Stacking the Deck

No matter your preference, it is always fun when new players are added to the organization. That can mean via trade, free agency, or even an international signing but the excitement about learning how the player found their way to the Cardinals will top my list every time.

St. Louis more than any team in the National League Central has overcome more hurdles when it comes to drafting and still keeps finding players that make a difference. Only the Cards and Yankees can boast what I found to be an utterly amazing stat that just shows how different organizations do business. New York obviously has the money to acquire or sign just about any player (Stanton) but also the longevity as a winning franchise to not have to rely on the draft for talent.

In the modern draft era (since the calendar hit 2000), the Birds on the Bat join the Yankees as the only other club not to have made a selection in the Top 10 of the draft. Think about that for a minute – as good as front office staffs are and the mileage that scouting departments put in, it takes more than luck to find the hidden gems or even ones that fill rolls in the minors. Every year there will be a few top players that slip for whatever reason, and this may again end up being the model chosen by both teams.

The main difference that sets the two model franchises apart outside of market obviously has to be getting the player signed. New York can afford to go big and possibly miss out on a player, but the same can not be said under the Arch. That does limit options to a degree, but the Cards proved in 2016 that they found the model needed headed into this draft season. Holding three selections the first day, St. Louis will be quite busy reading the boards and hoping everything goes to plan.

Looking back at the landmark draft from two years ago, Delvin Perez was that guy too hard to pass up when he fell. Will the same thing happen again and if so, what’s the strategy for finding the money in order to make it a perfect Day 1? The most likely outcomes have already been debated plenty of times in the War Room for the Cardinals, so this is my best guess at figuring out the equation.

Theory One

Given how deep this draft has developed for picking three in the top 75, St. Louis will be able to decide how to proceed when one or two of the top rated players falls to 19. Much like in 2016 with Perez, the preferred method was to use the 2nd selection on a ‘safe’ pick where the team already knew how much under budget the player would take. Dylan Carlson might not have been rated as a first round talent, but it was a smart play for both sides. Finishing out the round with a monster signing like Dakota Hudson was basically hitting the draft lotto, but those rarely happen multiple times.

Theory Two

This will be called the back-up plan simply because one other team has the exact same set-up as the Cardinals did two years ago. Play close attention to how the Royals draft given that they have four of the first 40 picks and will see five total additions to the system by the end of day one. Oh, and Kansas City first goes on the clock at #18 so they could very well play spoiler to the entire start of the night.

Theory Three

My preferred method of attacking the draft has to be ignoring who falls initially and sticking with the board. That simply means not drifting from the chosen path and taking the best rated player who you know will sign at or below the 3.2 million mark. While there is a fairly large gap between picks, Cleveland and Tampa Bay will have joined the Royals in making at least three selections already which puts St. Louis in the driver’s seat. Look for a highly-rated prospect with a fairly significant price tag to be available before the second round begins, and the Cardinals ready to pull the trigger.

As far as how the board looks, that is truly anyone’s guess at this point. While everyone seems to have a college hurler already destined to be the first pick, the fast-moving pitchers can wait a round or two in my opinion. Give me a player who slots at a position of need (first or third base), already apt at connecting with a wood bat and call it a win. So basically if St. Louis announces Seth Beer with the 19th pick, I will be MIA the rest of the week.

Instead, it would be absolutely amazing to see an under slot deal with Wichita State’s Greyson Jenista or former target Cadyn Grenier with the saved money going to the other first day selections. If anything has been proven the last decade, it is that the Cardinals will use all their resources right up to the loss of an ever-important pick in order to maximize the returns.

After missing out on much of the fun last year, it means even more to see how the drama unfolds with a variety of methods at work. Will the high school talent win out in the end or have some clubs decided the sticker shock isn’t worth it after all? The time for debate has all but passed as the Tigers are on the clock so let the madness begin!

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