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

jbuchheit
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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DENVER, COLORADO – SEPTEMBER 12: Kolten Wong #16 of the St Louis Cardinals runs down the baseline after hitting a double in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 12, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO – SEPTEMBER 12: Kolten Wong #16 of the St Louis Cardinals runs down the baseline after hitting a double in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 12, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

2010 MLB draft

Top pick: Zack Cox, 3B (N/A)

(Round 1, Pick 25)

Zack Cox bet on himself when signed a major league contract for $3.2 million after the draft, which required him to be placed on the 40-man roster immediately. It forced the Cardinals push him aggressively through the minor leagues with the expectation that he would be in the majors within three years.

Cox didn’t quite develop as hoped, hitting .254 when he got to Triple-A Memphis, and because of his unique contract, the Cardinals knew they had only three chances to exercise his minor league options before having to pass him through waivers. The Cardinals made a smart decision: Rather than give him up for nothing by using that option, they traded him to the Miami Marlins for Edward Mujica.

Injuries hampered Cox the next year, where he hit .253 in Double-A Jacksonville. He was unclaimed off waivers in 2013 and returned there, hitting a more robust .269. Despite a better season in 2014 when he ascended to Triple-A, where he hit .282, he failed to build on it in 2015 and was out of baseball after 2017.

WAR leader: Greg Garcia, 2B/3B (3.1)

(Round 7, Pick 229)

Greg Garcia was pegged as a probable utility player early in his professional career, and that’s generally how he panned out. He was teammates with future Cardinal Kolten Wong at the University of Hawaii and in 2013 spent hit .271 in Memphis as he shared the shortstop job with Ryan Jackson. Garcia debuted in 2014, earning notability after being hit by a pitch to walk off the game.

In 2016, Garcia made the Cardinals’ opening day roster and hit .276 on the season. In 2017 and 2018, he was usually used off the bench and hit a combined .239. The San Diego Padres took him off waivers in November 2018, and he played in a career-high 134 games the next year and hit .248. The Padres didn’t re-sign him after 2020, and he signed with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, but eventually opted out of his contract both times.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Sam Tuivailala, RHP (1.9); Tyler Lyons, LHP (0.5); Cody Stanley, C (0.0); John Gast, LHP (0.0); Dean Kiekhefer, LHP (-0.1); Josh Lucas, RHP (-0.2); Tyrell Jenkins, RHP (-0.4); Colin Walsh, 3B/OF (-0.5)

2011 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Kolten Wong, 2B (21.5)

(Round 1, Pick 22)

Kolten Wong was a second baseman from the start of the draft, unlike many players who move from shortstop, and he was the first second baseman the Cardinals took in the first round since Luis Alicea in 1986. A light hitter and decent fielder in his early years with the Cardinals, Wong developed into a threat at the plate and an acrobat in the field in his later seasons.

He became the Cardinals’ fixture at the keystone in 2014 after they traded David Freese and moved Matt Carpenter to third base. From 2013 to 2016, Wong hit .248, but he found another gear in 2017, hitting .273 in the rest of his tenure with the Cardinals, ending after 2020.

Previously adequate on defense, Wong became outstanding in 2018, receiving his first Gold Glove nomination. He was equally excellent the next two years, and he won the award both times. The Cardinals didn’t re-sign Wong after 2020, and he joined the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit .272 and showed more power than he ever had, with 14 home runs on the year, although his defense regressed notably in 2022.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Seth Maness, RHP (2.3); Sam Gaviglio, RHP (1.5); Nick Martini, OF (1.2); Ryan Sherriff, LHP (0.2); Charlie Tilson, OF (-1.6)

2012 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Michael Wacha, RHP (9.5)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

A quick riser through the minor leagues, Michael Wacha didn’t even spend two full seasons there before making his major league debut in 2013. He was excellent in his first game, giving up one run on two hits and striking out six in seven innings against the Kansas City Royals. After he received a bit more seasoning in Memphis, the Cardinals promoted him again in August. On Sept. 24, he pitched 8.2 no-hit innings before surrendering an infield hit.

