Cardinals draft Tate Matheny, skipper's son
ST. LOUIS — Despite a request from first-year manager Mike Matheny not to draft his son, the St. Louis Cardinals did just that in the 23rd round of the Major League Baseball Draft Wednesday afternoon.
The Cardinals, who drafted three sons of members of their big league coaching staff Wednesday and five players with fathers who work for the organization, took Westminster Christian Academy outfielder Tate Matheny with the 720th overall pick.
But they didn't do it without getting the approval of his father first.
"Before we took him I talked to Mike and they certainly gave the green light," said Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz. "It became clear that this was something they would consider and certainly from our standpoint, Tate is absolutely worthy of the pick and is someone who has a chance to play professional baseball.
"Once their mindset changed a little bit, we certainly wanted to be the team that took them up on that."
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Matheny asked the Cardinals and Kantrovitz to not draft his son, in large part because of the unfair expectations and criticism that could come his way. Both Chris Duncan and Cody McKay received unfair and unwarranted criticism during their time in the Cardinals organization because their fathers, Dave Duncan and Dave McKay, were coaches with the big league club.
But as the draft went on and Tate Matheny continued to get passed over, the family apparently became more open to the possibility.
"Mike had told us not to draft him and we were fully prepared to respect his wishes obviously," Kantrovitz said. "But I think as the draft unfolded, their mindset changed a bit in terms of how open they were to playing pro ball or at least the possibility of us drafting him.
"I think Mike wanted to make sure that we weren't going to draft Tate as a favor and that we were doing it based on Tate's skill and projection, which is what happened."
The 6-foot, 190-pound Matheny hit .610 (61-for-100) with 11 home runs, 10 doubles, 11 triples, 51 RBI, 60 runs and 25 stolen bases during his senior campaign at Westminster. He had a ridiculous .705 on-base percentage and a 1.260 slugging percentage, helping Westminster win a second consecutive Missouri Class 3 State Championship.
Reached by phone from Houston where he is with his dad for the Cardinals series against the Astros, Tate Matheny said he was surprised by the day's events.
"A lot more than you would figure since my dad told them they weren't allowed to draft me," Tate Matheny said. "I guess he got overruled there.
"It's exciting. I'm really happy. I'm just excited to get drafted and have this opportunity. We'll go from here and see how things play out. I guess we'll just play it by ear."
Matheny is signed to play at Missouri State next fall and will likely stick to that plan unless the Cardinals throw an unexpectedly high amount of money his way.
"We'll have to play it by ear," Matheny said. "I'm not real sure what's going to happen. I'm going to enjoy it while I can and whatever I decide to do, I'll do my best and work hard to make a difference somewhere."
Of his dad's reaction to the Cardinals drafting him, Matheny said, "He was all smiles. He just told me how happy he was for me, just like any father would be."
Scouts believed the center fielder had the talent to be drafted in rounds 7-10, but it appeared his solid commitment to Missouri State and the high signing bonus demands likely kept teams from drafting him earlier. Matheny agreed.
"I gave them a high number and it was a low round number and I think that pretty much scared them off until the Cardinals gave me an opportunity," Matheny said. "I was a little worried and wasn't sure if I was going to get drafted or not, but when my name got called, I was really, really excited. Obviously I'm very honored."
The Cardinals set an organizational record by drafting five players with ties to the organization. In addition to Matheny, the Cardinals took infielder Eduardo Oquendo (son of third base coach Jose Oquendo) in the 32nd round and right-handed pitcher Michael Aldrete (son of bench coach Mike Aldrete) in the 39th round.
Also selected by the Cardinals were first baseman Jacoby Almaraz (son of crosschecker Joe Almaraz) in the 21st round and outfielder Derrick May, Jr. (son of Cardinals minor league roving hitting instructor Derrick May) in the 37th round.
Oquendo, who has taken ground balls with the Cardinals infielders on several occasions in years past, was described by Kantrovitz as a, "slick fielding middle-infielder who has a chance to hit."
On Aldrete, who just completed his junior year at San Jose State University, Kantrovitz said, "He might decide to go back to San Jose State, we're not sure yet, but there's more negotiations that will take place there. He's had a really good college career and he has a chance to have a very well pro career as well."
Kantrovitz said none of the five picks were done just because their fathers had ties to the organization but admitted it was nice to be able to make them happen.
"I think that's definitely special when both things happen, when there's somebody that is related to somebody that works for the organization that also checks the box of being a prospect," Kantrovitz said. "I think this year more than other years there were probably a few more players that fit that criteria. It's a bit unusual I would think but nonetheless, these are guys that have all had success and all have a chance to have success in professional baseball."
The Cardinals will begin negotiations with each of their 44 players in the coming days.