St. Louis Cardinals: The Best Draft Pick For Each Year Since 2010
The St. Louis Cardinals have a good farm system year in and year out. A continually good system starts during the draft.
Several of the most successful players that were brought up through the St. Louis Cardinals were not first round picks. Former-slugger Albert Pujols was a 13th-round pick in 1999. Or the beloved catcher Yadier Molina, he was taken in the fourth round of the 2000 draft.
There have also been certain classes that are more successful than others. The 2009 class for the Cardinals produced Matt Carpenter in round thirteen, Trevor Rosenthal in the 21st round, and Matt Adams in the 22nd. The first round pick that year was Shelby Miller, who was the main piece in the trade to send Dansby Swanson from Arizona to Atlanta.
Not every player brought up by the St. Louis Cardinals comes from the draft. The best example of this is Alex Reyes: a player who is set to have a breakout season in 2017. He came not from the draft but rather was signed by the Cardinals in 2012 as an amateur free agent.
Unlike the NFL or NBA drafts, the players who get drafted don’t make an impact immediately in the majors. They are groomed in the minors until they are ready. Some players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Stephen Strasburg show the talent to fly right through the minors to make a huge impact for their team.
Players can be taken out of high school, but getting drafted doesn’t mean they have to sign. Many late round picks decide to go to college to continue to grow their talent. This adds a different aspect to how teams decide who to take. If a player is drafted early and decides not to sign, that is a wasted draft pick. These means that around draft time, scouts and teams talk about signability.
Looking at the 2016 draft class, the highest Cardinal pick that decided not to sign was Matt Ellis. He was selected in the 17th round. He was one of eight total picks in 2016 who elected not to sign with the team.
The draft takes place in June every year. But as Spring Training rapidly approaches, recent picks will be making their case to either move up a level in the minors or, for a lucky few, make their mark for the big league club.
Some teams receive extra picks based on who they lost in free agency. These compensation picks come when a player is offered a qualifying offer and declines it. Once this player signs with another team, his original club gets compensatory picks.
Before the new CBA, teams could get first round picks for players who denied their qualifying offer. However, starting next year the pick that is lost depends on the team. If the team that signs the free agent is above the luxury tax, the team will lose a second- and a fifth-round pick. Teams under the luxury tax will lose a third-round pick.
So who are the top picks for the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010? For the purpose of this slideshow, the player must still be with the organization to be considered. They don’t have to have cracked the majors yet, otherwise the 2016 picks wouldn’t have a chance of being included here.
Tyler Lyons, Left Handed Pitcher
The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Tyler Lyons in the ninth round of the 2010 draft. There were really no other players in this class that rival the production of Lyons. Greg Garcia was taken in the seventh round of this draft, but has been used in a backup role his whole career.
Before his selection in 2010, Lyons pitched at Oklahoma State University at Stillwater. He is an example of a player selected who did not sign originally. In 2009, he was drafted by the New York Yankees, but declined and continued his college career.
Lyons has recently made news for having knee surgery. This is not the first problem he has had with that part of his body. He is set to return in April or May, barring any unforeseen setbacks. He has turned himself into a very reliable reliever since coming into the league in 2013.
His debut showed a lot of promise. He pitched against the San Diego Padres. Lyons went seven innings, giving up four hits and one run to pick up the win. This outing showcased what Lyons brings to the table as a pitcher. He struck out four, showing his ability to pitch to contact in order to create outs.
He was used as a spot starter up until the last season when he became a full time reliever. He finished that season with 48 innings and a 3.38 ERA. This comes over 30 games, so he is frequently used for multiple innings at a time.
Because of his background as a starter, Lyons comes out of the bullpen with five pitches to keep hitters off balance. His two most-used pitches are his four seam, and slider. Both of those were thrown more than thirty-five percent of the time during his 2016 campaign.
Since making it to the majors, Cardinals fans have been able to trust Lyons to create outs when coming into games. He has clearly risen as the star of the St. Louis Cardinals 2010 draft class.
Kolten Wong, Second Base
In 2011, the first round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals turned out to be the best selection made. There was one other notable selection, however: Seth Maness was taken in the 11th round during this draft.
Kolten Wong was selected by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, but elected instead to attend the University of Hawaii. He was not selected again until 2011 when the Cardinals selected him with the 22nd overall pick.
