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Pujols, Carpenter and Pham among the gems found by Cardinals in draft's later rounds

Pujols, Carpenter and Pham among the gems found by Cardinals in draft's later rounds

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Baseball's amateur draft next month will consist of just five rounds — a cost-cutting measure in the wake of MLB's shutdown — and anybody signed after that will receive no more than $20,000. But rounds six through 50, or six through 40 in later years, have produced some gems and the Cardinals would have quite a representative team from such players culled in the second and third days of the amateur draft.

The ultimate gold uncovered, of course, was a chunky infielder from Kansas City’s Maple Woods Community College in 1999. He was a 13th-round choice and his name was Albert Pujols and he will go into the Hall of Fame as a first baseman about eight or so years from now. That draft also produced big leaguers Coco Crisp, an outfielder in the seventh round; Mike Crudale, a righthander in the 24th round; and Bo Hart, a second baseman in the 33rd round.

In the 20 Cardinals drafts since then, there has been similar talent found later in the draft, although not anyone like Pujols.

For instance, you could have a first-base platoon of Matt Adams and Luke Voit, both former catchers taken in the 23rd round and 22nd round, respectively, in 2009 and 2013.

The lefthanded-hitting Adams, after two tours with the Cardinals and one with Atlanta, was a key reserve for the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals in his second stint with them. After hitting 20 homers in the regular season, Adams, now with the New York Mets, delivered a key pinch hit off Adam Wainwright to help the Nationals to a Game 2 win in the National League championship series. He is best remembered in St. Louis for his three-run homer off Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw to decide the division series in 2014.

Righthanded-batting Voit, who went to the New York Yankees in a deal for righthander Giovanny Gallegos, has hit 35 homers in the equivalent of one full season with the Yankees.

At second base could be switch-hitting Tommy Edman, a sixth-round choice out of Stanford in 2016 who became an instant darling of Cardinals fans by hitting .304 and compiling an .850 OPS while playing all over as a rookie.

Slick-fielding Brendan Ryan, who started at shortstop for the 2009 division champion Cardinals, hitting .292, was a seventh-round choice in 2003.

Current Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who has had 55, 44 and 42 doubles in three different seasons and 36 homers in another, like Pujols, was a 13th-round choice. That came 10 years after Pujols’ selection in 1999 when Carpenter was drafted as a fifth-year senior from TCU in 2009.

The utility infielder would be Greg Garcia, who played college ball at Hawaii with Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong. Garcia, a seventh-round choice by the Cardinals in 2011, a year ahead of when Wong was drafted, hit .248 for the Cardinals in five seasons and .248 in his first season with San Diego.

In left field, Adron Chambers, a 38th-round choice out of a Florida junior college in 2007, had a brief career with the Cardinals but delivered a couple of key hits, scored a couple of key runs and waved a mean towel to help spark the 2011 Cardinals into the playoffs and beyond in their last previous World Series championship season.

Tommy Pham, a 16th-round choice in 2008 who since has moved on to Tampa Bay and San Diego, would be the center fielder. Pham had a monster 2017 season for the Cardinals, hitting 23 homers, stealing 25 bases and hitting .306.

Allen Craig, who hit .400 and then a major-league best .454 with runners in scoring position in 2012 and 2013 and drove in 92 and 97 runs in those two seasons with the Cardinals, would be the right fielder. As a left fielder, he snared the final out of the 2011 World Series on a pitch delivered by Jason Motte.

Craig, an eighth-round pick in 2008, hit three homers in that series. He also scored a game-winning run in the 2013 World Series when Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks was called for obstruction.

But Craig never was the same after suffering a foot injury late in the 2013 season while he was rounding first base in Cincinnati.

Due to Yadier Molina playing most of the games behind the plate for the Cardinals since 2004, there haven’t been any notable catchers develop as late-round picks by the Cardinals. But Andrew Knizner, a power hitter who was a seventh-round pick in 2016, might be the heir apparent. Former Molina backup Tony Cruz was a 26th-round choice in 2007.

The Cardinals have excelled in plucking potential late-inning relievers in the later rounds. Motte, taken in Round 19 as a catcher in 2003, knocked off a league-leading 42 saves in 2012, the year after he had ended the Series and the year before he hurt his arm.

Righthander Trevor Rosenthal was an infielder with a Kansas City-area junior college when the Cardinals drafted him in the 21st round in 2009. He would go on to have 45 saves in 2014 and then a club-record 48 saves in 2015 before encountering arm troubles, although he is attempting a comeback with Kansas City. Rosenthal fanned nine and walked nobody in five scoreless spring innings for the Royals.

The Cardinals’ bullpen depth would be rich with late-round lefthanders Kevin Siegrist (41) and Tyler Lyons (9) and righthanders Kyle McClellan (25) and Seth Maness (11). Righthander Mark Worrell, a 12th-round pick in 2004, pitched in just four games for the Cardinals in 2008 but in his first at-bat of his career, he hit a three-run homer. He would have only one other at-bat.

The rotation would be a bit thin, led by lefthander Jaime Garcia, a 22nd-round choice in 2015 who had a 62-45 career record with the Cardinals and a 1.80 earned run average in two World Series starts in 2011. Righthander Anthony Reyes, a 15th-rounder in 2003, had only a 10-24 career record with the Cardinals but that didn’t count his stunning, eight-inning start as a rookie when he allowed just two runs and four hits at Detroit as the Cardinals won the first game of the 2006 World Series, a competition they successfully completed in five games.

Daniel Ponce de Leon, a ninth-rounder in 2014, would be in the middle of the rotation.

At the top ... dream on ... would be a 43rd round choice out of Parkway Central in 2003. But Max Scherzer decided he would go to Mizzou instead. He  has won 170 games and three Cy Young Awards since.

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter


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