St. Louis Cardinals: Four shortstops the team missed

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the St. Louis Cardinals’ latest roster tweaks yesterday, giving punch-and-judy shortstop Pete Kozma top billing.

"Club removes light-hitting Kozma from 40-man roster and declines option on reliever Broxton."

Source: Cardinals continue to reshape roster : Sports

A player can get a lot of mileage out of one hit. But to Goold’s point, it was a big one. In all likelihood, Kozma will remain with the organization for eternity, shuttling back and forth from

Memphis until his playing days are over, then turning up as a roving infield instructor. Or something. The Cardinals used their first-round pick (18th overall) in 2007 to draft the 27-year-old Oklahoman. David Price and Mike Moustakas were at the top of that draft. Several other big leaguers, including Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (34th overall), New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud (37th overall) and Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (48th overall), got drafted later.

That’s just a reminder of what a crapshoot the draft is. The Cubs drafted Donaldson as a catcher but traded him to the Oakland Athletics in 2009. The A’s slowly transitioned him to a corner infield spot, but he didn’t blossom into a full-time third baseman — or a big-time run producer — until he reached the big leagues.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, drafted Kozma out of high school, which required more projection by the scouting department. But he was a good athlete with good footwork at short. The Cardinals hoped his bat would improve as he filled out and got more game experience.

Oh well. St. Louis now continues its search for the first good home-grown answer at short since 1974 first-round pick Gary Templeton. Should they have had one by now? Given the Cardinals winning ways, the team has never had a particularly high draft slot (no top ten picks) in that span.

Still, plenty of good shortstop get taken late in the draft. They just often don’t stick. Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts was once a shortstop. So was Minnesota Twins All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier. All that being said, the Cardinals still could have drafted their man. Five times over by now.

Next: Errors at Short: #1