St. Clair could be sleeper for Dodgers
Seventh-round Draft pick out to prove he's healthy and ready
OMAHA, Neb. -- When the Dodgers grabbed Cole St. Clair in the seventh round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft earlier this month, the selection might not have had the cache that accompanies a pick in the first two or three rounds. Yet, what St. Clair lacks in name recognition and pizzazz, he makes up for with talent and intelligence.
Los Angeles will gladly take the latter attributes over the former knowing full well that St. Clair might be in a position to help the parent club before too long. The senior left-hander, who was also drafted in the seventh round in 2007 by Cleveland, has done a little bit of everything for Rice this season, working both ends of the game as well as the middle.
While his future may ultimately be as a closer, his versatility is what makes him so attractive in the present. Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager in charge of scouting, views St. Clair as one of the more important pieces the club will add out of this season's Draft.
"He could be the sleeper in our Draft," White said. "First off, he's a smart kid and we love how he competes. He's a tall, rangy lefty that throws it in the 88-to-91 range. He's really deceptive and sneaky fast. He knows how to pitch.
"He's also got a good assortment of breaking pitches. He brings size [6-foot-5, 225 pounds] and competitiveness. That's what excites me about Cole. We think he has a chance to be a sleeper and move fairly well through the system."
St. Clair (10-2, 2.56, five saves) appeared in his 23rd game (20th out of the bullpen) on Sunday afternoon, striking out one while pitching a scoreless inning. He was the only one of the seven Rice pitchers to not allow a run in a 17-5 defeat to Fresno State in a College World Series opening-round game, a fact that isn't all that surprising since he's been the club's most consistent pitcher all season.
He has now allowed only one earned run in 12 2/3 College World Series innings, striking out 11 and picking up a save during that stretch. St. Clair averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year and held the opposition to a .224 batting average in 58 2/3 innings. Ask him to put on his scout hat, however, and render an opinion on what Los Angeles has in him and a grin appears.
"That's a dangerous game to play," said St. Clair, an economics major who added that he was "six hours away from being a religious studies major."
"I have the confidence to succeed wherever they put me," he added. "They are going to take the standard route with me, I would imagine. And I'll most likely start [playing] in rookie ball."
Whether St. Clair starts with Ogden of the rookie Pioneer League or Great Lakes of the Midwest League, he'll do so with a clean bill of health. He missed two months in 2007 with a mysterious arm ailment, one that school officials at Rice refused to identify, and talk of the injury still continues to follow St. Clair, which annoys him.
"I'm fine," he said. "I don't know what else I can do. I pitched a full season this year, so I have nothing to complain about. They told me it was tendinitis. That's what the doctors always say when they don't know what's wrong with you. It was just something that was inflamed and I just needed rest. I've pitched a full season now. I can only keep pitching."
White said that St. Clair was touted as a high Draft pick earlier in his career and that the injury may have played a part in his losing a tad bit of luster with the pundits. But St. Clair, in the opinion of the Dodgers, has successfully battled past those maladies to become the steadying force on the Rice staff.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity," said St. Clair, who is from Santa Ana, Calif., a town not far from Los Angeles. "It's the hometown team for me. I was a little surprised because I barely talked to the Dodgers at all [before the Draft]. I don't even think I met their regional scout. But you've heard all those stories about players who had no idea a team was going to take them and then they did."
It will be interesting now to see how long it takes "the sleeper" to awaken.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.