He came into the league with plenty of hype around his potential. Thus far he has not lived up to the expectations. But, he is only 26 years old. There is still time for him to hit his stride. In fact, it has been argued by Brendon that Wong has been performing at a higher level than we all realize.
Maybe fans are stuck on one of the earliest memories of Wong, which was his getting picked off by Koji Uehara to end Game Four of the 2013 World Series. When that happened, Wong’s career was still very new. He debuted just two months prior, going hitless in three at-bats.
Questions about his ability with a bat in his hands aside, he has shown talent as a fielder. The 2016 season was Wong’s best, ending the season with a UZR of 4.5 at second base. When his bat comes around like the organization thinks it will, then the Cardinals second baseman will be a dangerous player.
With the word “potential” still being used, it spells hope for the St. Louis middle infield. Between Wong and Aledmys Diaz, there is a lot of potential on the infield. The first round selection of 2011 can still contribute, making him the best pick from that year.
Stephen Piscotty, Outfield
The 2012 draft for the St. Louis Cardinals brought in Stephen Piscotty as a compensatory selection. This was a tough choice over Michael Wacha, who was taken as a first round pick. Second round pick Carson Kelly could eventually take over as the best pick of this draft, but as of right now he is all potential. Another notable player with potential from this draft is recently-converted pitcher, Rowan Wick.
This was not Piscotty’s first time being drafted. He was drafted in the 45th round of the 2009 draft out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He elected, however, to study at Stanford. After his college career, the Cardinals drafted him and he made his way though the minors to a major league debut in 2015.
His debut ended as a one-for-four day against the White Sox. Piscotty went on to play sixty-three games in his rookie campaign hitting .305 and finishing sixth in Rookie Of The Year voting. He followed that up with a season that ended with an average of .273 and twenty-two home runs in 153 games.
Piscotty has shown ability with the glove, posting a 3.3 UZR in right field last season. That was an improvement from his -1.0 during his rookie season. Piscotty’s continued improvement could bring a few Gold Gloves to the outfield in St. Louis.
The upside of Piscotty is likely to increase with the recent offseason acquisitions. He hit .363 with runners in scoring positions last season, which was a season where the Cardinals swung for the fences. Without the power hitters this year, there will be more opportunity to drive runs in with timely hits, which was a bright spot for Piscotty last year.
This was a hard choice to make, considering Piscotty has played less than one and a half seasons. Especially since Wacha has been contributing since 2013. The main reason Piscotty is a better pick is because Wacha, at 25 years old, is already showing signs of a deteriorating body. So, the best 2012 draft pick for the moment is Piscotty, with a special eye on Carson Kelly.
Marco Gonzales, Left Handed Pitcher
Marco Gonzales is the standout of the 2013 draft for the St. Louis Cardinals despite missing all of last season due to a torn UCL. This draft has produced two players so far to make it to the majors. Gonzales, the 19th-overall pick in the draft, and Mike Mayers who was taken in the third round. This draft also produced Trey Nielsen in round thirty, who ranks as the 28th prospect in the organization.
Like so many others on this list, Gonzales was selected once before signing with the Cardinals in 2013. His first time getting drafted was out of high school in round twenty-nine of the 2010 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He did not sign, and went on to play at Gonzaga where he pitched and played first base.
It did not take long for Gonzales to play his way through the minors, making his debut for St. Louis in June of 2014 against the Rockies. His debut went five innings where he gave up seven hits and five runs. He went on to pitch in nine more games, starting four more, and ended with an ERA of 4.18.
The following season he appeared in one game at the major league level before tearing his UCL and going under the knife for Tommy John. He is expected to be healthy and ready to go for the start of the 2017 season, with his rookie status still in tact.
While Gonzales features four pitches, he sticks primarily with his fastball and changeup. His fastball does not have the glove-popping velocity, but he makes up for it with a changeup that is well above average. His command of pitches, and ability to show the hitter a different look is what gives him success. He threw his fastball 57.5 percent of the time in 2014.
As far as the Cardinals 2013 draft class goes, Gonzales is the top player for the moment. It will be very important for his standing to come back strong after his elbow surgery. Following the injuries to the lefties in the bullpen, Gonzales will have ample opportunity to shine.
Luke Weaver, Right Handed Pitcher
The 2014 draft brought in a lot of solid pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. Between Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Austin Gomber,it was difficult to decide. But when a player is the 27th overall pick of the draft, and the number two prospect in the organization, it is hard to argue against that.
