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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PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 28: Catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from the field during a Major League Baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 28, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 6-4. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 28: Catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from the field during a Major League Baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 28, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Cardinals defeated the Pirates 6-4. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

2000 MLB draft

Top pick: Shaun Boyd, OF (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 13)

A shortstop in high school, Shaun Boyd moved to second base and profiled as a potential leadoff hitter whose bat would make up for his defensive shortcomings. A pitch that hit his jaw ended his 2001 season in Single-A, but Boyd broke out in his return to that level in 2002, hitting .314. He eventually moved to the outfield in his search for a defensive home, and once he was promoted to Triple-A, he struggled at the plate as well, hitting .184 in 2006 and 2007 with Memphis and later Ottawa, the affiliate for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was out of the league shortly after and spent two seasons in independent baseball.

WAR leader: Yadier Molina, C (42.0)

(Round 4, Pick 113)

The development trajectory of Yadier Molina is well known by this point: Originally a defense-only catcher, his arm, receiving ability and blocking ability almost ensured that he would at least have a career in the major leagues as a backup. In 2007, his fourth year in the major leagues, Molina’s bat started to come around as he hit .275. From 2008 to 2013, Molina hit an even .300 and was the gold standard of catchers.

Molina led the major leagues in caught-stealing percentage four times and won nine Gold Glove and four Platinum Glove Awards, as well as one Silver Slugger. He also made 10 All-Star teams. The respect his arm gained around the league cannot be overstated: The Cardinals allowed the fewest stolen bases of any team in the major leagues from 2004 to 2022, and the numbers were not even close. For the most part, teams simply refused to run on Molina. His next stop is Cooperstown.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Chris Narveson, LHP (0.6); Tyler Johnson, LHP (0.4); John Gall, OF (-0.1); Carmen Cali, LHP (-0.4)

2001 MLB draft

Top pick: Justin Pope, RHP (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 28)

Justin Pope broke Roger Clemens’ NCAA Division I record of consecutive scoreless innings with 38 in 2001 at the University of Central Florida. He fell to the end of the first round because of his diminutive stature (6 feet, 180 pounds) and lack of a standout pitch. After a nondescript professional debut in 2001, Pope pitched to a 1.38 ERA and an 8-1 record with Single-A Peoria.

In 2003, as Pope struggled to regain his form, the Cardinals traded him to the New York Yankees. There, he reached Triple-A and had an unsightly 6.44 ERA. Pope never cracked the Yankees’ major league roster and retired after a stint in Venezuelan winter ball in 2009. He is now a coach in the Miami Marlins organization.

WAR leader: Dan Haren, RHP (35.1)

(Round 2, Pick 72)

In one of the few trades the Cardinals undoubtedly regret in their run of prosperity throughout the 2000s, they shipped second-round pick Dan Haren and two other players to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Mark Mulder, who was rarely healthy for the Cardinals. To the Cardinals’ credit, Haren wasn’t exactly dominant in his two seasons with them in 2003 and 2004, with a 4.85 ERA in 118.2 innings.

However, Haren later became a three-time All-Star with Oakland and the Arizona Diamondbacks, starting the 2007 All-Star Game and holding a career-best 3.07 ERA that year. Always very good with control, Haren had a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.03, which is seventh in major league history. He closed out his career with the Miami Marlins in 2015.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Skip Schumaker, OF/2B (1.5); Terry Evans, OF (0.0); John Nelson, 1B (-0.2); Blake Hawksworth, RHP (-0.6); Joe Mather, OF/3B (-2.5)

2002 MLB draft

Top pick: Calvin Hayes, SS (N/A)

(Round 3, Pick 102)

The Cardinals didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2002, and they took Hayes with their first pick, which some teams saw as a reach. A player with speed as his calling card, Hayes had difficulty staying healthy, dealing with wrist and hamstring injuries in 2003 and 2004. He had defensive issues at shortstop, and while his aggressive approach at the plate worked in Rookie ball, where he hit .304, Hayes struggled to adjust after promotions and hit .216 in High-A, his highest level reached.

