Evaluating the St. Louis Cardinals’ draft classes (2005-2014)

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ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 06: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a third inning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 6, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 06: Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a third inning home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 6, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – JULY 20: Lance Lynn #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 20, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 3-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 20: Lance Lynn #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 20, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 3-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

2005 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Colby Rasmus, OF (20.2)

(Round 1, Pick 28)

Colby Rasmus was drafted out of high school and considered a can’t-miss, five-tool talent. His power, speed and defensive acumen made him the Cardinals’ most hyped position player prospect since Albert Pujols. Seen as a no-doubt center fielder who would compete for Gold Gloves and be a threat to steal bases as well, Rasmus broke out in Double-A in 2007, hitting 29 home runs and hitting .275. He performed well in his rookie season with the Cardinals, hitting .251 with 12 long balls and stepped up in 2010 and hit .276 with 23 home runs.

Trouble was brewing in the clubhouse, though, as reports indicated a rift between him and manager Tony La Russa. Word got out that Rasmus had requested a trade in 2010 because of what he believed to be playing time limitations, possibly as a result of the uneasiness with La Russa.

He was granted a trade a year later when he was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays in a giant move near the deadline. Rasmus hit only .234 in four seasons with Toronto. In July of 2013, while playing with the Tampa Bay Rays, Rasmus decided to step away from baseball, citing a lack of passion. He returned the next year to play for the Baltimore Orioles, but in July, he chose to leave baseball again, this time for good.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jaime Garcia, LHP (10.7); Mitchell Boggs, RHP (0.4); Tyler Greene, 2B/SS/3B (-0.4); Bryan Anderson, C (-0.5); Nick Stavinoha, OF (-1.3)

2006 MLB draft

Top pick: Adam Ottavino, RHP (13.0)

(Round 1, Pick 30)

The America East Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2005 for Northeastern University, Adam Ottavino really opened eyes when he pitched a 14-strikeout no-hitter against offensive powerhouse James Madison University. The Cardinals grabbed him with the final pick of the first round, and he made his major league debut in 2010, starting three games and pitching two out of the bullpen, but he had growing pains, pitching to an 8.46 ERA in 22.1 innings. Part of this was likely due to a sore shoulder that cost Ottavino much of the season after he was demoted back to Memphis.

The Cardinals decided to cut bait with Ottavino before the 2012 season, and the Colorado Rockies claimed him off waivers. It proved to be an excellent deal for the Rockies, as Ottavino blossomed as a reliever. In seven years with the Rockies, he had a 3.41 ERA and an impressive 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He was briefly the Rockies’ closer in 2015, but he was shut down on May 4 when he required Tommy John surgery.

Ottavino signed with the New York Yankees in 2019, and they traded him to the rival Boston Red Sox in 2021. He currently pitches for the New York Mets.

WAR leader: Tommy Pham, OF (16.7)

(Round 16, Pick 496)

Tommy Pham was a feel-good story for the St. Louis Cardinals in his breakout 2017 season. He spent nine years in the minor leagues, fighting injuries and inconsistency along with vision issues caused by keratoconus before finally getting his chance in St. Louis in 2014. After he hit only .226 in 2016 and struggled with strikeouts, whiffing 117 times in 444 at-bats, he looked like a reserve outfielder at best. But he was a different beast in 2017, hitting .306 with 23 home runs and seizing the starting center field job for 2018.

In a shocking move at the 2018 trade deadline, the Cardinals sent Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays. Theories spawned about possible tension with the front office; many believed Pham’s open and honest personality might not have jibed with “The Cardinal Way.” He turned in two solid seasons with the Rays, who traded him to the San Diego Padres after the 2019 season.

