Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Key to Winning: Choose Wisely ; despite Low Draft Picks, Cardinals Always Produce a Robust Farm System

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Key to Winning: Choose Wisely ; despite Low Draft Picks, Cardinals Always Produce a Robust Farm System

Article excerpt

Why is St. Louis in the playoffs year after year? Because they draft well, finding future major-league players, even though they never have high picks.

More often than not, the path to the National League pennant goes through Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Starting in 2000, the Cardinals have played in seven N.L. Championship Series, the same total as the New York Yankees in the American League.

In that time, the Cardinals have not gone more than two years in a row without making the playoffs, a run of success that has kept them from having a draft choice higher than 13th over all since 1998. And while the Cardinals rank among the top 10 teams in payroll, they are well below the Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. They need big results from the draft.

"Without it, you can't do it," General Manager John Mozeliak said Wednesday. "In the midmarkets, you can't sustain success without having a very strong internal pipeline. There's no way. Because if we go out in the free-agent market, 9 times out of 10 we're going to lose the bidding war."

Last winter, the Cardinals lost the bidding for their own free agent, Albert Pujols, but replaced him at first base with Allen Craig, an eighth-round draft pick in 2006. To approximate Pujols's production, they signed the veteran right fielder Carlos Beltran for two years and $26 million.

Beltran left Game 3 after one inning Wednesday with a left knee strain. In his place, Manager Mike Matheny used Matt Carpenter, a 13th-round draft pick in 2009. Carpenter hit a two-run home run off the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain in the third inning, helping the Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants, 3-1, in a game that was delayed three and a half hours by rain.

Reliever Trevor Rosenthal, a 21st-round pick in 2009, followed Kyle Lohse in the sixth with two on and two out and got a fielder's choice grounder from Angel Pagan to end the inning. Rosenthal threw fastballs at 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, an hour.

Another reliever, Mitchell Boggs, took over for Edward Mujica with two on and one out in the seventh. Boggs, a fifth-round pick in 2005, struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt with sliders to escape the jam.

All of those players -- Craig, Carpenter, Rosenthal and Boggs -- arrived at the Cardinals at a point in the draft when most top prospects are long gone. The Cardinals would not be in the series without them and others, like catcher Yadier Molina (fourth round, 2000), second baseman Daniel Descalso (third round, 2007) and closer Jason Motte (19th round, 2003).

"The success of our draft has really been mid- to late-round picks," Mozeliak said. "We haven't hit a grand slam with our first- round picks, but we've done really well after. We recognize that every draft pick is a possibility.

"Over the last 12 to 15 years, our amateur scouting process has evolved a lot. …

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