06/07/2004 1:32 PM ET
Cards take college pitcher Lambert
Boston College right-hander selected 19th overall
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
|Chris Lambert was Big East Pitcher of the Year for Boston College this past season. (courtesy Boston College)
ST. LOUIS -- On draft day, the Cardinals and college pitchers go together as well and as consistently as Scott Boras and big bonuses.
St. Louis selected right-handed pitcher Chris Lambert from Boston College in the first round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Monday. Lambert was the 19th overall pick in the draft.
Going back to 1992, nine of the Cardinals' 13 first-round draft picks have been used on college pitchers.
A junior from Manchester, N.H., Lambert said he's eager to get started playing professional baseball.
"I wasn't really expecting anything," said Lambert, who was projected to go anywhere from 14th overall to the end of the first round. "I had a good feeling about the first round, but I was glad to hear my name called, I'll tell you that. I'm glad it was with the Cardinals.
"I'm anxious to get with the Cardinals and get my feet wet in pro ball. It's been a dream all along to play pro baseball. The faster the better, but no one knows what's gonna happen."
Lambert throws hard and complements that with a curveball, slider and changeup. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, according to Boston College -- the Cardinals say he's more like 220 pounds.
The 21-year-old went 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA for B.C. in 16 starts this season. He struck out a school-record 107 and walked 51 in 92 1/3 innings as the Eagles went 32-27.
"We're very lucky to get the pitcher we got today," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals' assistant general manager and scouting director. "The board kind of went in order of how we ranked it. Lambert ... has a plus fastball and three above-average offspeed pitches currently. He'll probably end up having to settle between a slider and a curveball.
"But he has great pitchability right now, and outstanding arm strength. Upwards of 97 mph with his fastball. A great competitor. He competed well in the Big East. He was their Friday night starter and should be a nice pick for us."
In addition to his baseball exploits, Lambert was a promising hockey defenseman in high school. On the baseball field, he was almost exclusively an infielder until he got to college.
"I pitched a limited amount for my high school team," he said. "They had me play short. I was a pretty good hitter, believe it or not. Even though I haven't hit in about four years now. I'm relatively young in the pitching world. I've gotten some coaching at school, but I have a long way to go, I know."
St. Louis had its collective eye on Lambert from early in the season, when he projected as a high first-round pick. His ERA climbed somewhat from his previous two seasons, but his peripheral numbers -- strikeout rate, batting average against and home run rate -- all remained strong. Lambert allowed a total of nine home runs in 45 starts over his three years at B.C.
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-1 W: 205
Born: 1983-03-08 Class: SR
DEFINITIVE STRENGTH THROUGH OUT. ESPECIALLY BROAD SHOULDERS. BIG BACK. LONG, STURDY LEGS. HIGH REAR. TRIM ATHLETIC BUILD. SEMI WINDUP, 3/4 DELIVERY. STIFF FRONT LEG, FINISH. QUICK & LOOSE ARM. HARD, BORING FB WILL BREAK BATS. SELDOM USED SINKING CHANGE, PLUS POTENTIAL. BEST CB SIMILAR TO SLIDER, SHORT, QUICK, LATE, 3/4 BREAK. AGGRESSIVE, ATTACKS HITTERS. ARM ACTION CONDUCIVE TO SLIDER IN FUTURE. EXCELLENT WORK HABITS.
Lambert was taken higher than any other Boston College player in the history of the modern draft. He was named the Big East Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2004 and was a first-team All-Conference selection in each of his three seasons. He holds the school's career records for strikeouts (282) and ERA (2.84).
The Cards are already deep in pitching, but this year's draft was long on college pitchers and short on position players. The two most appealing college position players, Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew and Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields, both went in the four picks before St. Louis drafted.
"This was a pitching-rich draft," said Mozeliak. "And when I say that, I mean on the upside.
"We didn't have any position players in this realm. It was really kind of a no-brainer at this point. For talent, he was just head and shoulders above any position players we had in that area."
Mozeliak said that he does not expect signability to be a problem with Lambert, who pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer along with his college experience. Should Lambert sign this summer, he would likely be assigned either to short-season New Jersey of the New York-Penn League or Peoria of the low Single-A A Midwest League.
In a best-case scenario, at some point Lambert could become the second New Hampshire native in the St. Louis rotation, joining Chris Carpenter.
"I had a couple friends that I knew in high school that knew (Carpenter), but I was young when he got drafted," said Lambert. "I haven't actually talked to him. I'd be surprised if he knew who I was, but I know who he is."
Last season the Cardinals selected high school catcher Daric Barton, and thus far Barton has been a success. In his first taste of full-season professional baseball, Barton, 18, is off to a torrid start with Peoria. He's batting .394 with a .524 on-base percentage.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.