After Edwin Jackson inked a new deal with the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals now sit pretty with five of the first 60 picks in this year’s amateur draft. With that many selections so early, the Cards should be in good position to fortify organizational needs.
Every MLB team shows time and again that the ultimate weapon to wield is depth. It doesn’t even matter where the depth is—positions on the field, rotation, bullpen, lineup, bench—the more quality players a team and a franchise has, the better their chances of making it to and through October baseball.
Take a look at the 2011 Cards’ bullpen as a prime example: at the beginning of the season, Ryan Franklin was the closer. By the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series, the closer (or ninth inning man…whatever, Tony La Russa) was Jason Motte. In between was a closer rotation consisting of Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs. Lance Lynn made it to the big club and had a huge impact in the ‘pen. Kyle McClellan started and then pitched relief. Arthur Rhodes. Mark Rzepczynski. The list is long, but the story was clear…the Cards’ bullpen depth was one of their greatest strengths through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. Just look at how they were used in the postseason. If that group falters, the Cards are done. But they held up, and the team kept advancing.
A long-standing credo states “You can never have enough pitching.” And that’s true, to a large extent. But one of the many things the Cards proved in 2011 amends that theory. It should really state “You can never have enough up the middle,” including catcher, pitcher, middle infield, and center field. Those zones are the ones that rely most heavily on defense, and by deepening those positions the Cardinals are likely to enjoy success for years to come.
Again, the 2011 team is a prime example of this theory in action. At the beginning of the year, the Cards had Colby Rasmus in center field and Ryan Theriot at shortstop. But John Mozeliak strengthened the pitching staff by sending Rasmus to Toronto and filled up a leaky shortstop position by acquiring Rafael Furcal. These may not have been foreseeable moves early in the season, but they were very necessary in building the 2011 World Series Champion.
Overall, the Cards showed how important organizational depth can be in 2011. When a player went down to injury, or a defensive substitution was needed, or a big out had to be secured on the mound, it seemed like another Cards’ farmhand was stepping in to take the reins. And it would be nice to know that if any problems at all creep up in the middle of the field, a capable player waits in the wings to get a chance to prove his worth to the Cardinal organization. Finding those players starts with the draft.
The Cards do have some promising Middle Field players coming into their own already. Jon Jay obviously has the most credentials of any position player. Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene look to challenge Skip Schumaker for the starting role at second base. Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson will be the favorites to back up Yadier Molina in 2012. And prospects Kolten Wong (2B) and Ryan Jackson (SS) look to get a chance to open some eyes fairly soon.
But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The Cards need to take these extra draft picks and concentrate on the middle of the field. They need to look at center fielders with gazelle legs, cannon arms, and live bats. They need to look at middle infielders with magnetic gloves and impressive hitting stats. And pitching…well, a team can never have enough pitching. You pick often in 2012, Cardinals. Please pick wisely.