Cardinals' draft is history lesson
St. Louis goes for established players such as Perez, Jay
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' vice president for player procurement and the man who heads up the club's draft effort, used a word Tuesday that you don't hear much in discussion of draft picks. In a world of projection and upside, Luhnow said that one thing the Cards valued in their 2006 selections was history.
So it was no surprise when one selection after another hailed from the biggest of big-time NCAA Division I baseball programs. The University of Miami provided two of St. Louis' first four picks, in right-hander Chris Perez and outfielder Jon Jay. Other day-one choices came from Rice (pitcher Eddie Degerman), Tulane (first baseman Mark Hamilton and outfielder Nathan Southard) and Florida State (outfielder Shane Robinson).
"For us, one of the themes of this draft is we wanted to have history on these players," said Luhnow, "and we have a lot of history on Jay and Perez and the guys we've taken."
The draft started at No. 30 for the Cardinals, where they took righty Adam Ottavino from Northeastern University. The club first saw Ottavino in the Cape Cod League last year, then in a preseason exhibition, and followed him all year. Another pitcher, Perez, followed, and then it was Texas Christian University lefty Brad Furnish.
Despite having a system deeper in pitching than hitting, the Cardinals went very pitching-heavy in the early going in 2006. That's partly due to the simple way this year's draft shook down. By nearly all accounts, it was a limited draft, and what intriguing talent was there, was largely on the pitching side.
Several of the choices appeared to be driven at least as much by performance as by scouting. Degerman was a dominant college pitcher, but an unusual delivery and his advanced age scared off some teams. Robinson was one of college baseball's top players in 2005, but at 5-foot-9, he was never considered an elite prospect. Nonetheless, both players were exceptionally productive at top-tier college programs.
Every team considers signability to some extent when its making draft picks, but the Cardinals are particularly aggressive about laying out terms. They like to have framework in place for deals with just about every player they draft, and that did not change this year.
"I think that right now we feel like 15 or 16 are done," Luhnow said. "Some are still playing, but we're pretty confident. We didn't take anybody that we didn't feel confident we could sign and get out to play short-season."
Here's a rundown of the players the club selected on day one:
Adam Ottavino, RHP, Northeastern U., first round (No. 30 overall): Ottavino went 2-2 with a 1.76 ERA in the Cape Cod League last year, and followed it up with 120 strikeouts at NU in 2006. He's big and projects to add some velocity.
Luhnow: "We have been following him from his first start this year. I think everybody has been in to see him. I doubt there's any start that we missed this year."
Chris Perez, RHP, U. of Miami, supplemental first round (42): Perez closed for Miami, and has amassed 12 saves for a team advancing to the NCAA Super Regional round. He throws an eye-catching slider, and some believe he could be on the fast track. It's uncertain whether Perez will begin pro ball as a starter or reliever.
Luhnow: "I think he'd move fairly quickly either way, but probably quicker in relief."
Brad Furnish, LHP, Texas Christian U., second round (54): Furnish struck out 125 in 100 innings for the Horned Frogs, helping to pitch them into an NCAA Regional. Furnish, 21, began his college career at Nebraska before transferring to TCU.
Luhnow: "For us, he was one of the top two lefties in the draft."
Jon Jay, OF, U. of Miami, second round (74): A three-year regular for the Hurricanes, Jay has hit for a consistently high average, shown an ability to get on base and already has racked up 27 steals this year.
Luhnow: "Jay has proven over and over again that he can hit, and that's what we really looked for. I expect him to go out and hit right away in the Minor Leagues. I don't expect to see too many slumps for him. He also can play center field, and that's exciting. He can run, he can catch, he can throw enough to play out there. He'll run into a homer or two, but he's not a power guy. His game is getting on base and making things happen."
Mark Hamilton, 1B, Tulane U., supplemental second round (76): Another performance pick, Hamilton had a huge offensive year for the Green Wave. He knocked 20 home runs, and walked more times than he struck out.
Gary Daley, RHP, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, third round (106): Daley was dinged for a 5.48 ERA and 61 walks in 110 innings, but he also amassed 110 strikeouts and allowed only six home runs. Control is an issue -- he had 16 wild pitches and hit 19 batters.
Luhnow: "He's a player that, at the beginning of the year, the first time I saw him in late January, I didn't think we'd have a chance to get him at 30. And to get a player like that in the third round, was a great opportunity that we couldn't pass up."
Eddie Degerman, RHP, Rice U., fourth round (136): Pitching at one of the nation's elite programs, Degerman put up a spectacular season as a fifth-year senior. He went 12-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 150 Ks in 113 innings. He has a very odd delivery, but that did not stop him from being a finalist for the Roger Clemens Award (top college pitcher).
Luhnow: "He's a type of guy who, if you look at what he's done at Rice, he's excelled since he's gotten there. He's an exceptional pitcher. I think he's better than a fourth-round pitcher, and we got him in the fourth round."