With Flaherty as the number four prospect and Gomber as the number 18 prospect, this draft could be the cornerstone of the future.
Many look at the fact that Luke Weaver fell to the Cardinals in the draft as a true gift. His velocity dropped during his junior year at Florida State, which is what caused the slide. As he started his careers, the velocity came back, and now sits in the mid 90s. He also features a nice changeup. Both pitches are graded as well above average.
Weaver is the only player so far from his draft class to make it to St. Louis. He was called up last year, and pitched in nine games and starting eight of them. He had a record of 1-4 and an ERA of 5.70, but as of right now he is ranked as the number eight-one prospect in baseball. With everything scouts see in him, fans need to be confident that he will turn it around given more time.
He will turn twenty-four in August, so there is little worry that Weaver will turn out to have a good career. After all through 197.2 innings in the minors, he had an ERA of 1.78. With that kind of production it is hard to see his career not panning out as many think it will.
In order to find more success as a starter, Weaver will need to develop a third pitch. He has good velocity on his fastball and great arm action on his changeup, but he hasn’t found confidence in a third pitch yet.
Living and dying by two pitches will work for him as a bullpen pitcher, but as a starter it will be important to further develop his curveball and/or slider into a pitch he can throw more than ten percent of the time.
This draft provided two of the top four prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Added with top prospect Alex Reyes, the future for the pitching staff looks bright. As far as the 2014 draft goes, Weaver has the highest upside potential and output so far.
Harrison Bader, Outfield
This is the first draft class without a player to reach the Majors. It is also a draft class filled with potential. There are five top-30 prospects from this draft class: Harrison Bader, Nick Plummer, Jake Woodford, Paul DeJong, and Bryce Denton. All of these players were taken in the top four rounds, but the third-round pick Bader takes the crown.
The main reason for this selection is the fact that Bader is the top hitting prospect in the organization, and the number eighty-two prospect in baseball. He also is the first full-time college-level hitter taken with a top three pick since Piscotty in 2012. Bader was taken after having a great career in left field at the University of Florida, though he projects as a center fielder in the pros.
In his first year as a professional hitter, Bader hit .311 with eleven home runs and seventeen stolen bases in single-A ball. During the 2016 season, he made it to triple-A, where he played forty-eight games. This resulted in a batting average of .231, and an on-base percentage of just .298. This slowed down the fast track to ‘The Show’ that many predicted for him.
It is important to remember that Bader is only 22. There is plenty of time for him to reach his potential and improve on his triple-A debut. If the 2017 season is kind to him, then he could become the fourth outfielder at some point this season. Between Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Dexter Fowler, it looks as if Bader will spend time learning before becoming a full-time starter.
Bader looks to have a huge upside to this point in his young career. That is what sets him apart from the other players in his draft class. The next highest prospect after Bader is Nick Plummer at twelve. That shows how much the third-round pick has set himself apart since being drafted in 2015.
Dakota Hudson, Right Handed Pitcher
The 2016 draft class has only one season under their belt after being selected by the St. Louis Cardinals, which leaves this decision very open. Many would argue that 18-year-old shortstop Delvin Perez is the name to select here. And while there is a solid case for Perez, Hudson has made quite the case for himself too.
Dakota Hudson features a fastball that can top out at 97 with run and sink, a slider that is already major league ready, and an average changeup and curveball that have room for improvement. He was projected as a top-ten pick at one point, but wound up being drafted as the 34th overall pick last year after his junior year at Mississippi State.
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The big knock on Hudson is that he did not throw as many strikes as scouts wanted to see during his first two years of college. But during his junior year he improved his control. There is still work to do for him there but he already shows the tools to be a valuable reliever. But with a 6’5″ 215-pound frame, the organization is hoping he can live up to his starter potential.
In the minors last year, Hudson was brilliant. Overall, he had an ERA of 0.68 over 13.1 innings. And while that is not a giant sample size, the fact that he gave up only one run the entire season shows great promise from the right-handed pitcher.
He made it as high as advanced-A ball, where he got most of his innings. He did show room for improvement with his control, walking seven batters at this level.
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This draft class is still new, so who is to say who breaks out as the star, but the way it looks Hudson is set to do it. He has the movement and velocity to become a solid, if not great, major league pitcher in the future. He just needs to continue to improve his control and climb through the minors.
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