Cardinals go to college for Day 2
Club picks up 53 players during First-Year Player Draft
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' vice president for player procurement, was all smiles a few hours after the Redbirds finished their 2006 draft.
"I was pleased," he said. "We took calculated risks and had a lot of flexibility. Since we drafted in all 50 rounds, we don't have to sign everyone. We can pick and choose our spots carefully."
The club picked 53 players, including 37 college players, 15 high schoolers and one Cuban native, 27-year-old outfielder Amaury Cazana Marti.
By position, the Cards took 23 pitchers, including 16 right-handers. In the field, they drafted six catchers -- including five on the second day -- and 12 outfielders. No other infield spot had more than three draftees.
"We needed a lot of catchers," Luhnow said. "We have a lot of pitchers coming in and we need a lot of people to catch them."
Overall, the team's mantra was experience and production, a theme they carried through both days of the draft. The majority of the college players had three or four years of experience and had produced over several seasons for major Division I schools.
On Day 1, the draft yielded talented players from Division I powerhouses, including Rice, Miami and Florida State's Shane Robinson. Plucked in the sixth round, Robinson is an undersized outfielder who earned Collegiate Baseball's National Player of the Year award in 2005.
On Day 2, the Cards discovered other hidden gems from several Big 12 schools, including Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas and Nebraska, and some small universities, such as Texas Pan-American and High Point University.
"There were a lot of college guys who probably could have gone on Day 1, but for whatever reason, they did not," Luhnow said.
The trend started with their first pick of the day, Cornhuskers first baseman Brandon Buckman. The mammoth Buckman (he stands 6-foot-5), earned First Team All-Big 12 status this past spring and hit .338 over the past two seasons for the nationally ranked Huskers.
"We were nervous, because we knew he was going to go early in the day," Luhnow said. "A lot of teams look back at their boards at the end of Day 1 and see who is still high."
But the Cards snatched Buckman with the last pick in the 19th round -- one of several surprises the team drafted in Day 2.
Another talent, Roberto Gomez, a left-hander from Texas Pan-American, came in the 24th round. Luhnow said Gomez's curveball is similar to that of Jamie Garcia, one of the organization's top young players.
In the 30th round, Jared Schweitzer, Kansas' multi-faceted infielder, fell into the Cardinals' lap. The 6-foot-1 Schweitzer hit over .360 the last two years. He earned First Team All-Big 12 as a second baseman, but also played some first base and is listed as a third baseman on the draft day report.
Another big signing arrived with the 1,096th overall pick (36th round), when the Cards selected Adrian Alaniz, a right-hander from the University of Texas.
Alaniz went 7-4 with a 4.18 ERA this spring, but dominated in clutch situations for the Longhorns in 2005. The right-hander, flashing low-90s heat, went 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two College World Series starts, including tossing seven strong innings in Game 1 of the national championship.
"Usually in a spot like that, we are taking a flier on high school guys or a junior college player," Luhnow said.
Other surprises included Stanford outfielder James Rapoport in the 35th round and third baseman Tyler Mach, powerhouse Oklahoma State's leading hitter with a .354 average, in the 40th round.
"We had our eye on James for a long time and Tyler Mach is a special, special guy," Luhnow said.
Just like last season, the Cardinals also picked up several players with close ties to the team, choosing Missouri Baptist University catcher Scott Thomas with pick No. 1,156 (38th round).
Thomas, first drafted out of Chaminade High School by the Red Sox in 2003, is a local athlete who grew up in St. Louis. His dad, Lee Thomas, is currently a special assignment scout for the Brewers and was the Cardinals' director of player development during their successful run in the early and mid-1980s.
"He's got a good arm and can come in and make an impact," Luhnow said of the younger Thomas.
Outfielder Ross Smith, son of Cardinals scout Roger Smith, was picked in the 32nd round out of Dodge City (Calif.) High School.
In the 42nd round, the Redbirds selected Kyle Mura, a right-hander from Loyola Marymount University. Mura was a third baseman for LMU this past spring, but the Redbirds converted him to the mound. His father is Stephen Mura, a pitcher on the 1982 Cardinals team that won the World Series.
Cameron Grant, an outfielder from Hermitage (Va.) High Scohol, was selected in the 44th round. Grant is the great-nephew of longtime Cardinals scout Fred McAlister.
Most of the players will report to Florida and either be assigned to Class A State College (Pa.) or Rookie League Johnson City. Several of the players, including left-hander Nicholas Additon, a 47th-round selection, will be draft-and-follows.
Luhnow said Marti, because of his age and talent, will start as high Class A Palm Beach and could move to Double-A Springfield soon.
"It sounds like a gunshot when he hits the ball," Luhnow said. "All he has wanted from Day 1 is a chance."
As of Wednesday night, the Cardinals hadn't signed any players, but are close with several, including the No. 1 overall selection, right-hander Adam Ottavino.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.