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Cards focus on college experience
06/08/2004  8:30 PM ET
And in the 27th round, they took a high school player.

Insisting that there was no set plan to select all college players in this year's First Year Player Draft, the Cardinals nonetheless used 43 of their 47 selections on players with at least some college experience. Most of those players came from Division 1 programs, and quite a few played in the recent NCAA regionals.

If there's something to be said for knowing what you're getting, then there's definitely a lot to like about this year's class of "Baby 'Birds." They have enough experience that the team can have more of a read on what they're capable of, as compared to high school players.

"The process with which we attempted to do this draft this year, I'm very comfortable with," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals' assistant general manager and scouting director. "I think there are some things we can do to improve on it, but it was a process that went smoothly."

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As for the absence of younger players to fill out the lower levels of the minor leagues...

"It's a little bit of a concern, but in this day and age I can't let it be the overriding factor in looking at talent," Mozeliak said. "We never made a decision based on age. It was always based on talent. We never jumped a high school player to take a college player."

Of the Fab 47, 21 are pitchers, 13 infielders, eight play outfield and five are catchers, including Christian Reyes, a catcher from Puerto Rico drafted in the 27th round. Forty of the first 41 selections came from the college ranks.

"We never made a decision based on age. It was always based on talent. We never jumped a high school player to take a college player."
-- Assistant GM/scouting director John Mozeliak

Once you get to the second day of the draft, a significant element of the decision-making process is simply to gain depth for the minor leagues. The players may or may not ever see the Majors or even the high minors. But Mozeliak contends that even in the 20s and 30s, the Cardinals were finding what they considered to be promising players.

That comes partly from eying players who had success in NCAA Division 1 baseball. But the notion that this draft reflects some pure distillation of the "Moneyball" philosophy rankles the Redbirds.

"I won't say we were strictly results-oriented," said Mozeliak. "That would be unfair. But we did look for a common theme among our players. And that was to have some upside in the baseball world, meaning if they do this they may come back. It wasn't just someone who did well at Division 1 but would have nothing to improve on."

Still, St. Louis attempted to go with a more systematic approach to drafting this year. Whether it pans out remains to be seen. But it's a change, and for an organization that hasn't drafted particularly well in recent years, change might have some value in and of itself.

"I'm very comfortable in the way we did this in terms of the methodology we used," said Mozeliak. "I think that all the decisions we made in this draft, we made based on what our scouts told us and what some of our internal analysis exposed. It helped us really put a board in order we were all very comfortable with."

If you're looking for late-round sleepers, here are a couple to keep your eyes on...

  • Austin Tubb, RHP, University of Southern Mississippi: Tubb had a dominating year as the closer for the Golden Eagles, striking out 49 in 38 2/3 innings for a team that reached the postseason.

  • Michael Gross, RHP, University of North Carolina: Like Tubb, Gross pitched in relief and struck out well over a batter per inning. He did it for a team that posted a strong season in one of the nation's toughest conferences, the ACC.

    "Tubb and Gross really had good statistical numbers," said Mozeliak. "They throw from down low. So they're deceptive, not overpowering, but they have great results. And they have an out pitch."

  • Jose Delgado, 2B, Texas Tech: For the second time in the draft, the Cards took both halves of a double-play combination. On Monday they picked up Cameron Blair, Tech's shortstop. Delgado was an on-base machine, getting on at a .443 clip in the tough Big XII conference and also showing impressive speed.

    This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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