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Cardinals nab prep, college stars

Cardinals nab prep, college stars

ST. LOUIS -- Mindful of a system that is top-heavy with pitching talent but still short of elite position-player prospects, the Cardinals moved to replenish the offensive talent in their organization on Tuesday.

St. Louis selected position players with its two first-round picks in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft: high school outfielder Colby Rasmus was the No. 28 overall selection and Georgia Tech shortstop Tyler Greene was the 30th pick. The Cardinals' regular selection was No. 30; they had the 28th pick as compensation for losing Edgar Renteria to the Red Sox.

Starting with Rasmus marked a departure from last season, when St. Louis' first 12 selections came from four-year college programs. Rasmus, who hails from Phenix City, Ala., is a left-handed hitter who turns 19 in August. He signed to play at Auburn University next fall, but the Cards have an agreement in principle with Rasmus -- as well as the rest of their first several picks.

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The Cardinals describe Rasmus as something of a baseball rat, and he proved that characterization correct on Tuesday afternoon. When the Cardinals called his home for his conference call with reporters, he had stepped out for a while to watch a local baseball tournament.

"Most people say I'm like Steve Finley, long and lanky," he said. "I just play the game, go out and give it 100 percent every time. I try to be a leader, like on my high school team this year, I tried to step up and do all that kind of stuff, keep everybody up. I love to play the game."

Rasmus is potentially the kind of high-ceiling prospect that the Redbirds lack in their system. Their most exciting prospect from last year, catcher Daric Barton, was traded to Oakland in the Mark Mulder deal. Rasmus' combination of power, speed and defense makes him quite intriguing. He launched 24 home runs this season, the second-highest total in history by an Alabama high school player. He also hit .484 with 19 stolen bases.

"Rasmus is an exciting outfielder," said Jeff Luhnow, St. Louis' vice president of player procurement and the man heading up the draft effort. "He's what scouts call a five-tool outfielder. He has a tremendously strong arm. He's a good fielder, plays center field and profiles at center field. He swings the bat well. He swings the bat with power. He runs well. There's really nothing this kid can't do."

Greene, 21, is a junior at Georgia Tech, but like Rasmus is expected to sign soon. He has helped propel a powerful team to the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament.

"It's been a great year, but I think the main thing for us is it's been a real fun year," he said. "We've got a real group of relaxed guys and we just go out there and we have fun. We try not to get too serious, just go out there and play. That's been the key for us, staying relaxed and joking around with each other and having a real good time."

Greene was a second-round draft pick out of high school, and was named a preseason first-team All-American by Baseball America entering the 2005 season. He's batting .373 for the Yellow Jackets with 12 homers, 15 doubles and 30 stolen bases in 31 tries.

"The guy has tremendous speed," Luhnow said. "He batted .360-something. So he's produced. He had a fair number of home runs as well. He plays in a very tough conference on a very good team, and every time we've gone out and watched him -- our scouts have probably watched him 14 times this year; I saw him three times myself -- there's no question in our minds about his ability to not only play shortstop very well, but hit in the future."

Colby Rasmus
School:
Russell County High School
Position: CF   B/T: L/L
H: 6'1"   W: 175
Born: 08-11-1986   Class: HS
Scouting report:

Greene has a .464 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage for Tech, which will face Tennessee in an NCAA Super Regional starting on Friday. If there's a downside to his offensive performance in the difficult Atlantic Coast Conference, it's his 68 strikeouts in 59 games.

"That's something I plan on working on and cutting down," he said. "But other than that I feel like I had a really good year this year."

The Cardinals had seven of the first 110 picks in the Draft this season, and they hope they have seized on the opportunity.

"We are excited to add two first-round position players to our organization," said general manager Walt Jocketty. "These were the two individuals we were really targeting. To be able to get a high school player with multiple plus tools who projects high and then an established shortstop at the collegiate level, I give a lot of credit to our scouts and scouting department."

Last season, St. Louis selected right-hander Chris Lambert from Boston College in the first round. Lambert is currently pitching for Double-A Springfield.

The last time the Cardinals had two choices in the first round was 2000. With the No. 13 pick that year, they took Shaun Boyd, who currently plays the outfield for Springfield. At No. 24, they selected right-hander Blake Williams, who is no longer in the organization.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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