There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye-to-eye. They'll be discussing their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
Just when you thought we'd be done talking about the Draft, here comes one last Pipeline Perspectives on the subject. We can't get enough of it, honestly, and thought it would be the perfect way to end 2013 and usher in 2014.
Jim Callis and I have covered who we thought had the best Draft in 2013, and we've discussed how we would change the Draft to make it better. The latter was thinking forward, the former a look at the very recent past. Now it's time to go digging a little deeper into the Draft-history vault to discuss the teams we felt had the best Draft from the past 10 years.
This isn't a discussion about which overall Draft class has been the best. Perhaps that's a discussion for another day, though I'm not sure if either of us would want to take on arguing that the 2005 Draft wasn't the clear-cut winner. No, this is an examination about which team's Draft in a given year was the best over the past decade.
Interestingly enough, we've both picked Draft classes from the same year, 2009. While Jim is advocating for the Mike Trout-led Angels haul that year, I'm going with the amazing talent the St. Louis Cardinals amassed that June.
To me, the quickest way to measure a Draft's impact is by how many big leaguers that class produces. While I agree that finding someone like Trout can single-handedly make a Draft successful, the fact of the matter is that the Cardinals' 2009 Draft has produced seven big leaguers. Seven might not seem like a huge number, but typically a "successful" Draft is one that produces a small handful of Major League players. To have to use two hands to count how many big leaguers came out of one Draft, that's as good as you can get.
And we're not talking all cup-of-coffee types, though infielder Ryan Jackson and Keith Butler do fit that description. The others not only have had a lasting impact, they've done so on a team that just went to the World Series.
Most Drafts start with that first-round pick, and the Cardinals certainly didn't miss at No. 19 overall when they took high school right-hander Shelby Miller. (They do seem to like that slot, taking Michael Wacha 19th three years later.) Miller already has experienced two postseasons, the second coming after a first full big league season that was good enough for him to finish third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. Miller has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation type, so this Draft might seem better and better as time goes on.
In another year, Trevor Rosenthal would have received some Rookie of the Year votes as well, after a campaign that saw him strike out 12.9 per nine innings during the regular season, then tacking on 11 2/3 scoreless innings as the Cardinals' closer in the playoffs. Rosenthal was a 21st-round pick in '09 out of the junior-college ranks. Having him save Miller's wins as the years unfold would make this Draft a success.
But that's not all. How about Joe Kelly? The third-round pick has worked as a reliever and starter in two seasons, with a 3.08 ERA in that span. His days coming out of the bullpen are likely over, however, after posting a 1.91 ERA in the second half of 2013, almost entirely as a starter.
Tired of all the pitching talk? Fine. Matt Carpenter is from the 2009 Draft as well, a 13th-round steal out of Texas Christian University. Carpenter finished sixth in ROY voting in 2012, then made the 2013 All-Star team and finished fourth in MVP voting, all while making a very smooth transition to second. He looks like a mainstay in the lineup regardless of his future defensive home.
Don't forget about Matt Adams, another late find, drafted in the 23rd round from Slippery Rock University. Adams slugged .503 during his rookie season, and the Cardinals feel pretty confident he'll continue to swing the bat like that as their full-time first baseman in 2014.
In many ways, it's the Rosenthal (converted from shortstop), Adams and Carpenter picks that make this Draft special. Finding that kind of impact talent in the late rounds, that's the kind of thing scouting directors love. And there's no question in my mind that this success made Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, then the Cardinals' head scout, a hot GM candidate.