitz said. "We knew that Kelly was dripping with tools that could make him a really good third baseman in the future and we knew that Piscotty had history at other places besides third base."

Cardinals farm director John Vuch agrees.

"They are really all three different kinds of guys, he explained. "I really like Wisdom a lot. He is a very good defensive third baseman. He's got some power… He went to Batavia and was really impressive. Piscotty is a very polished hitter. In fact, he went straight to Quad Cities last year, which is a pretty big jump for a guy out of the draft." (Compare Wisdom's and Piscotty's 2012 numbers here.)

The next step in Piscotty's evolution occurred with his positional shift.

"Defensively at third base, we knew at some point it was going to be a conflict so we made the decision to move Piscotty to the outfield," Vuch said. "He has good arm strength so I think he is going to play in the outfield. His range and hands didn't work as well at third base. He had played third base in college so we at least wanted to give him a chance to play it as a professional first. We decided his arm and bat play better in right field."

Piscotty is on board with the decision and has been working in that direction for the entire off-season.

Piscotty: ready to play outfield
"I've always been kind of a utility guy. Wherever they need me, that is where I will play," Piscotty said this week.

Handling third base in the Midwest League in his professional debut was not easy.

"It was a little bit of a struggle; I won't lie," Piscotty admitted. "… It didn't affect my offense. I am offensive-minded."

The value of versatility is understood by all, so Piscotty will prepare at multiple positions this coming season.

"I am still going to be taking ground balls at third and first and still try to be well-rounded at those positions," he said. "The focus in the off-season has definitely been the outfield, so I have taken more reps there."

Even with the good start in 2012, Piscotty has more to do to progress as a hitter, especially as a corner outfielder.

"Piscotty is a very good hitter, a line drive hitter," the farm director noted. "If he is going to play the outfield, you would look for a little more power, but it was his first year in pro ball. He hit a lot of line drives with gap power right now. The fence power will probably come down the road."

Knowing Piscotty came to the draft table with the flexibility to play the outfield as well enabled the Cardinals to select the best hitters available in June without fear of positional overloading.

"Taking the top bat was the decision we made there," concluded Kantrovitz in reference to the Piscotty pick.

Now that bat will be roaming the outfield, perhaps up to Palm Beach to open 2013, where Wisdom could be his teammate.

Though it may never be needed, the Cardinals have a Plan B for Kelly drawn up as well. (Plan C for him could be a return to pitching.)

"Down the road, if you had to take all three of them and said all three of them are going to be in the big leagues, Wisdom is the one most likely to stay at third base," Vuch predicted.

"Kelly is going to stay at third base for the foreseeable future," Vuch continued. "We are not looking to move him off third base any time soon… Kelly is going to hit enough that if we had to move him to first base down the road – again there is no plan to do that – but he is going to have enough bat, enough power, to play another corner position."

No matter where the three end up defensively, they have impressed in their short time as professionals. In the recently completed The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Cardinals Top 40 Prospect List for 2013, all three were placed among the top 18 players in the system. Kelly is 10th, Piscotty 12th and Wisdom 18th.

Extra points: In the following audio clip, Piscotty discusses his past experience defensively, his initial professional season and plans for 2013.


Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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