Evaluating the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft classes (1985-2004)

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Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers during Game One of the World Series at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on October 21, 2006. The Cardinals defeated the Tigers 7-2. (Photo by Scott Rovak/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run against the Detroit Tigers during Game One of the World Series at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on October 21, 2006. The Cardinals defeated the Tigers 7-2. (Photo by Scott Rovak/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK – CIRCA 1996: Ray Lankford #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the New York Mets during an Major League Baseball game circa 1996 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. Lankford played for the Cardinals from 1990-2001. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – CIRCA 1996: Ray Lankford #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the New York Mets during an Major League Baseball game circa 1996 at Shea Stadium in the Queens borough of New York City. Lankford played for the Cardinals from 1990-2001. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

1985 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Joe Magrane, LHP (12.0)

(Round 1, Pick 18)

Joe Magrane led the major leagues in ERA in 1988, his second year in The Show. While he only won five games and lost nine, his sparkling 2.18 ERA was much more representative of how he performed. Another strong season in 1989 saw him finish fourth in Cy Young Award voting. but he went 10-17 in a less productive 1990 season. An injury forcing Magrane to miss the 1991 season curtailed his promising career, and he retired at age 31 in 1996 after playing for the California Angels and Chicago White Sox. He is now a color commentator for MLB Network.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Tim Jones, SS/2B/3B (0.1); Howard Hilton, RHP (0.1); Ray Stephens, C (-0.5); Steve Peters, LHP (-1.2)

1986 MLB draft

Top pick: Luis Alicea, 2B/3B (11.9)

(Round 1, Pick 23)

Luis Alicea made his debut in 1988 and hit .212 in 297 at-bats. He returned to the minor leagues and didn’t see time with the big-league club again until 1991. In 1992, Alicea began to find a hitting stroke, batting .245, and he continued to be a consistent hitter for most of his career, amassing a career .260 average. The Cardinals traded Alicea to the Boston Red Sox after the 1994 season, but they claimed him back off waivers the next year. Alicea wrapped up his career with the Kansas City Royals in 2002.

WAR leader: Todd Zeile, 3B/1B/C (19.3)

(Round 2-supplemental, Pick 55)

Consistency was at the center of Todd Zeile’s game, and the 11 teams he played for all knew what they were getting from the infielder. In his seven years with the Cardinals, Zeile hit .267 and 75 home runs. Originally a catcher, Zeile transitioned to third base in 1991 to give Tom Pagnozzi a spot behind the plate. He had trouble adjusting defensively to the position, committing a league-leading 25 errors in 1991, but he hit decently.

In 1995, the Cardinals traded him to the Chicago Cubs, beginning a nomadic journey that would take him all over the U.S. (and Canada). At the time of his retirement in 2004, Zeile had collected, coincidentally, 2,004 hits. He was one team shy of tying for the MLB record for number of teams played for by one person.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Mike Perez, RHP (2.1); Larry Carter, RHP (0.1); Mark Grater, RHP (0.1); Bien Figueroa, SS/2B (-0.2)

1987 MLB draft

Top pick: Cris Carpenter, RHP (2.4)

(Round 1, Pick 14)

Not to be confused with more recent Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, Cris Carpenter spent less than a season in the minor leagues before arriving on the major league stage. He dominated in his second start, pitching a complete game, giving up four hits and one run. His final season in St. Louis was his best, as he pitched to a 2.97 ERA out of the bullpen. The Florida Marlins then took Carpenter in the 1993 expansion draft, and after playing four more nondescript seasons, including one season back with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in 1995, he retired.

WAR leader: Ray Lankford, OF (38.2)

(Round 3, Pick 72)

Willie McGee’s heir in center field, Ray Lankford finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1991, a year where he led the major leagues in triples. Lankford was a fast runner and a solid fielder, and he made the All-Star team in 1997, hitting .295 that year.

In the memorable season of 1998, highlighted by the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run record chase, Lankford usually batted one spot ahead of McGwire and reached base often to let McGwire do his damage. At the time of his retirement in 2004, Lankford was third all-time among Cardinals in home runs (238) and fifth in stolen bases (268), and he remains the only member of the Cardinals’ 200 home runs and 200 stolen bases club. He was inducted into the 2018 class of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jeremy Hernandez, RHP (1.9); Rod Brewer, 1B/OF (-0.5); Tim Sherrill, LHP (-0.6)

1988 MLB draft

Top pick: John Ericks, RHP (0.0)

(Round 1, Pick 22)

John Ericks dominated A-ball in his first year as a pro, leading the minor leagues in strikeouts with 211 in 167.1 innings and achieving a microscopic 2.04 ERA. However, he failed to replicate those stats, and the Cardinals released him after the season in 1992. Ericks signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and finally made his major league debut at age 27 in 1995. He spent parts of three seasons with the Pirates and had an ERA of 4.78.

WAR leader: Brian Jordan, OF (32.9)

(Round 1-supplemental, Pick 29)

One of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, Brian Jordan had to be lured away from a football commitment, and he played three seasons for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons before focusing on baseball. He broke out offensively in 1995, hitting .296 with 22 home runs, and he hit .304 over the next three years.

His all-out style of play in the outfield endeared him to fans, but it also led to injuries that cost him many games. Jordan was granted free agency after 1998 and signed with the Atlanta Braves, where he made his sole All-Star appearance in 1999, when he hit .283.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Rheal Cormier, LHP (9.5); Mark Clark, RHP (5.9); Joe Hall, OF (0.2)

1989 MLB draft

Top pick: Paul Coleman, OF (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 6)

Paul Coleman’s prodigious power in high school never materialized in the pros, as he hit only 19 home runs in 1,161 at-bats in his minor league career. Double-A was as high as Coleman climbed, reaching Arkansas in 1993. He hit .244 there, then temporarily ended his career. He later played one year of independent baseball in 1996.

WAR leader: Bill Hurst, RHP (0.1)

(Round 20, Pick 510)

The 1989 draft wasn’t a successful one for the Cardinals, as Hurst was the only player they drafted who put up positive WAR. After three seasons between Rookie ball and A-ball, the Cardinals released him in 1992, and he went unclaimed until 1995, when the Florida Marlins signed him. His only major league exposure came in 1996, where he pitched two innings for the Marlins, giving up three hits and a walk and striking out one.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Tripp Cromer, SS/2B (-0.5); Mike Milchin, LHP (-0.6); Frank Cimorelli, RHP (-0.6); Steve Dixon, LHP (-0.8)

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