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Cardinals Find Players To Like At End Of First Round

June 8, 2005
By David Wilhelm

ST. LOUIS--Colby Rasmus has an intangible quality that he hopes will help him reach the major leagues.

“I don’t really get down a whole lot,” said the 18-year-old Rasmus, a lefthanded-hitting center fielder from Russell County High in Phenix City, Ala., who was the Cardinals’ first pick in the draft Tuesday.

“If I have a bad day, I don’t get down about it,” he said. “I get back out there the next game and the next at-bat and forget about the whole thing. I get back out there and do what I do.”

What Rasmus does is a little bit of everything. He batted .484 with 24 home runs, 66 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in his senior season at Russell County, and was rated the 30th-best prospect in the country by Baseball America.

“Rasmus is an exciting outfielder,” Cardinals scouting director Jeff Luhnow said. “He’s what scouts call a five-tool outfielder. He has a tremendously strong arm, he swings the bat well, he swings the bat with power, he runs well. There’s really nothing this kid can’t do.”

Rasmus said he never imagined himself being a first-round pick. He was the 28th overall selection, a pick the Cardinals acquired from the Red Sox as compensation for losing free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria.

Scott Nichols, the area scout, called me and talked about the 28th or 30th pick,” Rasmus said. “Just for him to tell me that I might be picked there, I never dreamed I would be that high. Then whenever I got picked, Scott Nichols called me and I could barely even talk to him. I was so happy about it.

“He was asking me questions and I was like, ‘Yes, sir.’ He had to let me go because I couldn’t hardly talk to him.”

Scouts have compared Rasmus to Angels outfielder Steve Finley or Diamondbacks outfielder Shawn Green.

“Most people say I’m like Steve Finley--long and lanky,” Rasmus said. “I play the game like it’s (supposed to be) played. I go out there and give it 100 percent every time. I try to be a leader. On my high school team this year, whatever it needs, I tried to step up. I love to play the game.”

Luhnow said Rasmus has at least two things in common with the Cardinals’ top pick in the 2003 draft, catcher Daric Barton, who went to the Athletics last December in the Mark Mulder trade.

“He’s a lefthanded hitter as well and has a swing that scouts sort of gasp (at) when they see it,” Luhnow said. “He projects to have probably a little more power than Barton does.

“But these are two different players completely. This player is athletic from the word go. He wants to play baseball. That’s all he does. He lives and breathes baseball. I think he has an opportunity to move very quickly through our system.”

With their second pick in the first round (30th overall), the Cardinals selected shortstop Tyler Greene of Georgia Tech. Greene, a junior, is batting .373-12-72 with 15 doubles, three triples and 30 stolen bases for the Yellow Jackets, who are in NCAA super-regionals.

“He has tremendous speed,” Luhnow said. “He plays in a very tough (Atlantic Coast) conference on a very good team. Every time we’ve gone out and watched him--our scouts have probably seen 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.”

Greene has 68 strikeouts in just 260 at-bats.

“That’s one concern we have,” general manager Walt Jocketty said of the lack of contact. “We’ll have to work with him on that. But he’s a good hitter for a shortstop.”

Greene was rated the 40th-best prospect by Baseball America.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Among the first 22 players selected by the Cardinals was Wilfrido Pujols, the cousin of Albert Pujols. Wilfrido Pujols is a 17-year-old right fielder from Fort Osage High in Independence, Mo.

• The team was thrilled with its pick of Baylor righthander Mark McCormick. McCormick, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 101 mph, was 7-1, 3.12.

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