Monday, February 8, 2010

Cardinals on the Farm

The St. Louis Cardinals have never been known for having a great farm system. Sure, they have turned out guys like Albert Pujols, Dan Haren, Jack Wilson, and JD Drew.

The Cardinals have a much different draft strategy from other teams. The Cardinals prefer safe picks in the early portion of the draft, which produces solid role players that fit within a team built around a couple of guys every season. And this plan works and works well.

But they don't have any high end talent.

There are a few different reasons for this.

The first, as I said, is that the Cardinals play it safe in the draft. It isn't a bad idea, as the team continually wins, but it will never produce great talents (unless a Pujols type player comes around in the 13th round again). Shelby Miller was the exception here. Not a safe pick and Miller should be a star.

The next reason actually lies within the previous reason. What is that pray tell?

They don't have losing seasons very often.

If you lose, you move higher in the draft. Ask the Tampa Bay Rays how their system became so stacked. Go ask the Pirates how good top draft picks can be when you're willing to spend and not be stupid (the Pirates don't do the former and do the opposite of the latter way too often).

The Cardinals don't lose. Seven postseason berths over the last ten years doesn't produce high draft picks. The one time the Cardinals had a top 15 pick (#13 overall in 2008), they took a top-talent in Brett Wallace.

In 2007, when the Cardinals picked 18th, they played it safe with Pete Kozma (well, they thought they played it safe) and passed on Rick Porcello and Brett Cecil (twice). (Side note: the Chicago Cubs actually passed on Matt Wieters in that draft for Josh's that working out?)

Another reason the Cardinals don't have a stacked farm: they don't trade their most expensive talent for young, top prospects.

The Texas Rangers have the top system in the game for this reason. They convinced the Atlanta Braves to trade Elvis Andrus, among others, for Mark Teixeira. In return, the Rangers filled their system out with top talents*.

And it helped that the Rangers pretty much sucked for several years and had top pick after top pick in the draft.

*The Braves actually dealt Teixeira for Casey Kotchman, who was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for Adam LaRoche and was not offered arbitration either, and Steve Marek. Oh, the Braves also received Ron Mahay in the deal. So, if you're following, the Rangers added five top prospects; the Angels received two draft picks for Kotchman and half-a-season from Teixeira; the Braves received close to a full season of Teixeira, half-a-season from Mahay, one draft pick, half-a-season from LaRoche (and no compensation)...all for five top prospects.

Balanced? I think not. Oh, the Braves did it again in the Javier Vazquez swap that sent more top prospects to the Chicago White Sox, and then flipped Vazquez to the New York Yankees for a decent prospect and Melky Cabrerra.

I totally lost myself here.

Ummmm, Cardinals don't trade expensive talent for prized prospects, don't suck, play it safe...

Oh yeah. I remember now. Final reason. Right here.

They actually win.

Yes, it is the same as not losing, but the Cardinals actually win. They play it safe in the draft and receive the role players that help ascend the team to success. Who needs top-tier talent when you win?

When the Cardinals start losing, worry then about the no prized prospects.

Let the good times role, baby.

Did I send you off on a bad note? Sorry. To help ease your pain, let me leave you with five songs you need to listen to if you haven't already:
"Into the Night" - Santana featuring Chad Kroeger
"Magic Touch" - Aerosmith
"Waiting for Tonight" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Gimme Some Water" - Eddie Money
"Grand Illusion" - Eric Clapton
"Games Without Frontiers" - Peter Gabriel


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