Looking back on the MLB Draft that changed St. Louis Cardinals history

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in a parade celebrating the team's 11th World Series championship October 30, 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in a parade celebrating the team's 11th World Series championship October 30, 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images) /

It’s the 20-year anniversary of the 1999 MLB draft. It was a draft that included Albert Pujols which changed St. Louis Cardinal history. Additionally, it was a draft which also saw several other future impact players selected, and some eventually played for the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s been 20 years since the St. Louis Cardinals selected Albert Pujols in the 13th round of the 1999 June Amateur Draft. Also hard to believe is Pujols was the 402nd player selected overall and the 16th player drafted by the Cardinals in 1999.

Some big names selected ahead of Pujols in 1999 included Josh Hamilton, Josh Beckett, Barry Zito, Brandon Phillips, and John Lackey. However, of the names selected ahead of Pujols by the Cardinals, few will be remembered by the fans of the birds on the bat.

In fact, without the name of Albert Pujols attached to the draft, the Cardinals haul in 1999 could be considered average at best, if not a bust. Let’s look at some of the players drafted by the Cardinals ahead of Pujols and some players drafted by other clubs who eventually played for the Redbirds.

You remember these guys, don’t you?

There were only two names selected prior to Pujols in the draft by the Cardinals you may remember. They were, Chris Duncan, selected in the first round, 46 overall, and Coco Crisp, selected in the seventh round, 222 overall. Duncan was the third player selected by the Cardinals, while Crisp was the 10th player picked the Cardinals.

Chris Duncan had a respectable if, a short career in St. Louis. Duncan was a key piece in the Cardinals 2006 run to the World Series Championship. In 90 games during that Championship season, Duncan hit a slash line of .293/.363/.589 with 22 HR and 43 RBI. Duncan’s career after 2006 was plagued by injuries and he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2009.

Coco Crisp climbed steadily through the Cardinals minor system and by 2002 had reached AA. But on August 7th, 2002, Crisp was traded to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade for pitcher Chuck Finley. The switch-hitting outfielder had a respectable journeyman’s career in the major leagues, with stops at Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, and Boston.

Many remember Bo Hart during his 88 game career in St. Louis. Hart was selected in the 33rd round, 1002 overall in 1999. The right-handed utility infielder had a spurt of success when he was called up in June 2003. He hit .460 in his first 10 games and finished the year with a .277 BA. But in 2004 he hit .154 in the first 11 games of the season and was sent back to AAA Memphis, never to return to St. Louis.

The other 39 players selected by the Cardinals in 1999, passed without much notice.

Two you may not remember.

A pitcher named Chance Caple was the first player selected by the Cardinals in 1999. The 6-6, 240lb right-hander, was selected 30th overall out of Texas A&M University. Caple spent five years in the Cardinals system, never getting higher than Palm Beach. He had a five-year 4.37 ERA in 287 innings pitched.

The other first-round pick by the Cardinals in 1999 was pitcher Nick Stocks, who was their second selection and 36 overall in the draft. Stocks was a 6-0 185 lb right-hander out of Florida State University.

The Tampa Florida native spent seven years in the minors, reaching AAA Memphis in 2004. However, he never reached St. Louis and ended his Minor League career in the independent Atlantic League in 2006. Stock posted a 4.61 ERA in 719 innings pitched during his minor league career.

These guys eventually became Cardinals

Larry Bigbie was drafted in the first round, 21st overall, by the Baltimore Orioles in 1999. Bigbie played most of his career with the Orioles with a five-year .271 BA. The left-handed bat was traded to the Cardinals in December 2005 for Aaron Miles and Ray King. The outfielder played only 17 games for the Cardinals in 2006 due injuries, hitting .240. Bigbie never played in the Major Leagues again after 2006.

Ryan Ludwick, who ended up being a fan favorite in St. Louis, was drafted in the second round, 60th overall, by the Oakland A’s in 1999. Ludwick spent time with Rangers and the Indians before arriving in St. Louis in 2007 as a Spring Training invitee.

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The right-handed bat spent over four years with the Cardinals, with 2008 being his best. The outfielder had a .299 BA and an OPS of .966 with 37 HR and 113 RBIs. He also won a Silver Slugger Award and made an All-Star appearance. Ludwick was traded to the San Diego Padres in July 2010 which gave the Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook.

John Lackey was drafted by the Angels in the second round, 68th overall in 1999. The right-handed pitcher spent eight years with the Angels and four years with Boston before arriving in a trade in 2014 for Joe Kelly, Allen Craig and Corey Littrell. Lackey’s big contribution came in 2015 when he went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA and pitched 218 innings. He left the Cardinals after the 2015 season as a free agent and spent his last two years in the majors with the Chicago Cubs.

To Conclude

The 1999 MLB Draft was a stunning success for the St. Louis Cardinals, for no other reason than it brought Albert Pujols to the organization. Pujols is, no doubt, the best Cardinal player since Stan Musial, and arguably the best of his generation.

Albert Pujols would give the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans 11 years of the best baseball in the history of the organization. We are just now beginning to realize how special those years were and how hard they are to replicate.

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The 1999 MLB Draft changed St. Louis Cardinals history. Will the 2019 MLB Draft do the same? Will there be another sleeper in the draft like Albert Pujols?