Under general manager John Mozeliak, the Cardinals have become the industry standard at developing homegrown talent. Year after year, the Cardinals graduate successful Minor Leaguers to their Major League system.
This year, Shelby Miller and Matt Adams have been among the Cardinals most successful homegrown players. They joined many others in St. Louis, such as Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and Lance Lynn.
How they were built
The Cardinals large crop of homegrown players carried them to the National League Central title this season, and they will play the winner of the NL Wild Card Game in the best-of-five Division Series beginning in St. Louis on Thursday night at 4:07 CT on TBS. And that group will be relied on again in the playoffs. Of the 25 players on the Cardinals' Division Series roster (see chart), 18 are homegrown. It is the highest total of the 10 playoff teams.
Assistant general manager Mike Girsch said that is no accident.
"Virtually every general manager in baseball, when they take a new job, talks about stressing scouting," Girsch said. "You have to produce talent if you want to compete. Whether it comes in waves or trickles in, you have to produce talent."
Girsch said the success of the Cardinals' homegrown players allows every member of their baseball operations staff to feel like they are making a significant contribution.
"It's fun to see guys develop and see young guys mature and get better at their craft," Girsch said. "It's fun to see the baseball operations group to have skin in the game. It's fun for the fans to see players and names they've heard of but not seen before they get to big leagues and succeed."
The Cardinals aren't only a homegrown team. Here's a closer look at how the Cardinals roster was built.
The Cardinals ability to graduate homegrown players to the Major Leagues is a big reason they have been held up as a model organization in recent years. This year's team is yet another testament to the Cardinals' scouts and development team.
From Molina, a fourth-rounder in 2000, to Michael Wacha, a first-rounder in 2012, 18 players drafted by the Cardinals are expected to be on their postseason roster. While that group includes 10 players who were drafted in the first five rounds, seven were late-round selections.
The 2009 Draft was an especially memorable one for the Cardinals. Not only did they select Miller with the 19th overall pick and get Joe Kelly in the third round, they also unearthed a few hidden gems. They selected Matt Carpenter in the 13th round, Trevor Rosenthal in the 21st and Adams in the 23rd.
Girsch said because the players they draft quickly spread out across their Minor League affiliates, the Cardinals don't spend much time looking at individual Draft classes. But now that so many members of the 2009 Draft are important pieces of the Major League team, it is impossible not to see that year as a triumph.
"It was a hugely successful Draft," Girsch said. "But we didn't discover some magic formula. If there were a magic formula, we would have repeated it in '10 and '11.
"We don't sit around clinking glasses over the 2009 Draft."
Some of the chief architects of the Cardinals that year have moved on. Jeff Luhnow, who was the Cardinals vice president of scouting and player development in 2009, is now the Astros general manager. Other members of the player-development team have moved on, but the Cardinals continue to be one of the best teams in the Majors at drafting and developing their own talent.
Girsch said the Cardinals try to keep their scouting and player development methods the same even as the people who implement them inevitably change.
"Our success is not predicated on any one person, whether that's one of the guys who left or are still here," Girsch said. "There are a lot of scouts and a lot of people in front office who are all pulling in the same direction to identify and develop these players. It's tough to replace guys who are good at their job, but there is no one lynchpin to this process."
While homegrown players make up the bulk of the Cardinals roster, trades have brought some of their most impactful players, such as Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright.
Acquired via trade
Wainwright, the Cardinals second-longest tenured player, has been in the organization so long, former general manager Walt Jocketty acquired him. Wainwright was part of the package the Braves sent to St. Louis in exchange for J.D. Drew in 2003.
Mozeliak, however, has made his fair share of deals, as well. He traded Jim Edmonds to the Padres for David Freese in December 2007, about a month after taking over from Jocketty as general manager. He made a big splash at the Trade Deadline in 2009 when he traded three players to the A's for Matt Holliday.
In the last two years, Mozeliak has made late-season acquisitions to bolster the Cardinals bullpen. A year ago, at the Trade Deadline, he sent Zack Cox, the club's 2010 first-round Draft pick, to the Marlins for Edward Mujica. This August, Mozeliak acquired John Axford from the Brewers in exchange for Michael Blazek.
Girsch said the Cardinals' professional scouts and analytics department are constantly evaluating other teams' players. Then, they have to balance whether making a deal will ultimately benefit the club.
"The goal is to be competitive every year," Girsch said. "We weigh the immediate benefit vs. the long-term cost. Sometimes, it feels right and you make a deal. A lot of times, it's not worth it and you move on to the next one."
Only two players on the NLDS roster were acquired through free agency, but Mozeliak made them count. Carlos Beltran signed a two-year, $26 million deal after the 2011 season and Randy Choate signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal a year later.
Acquired via free agency
Both Beltran and Choate have proved their worth as Cardinals. Beltran was twice named an All-Star and helped ease the loss of Albert Pujols. Choate has been dependable coming out of the bullpen and is holding left-handed hitters to a .497 OPS this season.
"We've been fairly successful at identifying guys who perform up to expectations and sign at prices that feel right," Girsch said.
Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.