Evaluating the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft classes (1965-1984)

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ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 1: Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals appeals to the first base umpire for a call during a game of the 1974 season at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by St. Louis Cardinals, LLC/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 1: Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals appeals to the first base umpire for a call during a game of the 1974 season at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by St. Louis Cardinals, LLC/Getty Images) /
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MILWAUKEE, WI – OCTOBER 1982: Bob Forsch #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the 1982 World Series at County Stadium in October 1982 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Cardinals won the series 4 games to 3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI – OCTOBER 1982: Bob Forsch #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the 1982 World Series at County Stadium in October 1982 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Cardinals won the series 4 games to 3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

1965 MLB draft

Top pick: Joe DiFabio, RHP (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 20)

Joe DiFabio had a 7-0 record and an 0.55 ERA at Delta State University in 1965, and he spent six seasons in the Cardinals’ system. His high mark was a 2.17 ERA with Double-A Arkansas in 1968, a year where he led the Texas League in ERA. His performance in Triple-A with the Cardinals and later the Cincinnati Reds didn’t go well, and he was out of baseball by 1971.

WAR leader: Harry Parker, RHP (2.3)

(Round 4, Pick 73)

Harry Parker pitched 27.1 innings for the Cardinals before being dealt to the New York Mets in 1971. 1973 was Parker’s best season, as he helped the Mets win the National League pennant and had a 3.35 ERA in 96.2 innings. The Cardinals reacquired him off waivers in 1975, but they flipped him to the Cleveland Indians after 18.2 innings. Parker retired in 1976 and then attended the University of Tulsa.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jerry Robertson, RHP (1.1)

1966 MLB draft

Top pick: Leron Lee, OF (2.1)

(Round 1, Pick 7)

The uncle of former Chicago Cubs All-Star Derrek Lee, Leron Lee hit .222 in parts of three years with the Cardinals, but he had his best years in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres, where he hit .271 over three years.

Lee’s real fame came across the Pacific Ocean, where he played in Japan for 11 seasons and set the Nippon Professional Baseball record for batting average for players with more than 4,000 at-bats, hitting .320. The record stood from 1987 to 2018, when it was broken by Norichika Aoki.

WAR leader: Clay Kirby, RHP (7.0)

(Round 3, Pick 47)

While the Cardinals drafted and signed Clay Kirby, the San Diego Padres snagged him in the 1968 expansion draft. What was likely his most well-known moment was in 1970 when Padres manager Preston Gomez removed him for a pinch-hitter after Kirby had thrown eight no-hit innings but was down 1-0. The Padres then surrendered three hits and lost the game. While this is common today, it was almost unfathomable at the time to replace a pitcher throwing a no-hitter.

Despite this, Kirby had a solid albeit brief career, going 12-9 with the Cincinnati Reds in 1974 and winning 10 games for the “Big Red Machine” World Series winners the next year. But he never recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in early 1976, and after a troublesome year with the Montreal Expos, he retired after an unsuccessful Spring Training tryout with the Minnesota Twins in 1978.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

N/A

1967 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Ted Simmons, C/1B (50.3)

(Round 1, Pick 10)

One of the greatest catchers in Cardinals history, Ted Simmons holds a career batting average of .285, which ties him with another legendary backstop, Yogi Berra. The eight-time All-Star hit over .300 seven times in his career and won the Silver Slugger Award in 1980. New general manager Whitey Herzog wanted to reconstruct the team, and he dealt Simmons to the Milwaukee Brewers in a blockbuster deal after the 1980 season. Simmons continued to excel during much of his time in Milwaukee, where he played for five seasons. He wrapped up his career with the Atlanta Braves.

Simmons spent most of his years as a star for mediocre Cardinals teams, and he played in an era with three other outstanding catchers in Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk, which likely contributed to his name dropping off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility. The Veterans Committee finally elected Simmons to the Hall in 2019.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jerry Reuss, LHP (35.1)

1968 MLB draft

Top pick: Butch Hairston, OF (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

Butch Hairston never made it past A-ball for the Cardinals in five seasons. He hit .323 in his first season, but he never matched that success in his next four years. He had almost no power, hitting seven home runs in 927 at-bats in his minor league career.

WAR leader: Bob Forsch, RHP (24.6)

(Round 26, Pick 594)

Bob Forsch pitched in the major leagues for 16 years and threw two no-hitters. He was a stalwart in the Cardinals’ rotation from 1975 to 1988, although manager Whitey Herzog opted to use him out of the bullpen and as a spot starter for much of 1985. Forsch was a 20-game winner in 1977 and has the fourth-most wins of any pitcher in Cardinals history, with 168. Forsch was also a solid hitter, winning two Silver Slugger Awards and owning a career average of .213.

Forsch pitched in three World Series, but apart from a brilliant outing in the 1982 NLCS where he pitched a three-hit shutout, he struggled in most postseason appearances, holding a playoff ERA of 5.79.

Forsch was traded to the Houston Astros at the end of his career but performed poorly. He retired in 1989, and he was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2015, four years after his death.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Tom Heintzelman, 2B/3B (0.7); Tim Plodinec, RHP (-0.1)

1969 MLB draft

Top pick: Charles Minott, LHP/OF/1B (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 20)

Charles Minott accumulated a 4.31 ERA in 48 innings between Rookie and Low-A ball. He showed more promise at the plate, hitting .304 over two seasons. However, Minott became ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Spring Training of 1972. He retired from baseball and died in 1979 at age 27.

WAR leader: Bill Stein, 3B/2B/1B (5.4)

(Round 4, Pick 90)

A utility man who spent time at every position except pitcher, catcher and center field, Bill Stein served mostly as a pinch-hitter in his two seasons with the Cardinals. He stayed in that role for much of his career and amassed a pinch-hitting average of .282. The Seattle Mariners took him in their expansion draft in 1976, and Stein found the bulk of his starting time in his three years with Seattle. He retired in 1985 with an average of .267. Stein later managed for the Little Falls Mets and the Columbia Mets in the minor leagues.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Mick Kelleher, SS/3B/2B (-2.4); Ken Reitz, 3B (-3.1)

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