Wacha missed some time in 2014 with an injury, but he started the 2015 season with a 7-0 record and was named to the All-Star team. Over the next three seasons, Wacha had a 4.27 ERA, which was inflated by his poor 2016 where he was battling an injury. His 2019 was a disappointment with a 4.76 ERA, and the New York Mets signed him as a free agent after the season. He struggled there and with the Tampa Bay Rays, with a 4-9 record and a 5.39 ERA, but 2022 has been a bit of a renaissance year for him.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Stephen Piscotty, OF (6.7); Patrick Wisdom, 3B/1B/0F (3.8); Carson Kelly, C (3.2); Kyle Barraclough, RHP (2.2); Tim Cooney, LHP (0.7); Rowan Wick, RHP (0.7); Alex Mejia, 3B/SS/2B (-0.1); Jacob Wilson, 3B/2B/OF (-0.1)

2013 MLB draft

Top pick/WAR leader: Marco Gonzales, LHP (9.3)

(Round 1, Pick 19)

While not an overpowering pitcher, Marco Gonzales had the best changeup in the 2013 draft, and the Cardinals hurried him to the major leagues after outstanding performances over three minor league levels in 2014. In his rookie year, Gonzales had a 4.15 ERA in 10 games, five of which he started. He was rarely healthy after that, though, and after pitching only one game in 2015 because of a shoulder injury that sidelined him for most of the season, he missed all of 2016 after requiring Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals traded him to the Seattle Mariners during the 2017 season for Tyler O’Neill.

Finally healthy with the Mariners, Gonzales hit his stride in 2018 and became a fixture in their rotation. He eclipsed the 200-inning mark in 2019, and from 2018 to 2021, Gonzales had a 3.88 ERA and went 46-30. In the abridged 2020 season, he led the American League in walks per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Luke Voit, 1B (5.7); Oscar Mercado, OF (2.7); Mike Mayers, RHP (1.0); Rob Kaminsky, LHP (-0.1)

2014 MLB draft

Top pick: Luke Weaver, RHP (1.6)

(Round 1, Pick 27)

Luke Weaver’s first significant season in St. Louis was a good one, as his 7-2 record and 3.88 ERA excited the Cardinals, but he stepped back mightily in 2018 to the tune of a 4.95 ERA. The Cardinals packaged him in the deal for Paul Goldschmidt after the 2018 season, and he bounced back with the Arizona Diamondbacks with 3.03 ERA until being removed from a game in late May. He didn’t pitch again until September 21.

Weaver didn’t match his success in the truncated 2020 season, as he limped to a woeful 1-9 record and a 6.58 ERA, and he was hurt again in 2021 after a slight rebound year. The Diamondbacks shipped Weaver to the Kansas City Royals at the 2022 trade deadline.

WAR leader: Jack Flaherty, RHP (9.2)

(Round 1, Pick 34)

Jack Flaherty has shown dominant stuff when healthy, but health remains the bugaboo for him, as multiple stints on the injured list have put his career at somewhat of a crossroads. He showed promise in 2018, whiffing 182 hitters in 151 innings, and his 2019 seemed to put him on the fast track to stardom. His second half was historic: From July 16 to the end of the season, his ERA was a minuscule 0.91, with an opposing batting average of .142. He had a good if somewhat unlucky 2020 stat-wise, where he struck out 49 in 40.1 innings and had an ERA of 4.91.

2021 was when the injuries started hitting Flaherty. He strained his oblique in May and missed two and a half months, and he missed another month after straining his shoulder. 2022 hasn’t been much better, as another shoulder injury took him out until June. After three shaky starts, he was placed on the injured list again after aggravating the shoulder.

Other signed draftees who made the major leagues

Austin Gomber, LHP (1.6); Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP (0.4)

The Cardinals’ draft history, like that of every other team, is full of whiffs and missed opportunities, but they have also hit big at times, and I’d wager they’ve had more draft success than the average team, especially since the turn of the millennium. The “Cardinal Way,” whatever it is, seems to be working its magic just fine.

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

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