WAR leader: Kyle McClellan, RHP (2.5)

(Round 25, Pick 762)

After flopping as a starter in Rookie ball and Single-A and requiring two elbow surgeries, Kyle McClellan converted to a bullpen role and found immediate success. From 2008 to 2012, McClellan had a 3.69 ERA, mostly as a reliever but also starting a few games in 2011 after Adam Wainwright was lost for the season. He was a bullpen workhorse in August, appearing in 11 games and surrendering only two earned runs. However, he was not on the team’s postseason roster after fading down the stretch.

McClellan suffered a severe shoulder injury in July 2012, and the surgery ended his season and his time with the Cardinals. McClellan played in seven games with the Texas Rangers in 2013, which would be his last year.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Mike McCoy, OF/SS/2B (0.8); Brad Thompson, RHP (0.4); Reid Gorecki, OF (-0.3)

2003 MLB draft

Top pick: Daric Barton, 1B (8.9)

(Round 1, Pick 28)

Daric Barton began his career as a catcher, though few scouts believed he’d be able to stick behind the dish. The Cardinals were captivated by Barton’s bat and strong strike zone judgment, and they wooed him away from a commitment to Cal State Fullerton. Barton hit .313 in 90 games with Single-A Peoria before the Cardinals traded him to the Oakland Athletics in the Mark Mulder deal.

Oakland quickly had Barton abandon catching and moved him to first base, which would make it easier for his bat to develop. He routinely finished among the minor league leaders in walks, but while he maintained his elite eye at the plate, leading the league in walks in 2010, Barton never put up the power numbers teams expect at the cold corner: He hit only 30 home runs in his career, with his season high being 10 in 2010, and his career average was a mediocre .247. Barton became a free agent in 2014 and had three successful years in the Mexican League to close out his career.

WAR leader: Brendan Ryan, SS (15.1)

(Round 7, Pick 212)

Kicked off the baseball team after he won the NAIA World Series with Lewis-Clark State College, Brendan Ryan received most of the attention in his amateur and early pro years for his bat. He hit .322 in Single-A in 2004 and arrived in St. Louis after five solid years in the minor leagues. In his first three years with the Cardinals, Ryan hit .279, but he started to become more known for his exceptional defense once he solved some issues with focus on the field that led to errors.

Ryan was traded to the Seattle Mariners after the 2010 season, and he won a Fielding Bible Award in 2012 after placing second for the award in the previous two years. His offensive production sputtered after 2009: From 2010 to 2016, Ryan only hit .214, but his fielding excellence led him to receive major league time with the Mariners, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels before he called it quits after 2017.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jason Motte, RHP (5.0); Stu Pomeranz, RHP (0.1); Matt Pagnozzi, C (0.1); Anthony Reyes, RHP (0.0); Dennis Dove, RHP (-0.2)

2004 MLB draft

Top pick: Chris Lambert, RHP (-0.8)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

A high school hockey player from cold-weather New Hampshire, Chris Lambert had less pitching experience than the typical first-round pick, but he was the Big East Conference Pitcher of the Year in his freshman year at Boston College. The Cardinals took him 19th overall despite a rocky junior season and hoped to iron out his shaky control. He walked 5.6 batters per nine innings in Single-A Peoria but had a 2.58 ERA, and he put up similar numbers in High-A. A promotion to Double-A didn’t go well, and he continued to have issues in Triple-A.

The Cardinals traded Lambert to the Detroit Tigers as the player to be named later for Mike Maroth in August 2007. The Tigers moved Lambert, then a bullpen arm, back to the rotation, and he debuted with them in 2008, pitching to a 5.66 ERA in 20.2 innings. His career went downhill from there, and Lambert retired in 2009 after a short stint with the Baltimore Orioles.

WAR leader: Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B/3B, (0.4)

(Round 6, Pick 180)

The 2004 draft didn’t end up fruitful for the Cardinals, whose only positive WAR player was Jarrett Hoffpauir. A player adept at controlling the strike zone, he had a career .286 average in six seasons at Triple-A but received little playing time in the majors. In all of 16 plate appearances with the Cardinals, Hoffpauir hit .250. The Toronto Blue Jays selected him off waivers, but he hit only .206 in 34 at-bats. After minor league stops with the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals, Hoffpauir retired in 2012.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Mark Worrell, RHP (-0.8); Mike Parisi, RHP (-1.0)

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

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