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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12 Jul 1998: Infielder Placido Polanco #27 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action during the game against the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 6-4.
12 Jul 1998: Infielder Placido Polanco #27 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action during the game against the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Astros 6-4. /

1990 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Donovan Osborne, LHP (5.4)

(Round 1, Pick 13)

Donovan Osborne placed fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1992 and had his best year in 1996, where he had 3.53 ERA and won 13 games. The Cardinals released him after a rough 1999 where he struggled to a 5.52 ERA, and he didn’t play baseball again until latching on with the Chicago Cubs in 2002. After one more year outside of baseball, Osborne pitched 17.2 innings with the New York Yankees in 2004, where he would make his last major league appearance.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Terry Bradshaw, OF (0.1); Scott Baker, LHP (-0.1); Marc Ronan, C (-0.2); Duff Brumley, RHP (-0.2); Aaron Holbert, 2B/1B (-0.4); Tom Urbani, LHP (-0.5)

1991 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Dmitri Young, LF/1B/3B (12.2)

(Round 1, Pick 4)

After winning several awards in the minor leagues, Dmitri Young was promoted to the big leagues at the end of the 1996 season. He played only one full season with the Cardinals because of positional logjams, hitting .258, so the team traded him to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1997 season.

Young flourished in Cincinnati, hitting .304 in his four seasons there, although his All-Star appearances would have to wait until 2003 and 2007, when he was with the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals, respectively. Young played as the designated hitter for most of his five seasons in Detroit, as weight problems that he faced throughout his career left him a liability on defense. Young retired after the 2008 season with a career .292 average.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Allen Watson, LHP (2.7); John Frascatore, RHP (2.6); Mike DiFelice, C (0.5); Rigo Beltran, LHP (0.5); DaRond Stovall, OF (-0.3); Brian Barber, RHP (-0.6); Allen Battle, OF (-0.6); Mike Busby, RHP (-0.9); Doug Creek, LHP (-1.1); John Mabry, OF/1B (-2.3)

1992 MLB draft

Top pick: Sean Lowe, RHP (1.7)

(Round 1, Pick 15)

Sean Lowe was clobbered during his two years in St. Louis to the tune of a 10.72 ERA in 22.2 innings. The Cardinals traded him to the Chicago White Sox before the 1999 season, where he performed better over two and a half seasons with an ERA of 4.08. After a trade to Pittsburgh in mid 2002, Lowe’s troubles from St. Louis resurfaced, and he retired in 2003.

WAR leader: T.J. Mathews, RHP (4.8)

(Round 36, Pick 1,007)

T.J. Mathews had a 2.53 ERA in four years out of the bullpen with the Cardinals, including 2001, when the Cardinals re-signed after trading him to the Oakland Athletics in the Mark McGwire deal in 1997. He also vultured eight saves for the Cardinals in 1995 and 1996. He signed with several other teams after the Cardinals made him a free agent in 2001, but he only appeared in the major leagues for the Houston Astros for 18.1 innings in 2002.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Joe McEwing, OF/2B/SS (0.8); Steve Montgomery, RHP (0.6); Keith Johns, 2B (0.0); Mike Gulan, 3B (-0.3); Kirk Bullinger, RHP (-1.0); Scarborough Green, OF (-1.1); Brady Raggio, RHP (-1.5)

1993 MLB draft

Top pick: Alan Benes, RHP (1.3)

(Round 1, Pick 16)

Alan Benes joined the Cardinals during the September roster expansion in 1995. He and his brother Andy pitched on the same team in four different seasons when they were with the Cardinals. Alan Benes had his best year in 1997, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 161.2 innings.

An arm injury that kept him out in 1998 affected him for the rest of his career, and Benes became a free agent after working mostly out of the bullpen from 1999 to 2001. The Chicago Cubs tried to give him an opportunity to start again, but the results weren’t there, and Benes retired in 2006 after trying to come back with the Cardinals.

WAR leader: Eli Marrero, C/OF/1B (4.9)

(Round 3, Pick 88)

A catcher for most of his first five seasons with the Cardinals and the game-caller for the Cardinals’ most recent no-hitter, Eli Marrero transitioned to the outfield after losing his job behind the plate to Mike Matheny while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer in 2000.

The Cardinals traded him to the Atlanta Braves in December 2003 for Jason Marquis and prospect Adam Wainwright. Marrero had the best season of his career in Atlanta in 2004, hitting .320. He never came close to those highs again as he was traded to Kansas City and spent time with several other teams before retiring in 2007.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jay Witasick, RHP (2.6); Jeff Berblinger, 2B (-0.2); Armando Almanza, LHP (-0.5)

1994 MLB draft

Top pick: Bret Wagner, LHP (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

Bret Wagner had a 2.08 ERA in Low-A and High-A in 1994 and a 2.42 ERA the next year. Wagner was traded to the Oakland Athletics before the 1996 season and reached Double-A, starting 27 games and going 8-8. Injuries derailed the rest of his career, though, and he retired in 1997.

WAR leader: Placido Polanco, 2B/3B/SS (41.9)

(Round 19, Pick 530)

A two-time All-Star, Placido Polanco also won three Gold Glove Awards and one Silver Slugger. He became the Cardinals’ everyday third baseman in 2001, a year where he hit .307. Around the 2002 trade deadline, Polanco was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies while the Cardinals acquired Scott Rolen.

Polanco’s finest year was 2007 with the Detroit Tigers, where he set a record for second basemen with 141 consecutive single-season games without an error. On top of that, he batted a career-high .341. Polanco received two votes for the Hall of Fame in 2019, so he dropped off the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Blake Stein, RHP (2.7); Curtis King, RHP (0.8); Keith Glauber, RHP (0.3); Keith McDonald, C (0.2); Carl Dale, RHP (-0.4); Jose Leon, 1B/3B (-0.7)

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