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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Better Cardinals drafts mean fewer free agents

The prevailing line of thought regarding the construction of the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster is that the club has focused more on drafted talent and less on acquiring proven major leaguers via trading away some of those drafted players.

Only the first half of that supposition is accurate – if the club’s National League Championship Series 25-man rosters from its last five appearances are a good indication. (Note the 2012 LCS roster remains the same as it was in the Division Series.)

Sourcing of St. Louis Cardinals NLCS rosters since 2004

LCS roster draft free agent acquired Rule 5 total
2012 16 3 6 25
2011 11 7 7 25
2006 6 13 6 25
2005 5 12 7 1 25
2004 4 11 9 1 25

As the table above indicates, the 2012 Cardinals – with 16 homegrown players among the 25 active – have more players drafted by the organization than their 2004, 2005 and 2006 NLCS clubs combined (14). Here are the details behind the current 16.

St. Louis Cardinals active players by draft class and round, 2012 LCS

Player (round)
2009 M Carpenter (13) Kelly (3) Miller (1) Rosenthal (21)
2008 Lynn (1s)
2007 Chambers (38) Cruz (26) Descalso (3) Kozma (1)
2006 Craig (8) Jay (2) Robinson (5)
2005 Boggs (5)
2003 Motte (19)
2001 Schumaker (5)
2000 Molina (4)

However, the number of players acquired via trade has remained fairly constant – at either six or seven in the last four LCS.

Further, only three of the six acquired players on the current roster were added as major leaguers – Edward Mujica, Marc Rzepczynski and Matt Holliday*. The other three became Cardinals while still minor leaguers – Adam Wainwright, Fernando Salas and David Freese.

The decline that corresponds to the growth in drafted players is from those signed via the free agent market. The current Cardinals have just three such free agent-acquired players – Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Carlos Beltran. That compares to 13 as recently as 2006.

It seems clear that the club will continue to fill needs via trade as needed. The key acquisition of Mujica this summer is a good reminder. Same with selective use of free agency, such as signing Beltran to replace Albert Pujols last winter.

However, the days of bringing in major league journeymen to fill out the roster are past – at least as long as the farm system continues to produce.

(* Note that I am counting how the players joined the team in their current contiguous service. For example, Holliday was first a trade acquisition and is listed that way, even though he re-signed later as a free agent.)

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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28 Responses to “Better Cardinals drafts mean fewer free agents”

  1. CariocaCardinal says:

    Wouldn’t Salas be technically a FA acquisition?

    In this time frame have we had no Latin American free agents (other than Salas)? I wonder if any other team ha been so successful without LA free agents (aren’t they 25% of major leaguers now?)

    • Brian Walton says:

      No. Salas’ contract was purchased, so I listed that as an acquisition. (Had he qualified, Victor Marte would have been the same situation – acquired for cash considerations.)

      Good observation about homegrown Latin players. So far, Eduardo Sanchez would be the only one – had he made the LCS roster. Oscar Taveras would seem to be next.

  2. Nutlaw says:

    I hadn’t quite realized that the difference was that drastic. It’s much easier to root for a team constructed in this fashion, in my mind. Good stuff!

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    The Cards almost won the series over the Nats in a 3 game sweep. The Nats got lucky in Game 1 and were blown out the next two games.
    The Giants lost both home games versus the Reds. Lets hope they drop Games 1 and 2 again.

    The Giants are scrappy and have good pitchers. Its hard to win with so little offense from first base and the OF corners.
    The last two years, we have eliminated the Phils, Brewers, Rangers, Braves, and Gnats. The Giants seem less challenging. Lets show them no mercy.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Freese gets off to a good start. Its always nice to draw first blood and put pressure on the other team.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    We had a great poster during 2012, Wes. I miss Wes. Don’t let the losers get you down Wes, come on back and have fun aggravating them some more.

  6. blingboy says:

    Pete was just bored in the Pacific Coast League.

    Anybody can lead their team in RBIs hitting .300 but it takes a special talent to do it hitting .230

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    This is shaping up as a tough game for Giants fans. Bumgamer does not have enough quality pitches to control the Cards, while Lynn is pumping gas.
    Lance must have swilled some Geritol to get ready for prime time. Hey Lance, this is not the Tour De France and your name is not Armstrong.

  8. blingboy says:

    6-0 leads are not secure.

  9. Bw52 says:

    wake up Matheny……………………hello…………….hello?

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    I wonder who calls the pitches. Lynn has been throwing mostly fastballs, good ones, but not varying pitches enough.

  11. JumboShrimp says:

    Mujica, what a work of art in the bottom of the 7th. Beautiful.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It impressed the official scorer enough for him to award the win to Mujica.

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        I wondered how got is decided when I heard it was announced. I knew Kelly and several relievers went scoreless but I gues if several fit the criteria some faceless/nameless official gets to decide?

      • Brian Walton says:

        MLB Rule 10.17

        (b) If the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed
        (1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or
        (2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.

  12. CariocaCardinal says:

    John Sickles wrote an article over at today on this same subject – yours was much more complete.

  13. JumboShrimp says:

    It will be surprising if the Giants give Bumgamer another start. They cannot afford to have a starter who buries them.
    The Cards have power the Giants lack. We rode two 2 run shots to victory, protecting it with an impressive parade of relievers.
    Carlos, nifty job, that’s why we pay you the big bucks.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      One non-obvious positive. Lance Lynn threw impressive heat. It worked the first time through the Giants lineup. Next start, he needs to vary velocity the second time through their lineup.

  14. blingboy says:

    “. . . even after losing Jaime Garcia for the season, the Cardinals still have Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright lined up to start the next three games. That’ll work.”

    For once I agree with ESPN.

    Had to get to bed when it was 6-4, just aftter Mighty Joe put out the fire. I expected just about anything this morning, except 6-4. I guess the O went back into hibernation and the pen took over. Nice one.

  15. Brian Walton says:

    The P-D also has their homegrown article out now. They take credit for Salas, too. The Mexican League gets no respect.

    Also, Peter Gammons is writing about the Cardinals farm system, but interestingly, he twice named Gary LaRocque as being “at the helm” of the farm system, though he misspelled Gary’s last name both times. No mention of John Vuch.

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