Pham was often dinged up with injuries throughout his professional career, but the one to trump all others was a stab wound in his lower back that he suffered outside of a strip club in October 2020, requiring 200 stitches. He hit a meager .229 in 2021 and signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds before the 2022 season. They traded him at the deadline to the Boston Red Sox.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Jon Jay, OF (12.1); Luke Gregerson, RHP (6.4); Allen Craig, OF/1B (5.7); Chris Perez, RHP (4.7); David Carpenter, RHP (2.0); Shane Robinson, OF (1.3); Jon Edwards, RHP (0.3); Mark Hamilton, 1B/OF (-0.3); P.J. Walters, RHP (-2.3)

2007 MLB draft

Top pick: Pete Kozma, SS/2B/3B (-0.5)

(Round 1, Pick 18)

Pete Kozma was drafted to be the Cardinals’ shortstop of the future, but while the glove was always there, he never hit enough to contribute as a regular. He didn’t scorch the ball in the minor leagues, with his best year being 2010 in Double-A, where he hit .243 with 13 home runs. Even after scuffling in Triple-A, hitting only .214, Kozma was promoted to the major leagues in 2011. His most prominent year was 2013, his only year as the Cardinals’ everyday shortstop, where he had 410 at-bats but hit .217. The Cardinals decided after the season that he was not what they were looking for at the position, and they signed Jhonny Peralta to be the starter.

Kozma spent most of 2014 back in Memphis, and after the 2015 season, he became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees. He played sparingly for a few other teams who hoped they could unearth some of his undiscovered offensive potential, After a brief stint with the Oakland Athletics, Kozma signed with the American Association’s Kansas City Monarchs in 2022.

WAR leader: Daniel Descalso, 2B/3B (0.4)

(Round 3, Pick 112)

Daniel Descalso carried a similar toolset to Pete Kozma, although he ended up a slightly better hitter and a less skilled defender. After hitting a mind-boggling .397 in his junior year at UC Davis, Descalso signed with the Cardinals as their third-round pick and debuted with the major league squad in 2010. The next year, he played mostly at third base in the place of an injured David Freese, and he hit .264 in 326 at-bats.

He wasn’t able to replicate that success in his next three seasons with the Cardinals, hitting a combined .234. Descalso signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies, where he served as a backup infielder. He also played with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, and he spent his last season for the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in 2021.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Steven Hill, 1B/C (0.1); C.J. Fick, RHP (0.0); Andrew Brown, OF (-0.2); Brian Broderick, RHP (-0.2); Jess Todd, RHP (-0.4); Adron Chambers, OF (-0.4); Clayton Mortensen, RHP (-0.5); Michael Blazek, RHP (-0.5); Tony Cruz, C (-2.9)

2008 MLB draft

Top pick: Brett Wallace, 1B/3B (-0.2)

(Round 1, Pick 13)

Brett Wallace won the Triple Crown twice in his time at Arizona State University, and while he played third base in college, his rotund body necessitated a move to first base. The Cardinals saw the writing on the wall, and since they had Albert Pujols entrenched at that position, they traded Wallace to the Oakland Athletics in the Matt Holliday deal near the 2009 trade deadline. He didn’t last long with Oakland either, as they traded Wallce to the Toronto Blue Jays. He continued to put up gaudy numbers in the minor leagues, consistently hitting around .300, and he was traded yet again in December 2009 to the Houston Astros.

It was with the Astros where Wallace spent most of his career, but his minor league success never carried over. He hit .242 in four seasons with the Astros, who designated him for assignment before the 2014 season. He played in the minor leagues for the Baltimore Orioles for a year before resurfacing in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres. Wallace hit only .189 in 2016, and he retired after the season.

WAR leader: Lance Lynn, RHP (29.0)

(Round 1-supplemental, Pick 39)

Lance Lynn blazed through the Cardinals farm system after setting single-season and career strikeout records at Ole Miss. He played at three levels in 2009 and won the system’s Pitcher of the Year Award, and he was in the major leagues in 2011. In 2012, Lynn made the All-Star team and was a durable and effective starter for the next five seasons with the Cardinals. They let him walk as a free agent after 2017.