Shane Robinson, OF, Florida State U., fifth round (166): Robinson is undersized, but he did nothing but produce at FSU. In 2005, he was the national player of the year according to Collegiate Baseball, had a 40-game hitting streak and led the country in hits and runs. Even in a "down" year in 2006, Robinson hit .361, stole 32 bases in 36 tries and walked much more often than he struck out.
Luhnow: "Robinson has demonstrated at a very elite program, and his numbers are elite. He's a guy that we're excited about. He's 5-9, and I think that kept him from going earlier. A guy like that who's six feet is a first- or second-round player."
Tyler Norrick, LHP, Southern Illinois U., sixth round (196): Predominantly a reliever for much of his career, Norrick became a starter for the Salukis in 2006. He went 5-5 with a 4.44 ERA. Norrick hails from the same school that produced Cards farmhand LHP Eric Haberer.
Luhnow: "Any time you have a chance to get a left-handed pitcher that has an average or above-average fastball, with a breaking ball like his, [you take him]."
Luke Gorsett, OF, U. of Nebraska, seventh round (226): Gorsett cranked 15 home runs to lead the Huskers, one of the nation's top teams, and slugged a robust .643.
Allen Craig, SS, U. of California (Berkeley), eighth round (256): Craig, a three-year starter for the Bears, saw his power grow steadily in each of his seasons at Berkeley. He topped out with 11 home runs in 54 games as a senior.
Matt North, RHP, Deer Valley (Calif.) High School, ninth round (286): A tall, slim righty (6-foot-4, 170), North has signed to play college ball at Long Beach State, one of the country's top programs. North's father, Jay, is a Cardinals scout.
Luhnow: "Great body, good mechanics, he's got a slightly below average fastball right now, but he's a projectable guy. He's going to need time to develop."
Blair Erickson, RHP, U. of California-Irvine, 10th round (316): Another college closer, Erickson tallied 13 saves for a team that played in an NCAA Regional this year. He struck out 57 in 52 1/3 innings, but also walked 33. Erickson has amassed 40 saves in three years with the Anteaters.
P.J. Walters, RHP, U. of South Alabama, 11th round (346): A serious workhorse, Walters won in double digits in each of his three years at South Alabama, and topped 150 innings this year. The right-hander had a better than 5:1 strikeout-walk ratio in 2006.
Luhnow: "According to our analysis, he's an elite pitcher from a performance standpoint. ... He's 6-4, 200 pounds, has absolutely dominated at the college level. [He] doesn't show the tools that get scouts excited to take him early and give him a lot of money, but for us he fits great."
David Carpenter, C, West Virginia U., 12th round (376): Carpenter became known for an impressive throwing arm. He threw out more than two-thirds of would-be base-stealers in 2005.
Luhnow: "He came to our workout in New Jersey, and he hit five balls out of the park in a row. ... He definitely has a good arm."
Travis Mitchell, OF, Parkway Central (Mo.) High School, 13th round (406): A local boy made good, Mitchell played at the same high school that produced University of Missouri star and first-round pick Max Scherzer. Mitchell has committed to play college ball at Mizzou.
Luhnow: "The University of Missouri is probably going to be pretty upset that he's with the Cardinals. I know it was a lifelong dream of his to become a Cardinal. He could be playing at Busch Stadium in four, five, six years."'
Jonathan Edwards, OF, Keller (Texas) High School, 14th round (436): Edwards is a mountain of a young man, listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds at the tender age of 18. Last fall, he was rated as one of the top 100 recruits in the country for the 2006-2007 college season.
Luhnow: "He actually runs pretty well for a big guy. He throws well. He hits the ball. ... This guy's got some power. He's an exciting guy."
Lance Zawadzki, SS, San Diego State U., 15th round (466): Zawadzki had a down year in 2006, but a year earlier, he put up big numbers for a shortstop. The Cardinals like his defense and expect him to hit.
Luhnow: "We had some area scouts who know him pretty well. I saw him. He was injured a little bit, didn't play the whole year. We think he's the kind of guy who's due for a rebound and he's going to have a rebound in pro ball, that's why we took him."
Thomas Pham, SS, Durango (Nev.) High School, 16th round (496): Pham has shown promise both as a pitcher and as a shortstop. He's committed to play college ball at powerhouse Cal State-Fullerton.
Luhnow: "We like him as an infielder. We were excited to get him where we got him in the draft. ... He sort of reminds you and looks a little bit like Derek Jeter in the field. Plus arm and a good bat."
Nathan Southard, OF, Tulane, 17th round (526): The third speedy center fielder taken by the Cards on the first day, Southard had a nice year for the Green Wave. He put up a .444 on-base percentage and stole 27 bases in 34 tries.
Amaury Cazana Marti, OF, 18th round (556): The greatest mystery and maybe the most potential in this class. The Cards had their eye on the Cuban native all the way back in Spring Training. He could start his U.S. career as high as Double-A Springfield.
Luhnow: "He's got some pretty extraordinary tools. He's got a type of bat that can contribute immediately.
"I think he's one of the strongest baseball players I've ever seen. You look at his arms, you look at his legs, this guy is incredibly strong. He has bat speed that you can't teach."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.