1. Randy Flores hired as scouting director (2015)
While the trades and signings the Cardinals have made to patch holes have often worked out, especially the ones listed in this article, St. Louis has always been a team committed to developing talent from within. On that front, the Cardinals have been massively successful in drafting major league talent since Randy Flores became the scouting director and was put in charge of the amateur draft.
Thanks to Flores’ choices, the Cardinals have been able to have a wellspring of prospects and a farm system that consistently ranks in the top half of baseball year after year. The players he finds success in aren’t just in the early rounds, either; the Cardinals are continually able to find talent deeper into drafts.
In 2016, Flores’ first draft, the Cardinals took Tommy Edman in the sixth round, who has become a valuable utility player. The 2017 draft didn’t see the same results, partially because the Cardinals had to give up their first two picks as punishment for the hacking scandal.
In 2018, the team drafted Nolan Gorman, who has been the Cardinals' best player so far in 2023. They also took Brendan Donovan in round seven and Lars Nootbaar in round eight, both of whom are strong regulars. 2019 saw the Cardinals grab Zack Thompson and Andre Pallante. Thompson will hopefully provide a piece to the largely unknown 2024 rotation, while Pallante has been a decent bullpen arm.
Then we reached the 2020 draft, which could end up as Flores’ crown jewel. Jordan Walker is currently the top prospect in baseball, and Masyn Winn isn’t far behind. Tink Hence has ace-caliber stuff, and Alec Burleson, the first player of the Cardinals from that draft to make his debut, has had some productive moments in the major leagues.
Nobody from the 2021 or 2022 drafts has made it to the major leagues for the Cardinals yet, but Gordon Graceffo is one highly-ranked prospect who could also fight for a spot in the 2024 rotation.
While the Cardinals’ pitching development program has been dragged through the mud by fans and former players alike recently, the team has an elite offense at the highest level and is bursting at the seams in the minor leagues, with more promising hitters eager to take their cuts with the big club. If the Cardinals can figure out how to develop pitchers again, Flores’ drafts could look even better in the future.
Trades and signings help in the immediate term, but drafting successfully is the key to sustained success, and Flores might be more responsible for that than anyone else.
Although it’s not clear to outsiders how Mozeliak’s and Girsch‘s responsibilities differ (I’m of the opinion that Girsch does a lot more regarding trading and signing than most fans realize), whoever is holding the reins has a good run of success to look back on. The moves can’t all be home runs — just look at the article of the front office’s worst moves from the same time span — but Mo and company have fielded a competitive team for over a decade. They’re doing something right.