Today is one of the most exciting days for MLB prospect nerds around World…the start of the MLB Draft! This is going to be a very interesting year to pay closer attention to the draft as their is new CBA rules in place that impacts how teams approach their draft strategy. The key here is the hard slotting system for the combination of the first ten rounds and the penalties if teams go over that or don’t sign a player. I won’t get into the new CBA here as there are many sites that have great detail about it. I want to focus on our St. Louis Cardinal’s draft strategy and key individuals that we should be targeting with our early picks. Let’s jump right in…
The Cardinals had a nice run with Jeff Luhnow running the draft over the last number of years. Luhnow with the Astros now gets to have something he never had in his time in St. Louis: Making the #1 overall pick. All reports are indicating Mark Appel (RHP Stanford) are going to be the pick after a tug of war over him and Byron Buxton (OF GA HS) over the last few weeks. So this means the Cardinals have a new face running the draft and potentially a different strategy. Dan Krantrovitz is our new Director of Scouting. From all interviews with him and Mo that address the draft strategy it appears the overall framework of the strategy will be very similiar to what we had grown accustom to under Luhnow. The one difference is it appears we might be looking for more upside more often and slightly less emphasis on the “safe” college pick which happened at times. Obviously we will find out over the next few days and the CBA will impact how much we can do this. My take is we will see more HS players taken in the first few picks but plenty of slot or underslot college picks to compensate the hard slot system. Continue reading
Its that time again gang. Last year I bombed pretty bad on a number predictions but that doesn’t scare me away from doing it again! Who will win the World Series? Who will take home the Cy Young Awards? Who do the ROY honors go to? Without further ado…
Walking up to Roger Dean Stadium I could just feel the vibe of baseball, brats and beers. We arrived around 10:30am to see the team practicing on the backfields though this was our first ever time to Jupiter to experience the Cards Spring Training so we had no idea where to go and we were also in ahh over the experience. After taking pictures of Roger Dean and asking a few employees and other Cards fans how to get to the backfields we made our way back. It is quite a hike to get around the stadium and all the way around to the backfields but it was well worth our time. Matheny was right in the middle of everything leading his troops. The players were much more relaxed as you would expect at practice early in Spring Training with the exception of the youngsters that had something to prove…this was their chance to be in front of the coaches, players and front office to make an impression. For me it was a chance to get closer to all the players, coaches and front office which was an experience of a lifetime for a hardcore baseball and Cards fan. It was like a community back there as all the fans would talk with anyone just like you were neighbors for the last 10 years. Talking baseball with others that love baseball is much as you is quite exciting. Practice was winding down and many fans were heading to Roger Dean to get situated before the game…I wanted to stay as long as anyone was back there practicing. It came down to Matheny working directly with some of the young catchers such as De La Cruz, Stanley and Hill. Afterwards Matheny came over and chatted a little with the few fans left and signed autographs…my first autograph of Spring Training was our our new skipper!
Your 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals are about to start their 2012 Spring Training games. I’m not sure about you but just saying that gets me excited! After winning the World Series you better believe every team will be looking to knock us off and put just a little more effort into doing it. So what has happened since I was by the RF foul (or fair) pole for the last out of Game 7 of the WS? Unless you have lived on a different planet for the past number of months you know the answer to that question is a TON!
The Cardinals have had the luxury for the last 16 years of knowing exactly who was managing their ball club. After 33 years of managing Tony La Russa is hanging it up and going out a winner. Its the perfect scenario…the Cardinals have known since August of his intentions and then the remarkable comeback in September and the amazing playoff run that takes 7 games in the World Series in front of close to 50K people in your home stadium. That how you draw it up in fantasy land.
With TLR retiring the Cardinals identified 6 candidates that range all over the board of attributes and experience. Ryne Sandberg and Joe McEwing are quickly shooting up the ranks of potentially being the next great rookie manager. Jose Oquendo is a dedicated Cardinal family member that was thought to be the heir apparent to TLR the last few years. Mike Matheny is well loved and respected by Cardinal Nation and has played an instrumental role as a Special Assistant to the Cardinals in recent years though he has never managed. Terry Francona is the big name that had coached the BoSox for the last 8 years but was relieved of his duties after an epic collapse down the stretch. Then a slew of reports came out about players drinking in the clubhouse while the game was going on and how Francona had lost his players. Last but not least is current Memphis Cardinals manager Chris Maloney who has spent 18 years as a minor league manager mostly with the Cardinal Organization. These 6 candidates tell you one thing about the search: The Cardinals do not have a specific profile for their next manager.
So who gets the tough task of run the reigning World Champion Cardinals in 2012?
My preference is to go with Sandberg with Matheny coming in a close second. I give Ryno the nod mainly for his approach to becoming a big league manager. After a Hall of Fame career he didn’t expect for someone to just give him a big league job…he earned it by working his way up through the minor league ranks. He dedicated himself to learning all the way from a special assistant role for the Cubs in Spring Training to managing in A, AA and AAA for the Cubs Organization before being passed up for his first big league managing position with Sweet Lou was out as the Cubs manager in 2011. Ryno decided to take his talents to the Phils Organization to manage their AAA affiliate. Sandberg has gained respect from his peers and front office personnel across MLB. He is known as a very well prepared skipper and has an aggressive managing style. He likes to force the issue, movement on the base paths and hit-and-run. He is a great mentor, leader and seems to gain the respect from the clubhouse which is extremely important.
I personally am a fan of Matheny as a manager in the big leagues some day and feel he has a lot of the same attributes as Sandberg…but it would be extremely risky to put a manager in place that has never managed the game at any level to prove he can do it day in and day out. That’s why I tend to lean toward Sandberg. Some in Cardinal Nation want to see Ryno as the Cards Manager just to stick it to the Cubs…I’m not in that camp. I think you pick the right manager for the situation that fits into the Organization. To me that is Ryne Sandberg.