As much as I enjoy the lead-up to the MLB Rule 4 Draft, the honest truth is way too much misinformation comes out in the week before Ryan Franklin represents the Cardinals. It appears picking 19th serves St. Louis well in the first round, however, with the 2013 edition looking to score the third potential ace in the last five years. While I don’t personally make mock drafts, enough of the names have circulated now to get a good feel for who could be the next Shelby Miller or Michael Wacha.
Thursday was a wealth of emotion, mixing huge highs with Franklin-like lows in closing out the longest game in memory since a certain 20-inning live blog that shall go unmentioned ever again. But in honor of our three loyal readers, my draft preview will stretch across the weekend right into next week where more big news (white smoke?) leads up to Thursday’s next bite at the prospect apple.
Two more first round picks will join the hallowed ranks of the Birds on the Bat, and recent history shows a good chance of making it to the all-important Texas League sooner rather than later. Since I live just down the I-44 from Springfield, all of my minor league games dating back to 2007 have been spent watching the defending TL Champs turn many unknowns into household names for the Cardinals. Not only is Hammons Field a great place to take in a game, there is not a bad seat anywhere, and I highly recommend the Redbird Roost.
As nice as the stadium is, by far my favorite part of taking in an SCards game is the competition. Springfield is one of only four teams in the North Division and plays the other three squads eight times. Double-A can make or break your career, and St. Louis has taken to aggressively promoting its top talent in order to test them. Look no further than the first two months for the Cardinals and where each of the reinforcements pitched at least part of 2012.
Aside from Miller who spent the season in Memphis, eight hurlers who wore an SCards uniform at some point last year have been called up to the Majors. Wacha earned a late season promotion and was a member of the Championship squad. Joining him in raising the first title for Springfield were Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness in the rotation. They replaced John Gast and Tyler Lyons who earned mid-season promotions to Memphis as well as Trevor Rosenthal, who brought his 100 mph fastball to the big league bullpen.
You can’t win without a strong bullpen, and recent call-ups Michael Blazek and Keith Butler have provided as strong a duo as the Texas League has seen the last two campaigns. Any way you look at it, Springfield’s model has proven successful but can not last without continued support. All of the injuries have a trickle-down effect, putting stress on each level. Palm Beach and Peoria have stepped up with last year’s draft picks filling in admirably, but the true test will come in the next two months.
The Cardinals have a real shot at adding another late season burst as Wacha did down the stretch. The question will be which direction the organization takes especially if another big-armed college hurler drops in their lap. Check back for part two on Sunday, where the list of potential rotation mates gets introduced, PH8 style.