As the league moves away from the fastball, Lynn continues to throw it more than almost any other pitcher. He has found success with this approach, even late in his career. In 2021 with the Chicago White Sox, his age-34 season, Lynn had the lowest ERA of his career at 2.69 and was an All-Star for the second time.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Kevin Siegrist, LHP (4.5); Sam Freeman, LHP (2.9); Shane Peterson, OF (1.0); Jermaine Curtis, OF (0.0); Mitch Harris, RHP (0.0); Eric Fornatero, RHP (-0.1); Xavier Scruggs, 1B/OF (-0.3); Alex Castellanos, OF (-0.6)

2009 MLB draft

Top pick: Shelby Miller, RHP (7.6)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

Few players have seen their careers nosedive as steeply and as quickly as Shelby Miller. The Cardinals eschewed their normal draft strategy of taking college pitchers early by grabbing Miller, a high school standout, with their first pick, and he proceeded to strike out an impressive number of minor leaguers, peaking at 12.1 per nine innings in 2010 at Single-A. He debuted as a September call-up in 2012 and made the postseason roster. The next year, on May 10, Miller gave up a single to start the game and then retired the next 27 batters, tying a Cardinals rookie record of 13 strikeouts. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting.

In 370 innings with the Cardinals in just over two seasons, Miller had an ERA of 3.33. After the death of Oscar Taveras left a hole in the outfield, the Cardinals traded Miller to the Atlanta Braves to acquire Jason Heyward. In one season with Atlanta in 2015, Miller was probably the unluckiest pitcher in the league, going 6-17 with a dismal 2.38 runs of support. Despite this, it was his best year statistically, with a 3.02 ERA.

2016 was when Miller’s career careened off the rails. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Dansby Swanson deal, and he went 3-12 with a ghastly 6.15 ERA in a season that included a demotion to Triple-A. He had Tommy John surgery in early 2017 and pitched disastrously in his return to Arizona in late June of 2018, giving up 19 earned runs in 16 innings. His stats since 2016 aren’t pretty: a 6-22 record and a 7.04 ERA. Baseball America called Miller the most talented pitcher the Cardinals had developed since Rick Ankiel. Now 31 years old, Miller needs to turn it around fast; otherwise, the Ankiel comparisons will appear more prescient than any fan would have expected.

WAR leader: Matt Carpenter, 3B/1B/2B (29.2)

(Round 13, Pick 399)

Matt Carpenter’s long college career (five years at Texas Christian University) and thus advanced age at the draft led many teams to be wary of taking him. The Cardinals took a chance in round 13, and they ended up being rewarded handsomely. Carpenter was the Cardinals’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2010 when he hit .309 with 13 home runs.

He was seen as having a small window of opportunity to claim the third base job because of David Freese’s emergence in 2011 and prospect Zack Cox on the horizon. The Cardinals made Carpenter a utility player in 2012, and in 2013, he led the major leagues in runs, hits and doubles en route to a .318 average and a Silver Slugger Award.

From 2012 to 2016, Carpenter had a .286 average while playing at first base, second base and third base and usually leading off for the Cardinals. While he never had the traditional leadoff man’s speed, he had a superior batting eye and was a catalyst who frequently set other hitters up to drive him in. Carpenter was named an All-Star three times.

Carpenter began to struggle in 2019 after signing a two-year extension with the Cardinals. He hit .226, which was his last year hitting over the Mendoza line for the team. In 2020 and 2021, his combined average was .176. Carpenter’s struggles were mostly attributed to the increase in defensive shifts, which he had difficulty exploiting.

Carpenter became a free agent for the first time after 2021, and although the Texas Rangers never promoted him to the major leagues, Carpenter found new life in 2022 with the New York Yankees, hitting 15 home runs in only 128 at-bats. Unfortunately, Carpenter broke his foot on Aug. 8, potentially ending his season.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Joe Kelly, RHP (6.1); Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, (5.7); Matt Adams, 1B/OF (4.9); Travis Tartamella, C (0.0); Keith Butler, RHP (-0.1); David Washington, OF (-0.2); Robert Stock, RHP (-0.4); Ryan Jackson, 2B/SS/3B (-0.9)

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