2011 MLB Draft Preview: Part 1

One of my favorite times of the year is happening as we speak. Leading up to the MLB Draft (June 6-8) gets a lot of buzz about players draft stock rising and falling, mock drafts from every outlet and blog sites, the rumors of outrageous bonus demands and the promise to improve each teams farm system. The 2011 MLB Draft class is loaded with talent and is considered by some as the best draft class ever. Time will tell but that gives you an idea of what type of talent level we are talking about.

In my 2 part series I am going to focus on the Cards draft for 2011. We will focus on our draft history, strategy trends and players that I anticipate us focusing on in the first few rounds. In Part 1 we will focus on our draft history and strategy trends (under Luhnow) and how I anticipate this getting tweaked a bit this year.

Jeff Luhnow, Vice President of Player Procurement, has lead the Cards draft since 2005. He was also in charge of our player development until this offseason where a few changes occurred to allow Luhnow to focus on scouting and the draft and transition player development to John Vuch who has been with the organization since the 70’s. Luhnow has produces such talent as Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, John Jay, Chris Perez (Indians via trade), Brett Wallace (Astros via trade), Shelby Miller and Zack Cox to name a few. The biggest knock on Luhnow is he hasn’t produced many star players throughout the years. Part of the reason was we had very little depth in system. For a number of years we were looking for faster moving high floor players to show quick results with our players. In more recent years we have seen him go with a little more upside as our system gets a little more depth. Two years ago we hit our system hard with 2 big trades (Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa) that forced us to hand over a number of players that were in our Top 10-15 prospects. Overall he has done an adequate job but definitely not extraordinary. He has a chance to do big things this year with so much talent available. Here is a rundown of the Cards typical draft strategy/trends since 2005.

One of the obvious trends we have seen over the years is we like power arm relievers earlier in the draft than most teams (some might has been starters in college but projected as back of the bullpen arms int he pros). Some of the arms have included Chris Perez, Scott Bittle, Jordan Swaggerty (could stick as a starter but questionable) and Joe Kelly (the one on this list that has the best chance to stick as a starter). So there is a decent chance if the right power armed reliever is on the board in the 2nd-5th Rds we might snag him.

Cards love their sinking FB projectable college arms early int eh draft (AKA Lance Lynn, Clayton Mortensen and Seth Blair). With pitching being talented and deep in the 2011 draft we are almost certainly going to snag one of these types of arms in the 2nd-5th Rds.

Cards value defensive focused middle of the field position players early (Rasmus, Jay, T. Greene, Kozma, Stock, Stanley and R. Jackson). In fact very few of our early position player picks have been anything else. With plenty of talent in middle of the field projected in Rds 1S-3 there might be a few on our radar for the 2nd and 3rd Rds picks.

In the 1st Rd we tend to snag guys that fall for whatever reason (Wallace, Cox and Miller the last 3 yrs). I would almost guarantee that this happens again this year.

In terms of budget we are usually in the middle of the pack but we upped our budget last year (and it was needed with so many compensation picks). I get the impression that we will be in the upper 1/3 of spending in 2011 as well. I get this feeling as we have depth and need upside. So typically it will be guys that fall due to price tag that are the upside guys so if we are looking that direction then we will have to spend some dough.

Those are the key trends of the Cards drafts over the past 5 years. I would be surprised if we change our strategy too much this year but we should be focusing on more upside than we have over the years.

I will post Part 2 of this series over the weekend that talks about players that we should be targeting with our first few picks and what each brings to the table.