ST. LOUIS – Although they watched from different coasts, one near his college and the other with family not too far from his high school, the Cardinals first-round picks share the same handedness and a certainty that their size does not define the height of their game.
“I didn’t know there was a certain height to get people out,” said Rob Kaminsky, the New Jersey high school lefty the Cardinals selected with the 28th pick.
At 19 overall, the Cardinals went a familiar route with a new twist. The Cardinals selected Gonzaga pitcher Marco Gonzales, a college pitcher with projectable performance but also the first lefty taken by the club in the first round since 1994. Nine picks later, they followed with another lefty, Kaminsky. Gonzales is a 6-foot-1, 188-pound junior who also led Gonzaga with a .311 average as a two-way player. Kaminsky is a 6-foot, 188-pound lefty from Montvale, N.J. who had 118 strikeouts and only four walks in 58 innings during his senior year.
The Cardinals identified both lefties this spring and as the draft approached believed they and the 57th overall pick, shortstop Oscar Mercado, fit profiles as well as needs.
The Cardinals entered the draft “identifying the types of talent in two areas of need for the organization,” general manager John Mozeliak said. The players offered “additions to areas that needed depth.”
The three selections on the first day of the draft will test the bonus cap budget for the Cardinals. With 11 picks in the first 10 rounds, the Cardinals were assigned a bonus purse of $6.9 million. Officials said that the first picks may mean some “cost certainty” selections ahead.
Although at different levels in their careers, Gonzales and Kaminsky share some of the same traits the Cardinals have utilized for success in recent drafts. Gonzales has the athleticism to be a two-way player, handling first at times for Gonzaga, and one of the finer changeups available, just as Michael Wacha did when the Cardinals selected him 19th overall in 2012. Kaminsky has a fastball that sits between 90 mph and 94 mph and, he said, touched 95 mph in his final start. He too has an athletic delivery that fits the Cardinals’ preference. Both graded well on the subjective view of their competitiveness, and the Cardinals liked that Gonzales was the winning pitcher in four consecutive state championship games at high school in Colorado, freshman to senior year.
Gonzales, a finalist for the Golden Spikes award for the second consecutive year, went 26-7, 2.34 in his career at Gonzaga. He had a 7-3, 2.80 record in his junior season with 96 strikeouts in 106 innings. He did not allow a home run.
He hit two.
“These were three players we couldn’t pass up,” said Dan Kantrovitz, the Cardinals director of scouting. “They do fit needs for us. We can be very aggressive when it comes to (signing) them.”