How the Cardinals were built

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
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This St. Louis Cardinals team is younger and better than the 2011 club that won the World Series. This year's team, which carried 10 rookies on its roster the first two rounds of the postseason, won 97 games and outscored its opponents by 187 runs; the 2011 team won the wild card with 90 wins and outscored opponents by 70 runs.

As you can imagine with all the rookies, it's largely a homegrown squad. Including Allen Craig, who will be added to the World Series roster, 17 of the 26 players were drafted by the Cardinals, with Carlos Martinez signed as an amateur free agent, giving them 18 homegrown players. Two others -- Adam Wainwright and David Freese -- were acquired as minor leaguers and haven't played in the majors for any team but St. Louis.

The Cardinals' draft strategy is pretty clear: They focus on college players, and largely college players from bigger programs. Of those 17 drafted players, only three were high schoolers, and Shelby Miller and Pete Kozma were first-round picks (Yadier Molina being the third).

Much has been made on how the Cardinals have had such a large turnover from the 2011 World Series squad -- only Freese, Molina, Craig, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Lance Lynn remain from that 25-man roster (remember, Wainwright was injured that year). It's certainly a credit to GM John Mozeliak, former scouting director Jeff Luhnow (now the Astros GM), current scouting director Dan Kantrovitz (who drafted Michael Wacha last year) and all the player development people that the Cardinals have basically rebuilt an entire pitching staff in two years entirely from within the organization.

(The large turnover is a bit overplayed, however; the Giants had only 11 players on both their 2010 and 2012 rosters, with just two position-player regulars in Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, and three starting pitchers in Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum.)

Some call building from within the "right way." That seems to put a bit of a moral judgment on how to construct a team, that spending money on free agents is somehow nefarious. Look, I understand, nobody likes teams who buy their way to pennants, although if you have money, it's just another way to spend. And the Cardinals aren't the A's or Rays here; they did sign Holliday and Carlos Beltran as free agents.

Anyway, here is how the Cardinals were built (one of these will be removed from the roster in favor of Craig).

Drafted
C Yadier Molina (fourth round, 2000, Puerto Rico): The Cardinals drafted four players ahead of Molina in 2000 -- Shaun Boyd, Blake Williams, Chris Narveson and Chase Voshell.

C Tony Cruz (26th round, 2007, Florida junior college) -- Your generic backup catcher, the Cardinals converted him from third base to catcher in the minors.




1B Allen Craig (eighth round, 2006, Cal-Berkeley) -- Craig didn't reach the majors as a full-time player until 2011 when he was already 27.

1B Matt Adams (23rd round, 2009, Slippery Rock) -- Adams led Division II with a .495 average in 2009, but still fell to the 23rd round (although he signed for $25,000). The Cardinals moved him from catcher to first base, he hit .355 in his first taste of pro ball and hasn't stopped hitting since.

2B Matt Carpenter (13th round, 2009, Texas Christian) -- A senior sign for $1,000. Maybe the best $1,000 the Cardinals ever spent.

SS Pete Kozma (first round, 2007, Oklahoma high school) -- Earned the job after his strong September cameo last year, but hit just .217 with one home run, so Cards could look to upgrade in the offseason.

IF Daniel Descalso (third round, 2007, Cal-Davis) -- Has received a lot of playing time the past three years as the Cards' utility guy, but bat hasn't developed (.238/.290/.366 in 2013).

2B Kolten Wong (first round, 2011, Hawaii) -- Hit .303/.369/.466 at Triple-A Memphis.

CF Jon Jay (second round, 2006, University of Miami) -- Hitting .190 with no home runs in 42 career postseason games.

OF Shane Robinson (fifth round, 2006, Florida State) -- Earned some college player of the year honors as a sophomore when he hit .427 with 49 stolen bases.

OF Adron Chambers (38th round, 2007, Florida junior college) -- Speed guy who made it as a bench player.

P Michael Wacha (first round, 2012, Texas A&M) -- Drafted with the 19th pick received from the Angels for losing Albert Pujols.

P Joe Kelly (third round, 2009, Cal-Riverside) -- Part of the Cardinals' excellent 2009 draft class.

P Lance Lynn (first round supplemental, 2008, Mississippi) -- The 39th overall pick, a choice received from the Rays for losing Troy Percival.

P Shelby Miller (first round, 2009, Texas high school) -- The Cardinals historically stay away from high school pitchers; Miller was the first one they had drafted in the first five rounds since 2005 and their first high school first-rounder since 1991. Safe to say they have no regrets.

P Trevor Rosenthal (21st round, 2009, Kansas junior college) -- Signed for $65,000 and then added velocity as a professional.

P Seth Maness (11th round, 2011, East Carolina) -- The ground ball specialist had the highest rate of double plays in the majors in 2013.

P Kevin Siegrist (41st round, 2008, Florida junior college) -- Converted to relief this year, added velocity to his fastball, reached the majors and dominated left-handers.


Amateur free agent
P Carlos Martinez (Dominican Republic, 2010) -- Originally signed by the Red Sox in 2009 for $160,000 under the name Carlos Matias, he didn't pass an MLB investigation and was suspended for a year. In a year, he added velocity and the Cardinals signed him for $1.5 million. Had a 2.49 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A as a starter this year, now touches 100 mph as the Cardinals' top setup guy.


Acquired via trade
3B David Freese (from Padres for Jim Edmonds, Dec. 14, 2007) -- He had hit well in the California League for the Padres, but at 24 was old for the league. Good snag by the Cardinals' scouting staff.

P Adam Wainwright (from Braves with Jason Marquis and Ray King for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero, Dec. 13, 2003) -- Wainwright had been a first-round pick of the Braves in 2000 and was making steady if unspectacular progress through their system when they traded him for one season of Drew. He spent two years in Triple-A with St. Louis before spending his rookie season in 2006 as a reliever (and got the final out of the World Series).

P Edward Mujica (from Marlins for Zack Cox, July 31, 2012) -- A midseason acquisition last year for a former first-round pick in Cox.

P John Axford (from Brewers for Michael Blazek, Aug. 30, 2013) -- Late-season move to add bullpen depth.

Major league free agents
LF Matt Holliday (Jan. 5, 2010) -- Acquired from Oakland during the season in 2009, the Cardinals then gave him a seven-year, $120 million deal to stay in St. Louis.

RF Carlos Beltran (Dec. 23, 2011) -- The two-year deal he signed has paid off handsomely for the Cards.

P Randy Choate (Dec. 7, 2012) -- Lefty specialist held lefties to a .176 average. Can you say "Will face David Ortiz at some point"?

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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