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St. Louis Cardinals Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: OF Ben Johnson (4) had numbers that rivaled those of No. 1 pick Josh Hamilton in the Rookie-level Appalachin League. Johnson, who hit .330-10-51, also mirrored Hamilton’s defensive package.

Best Athlete: Johnson is a potential five-tool player, with a plus arm for right field and slightly above-average speed in addition to his hitting ability.

Best Hitter: Johnson is quick to the ball and has the strength and approach that results in both power and average.

Best Power: 1B Chris Duncan (1) has a long way to go in shortening his swing, but has light-tower power when he connects. 3B Jose Pujols (13), who was supposed to be a senior in high school last spring but graduated early and entered junior college instead, signed late in the summer and was very impressive in instructional league.

Fastest Runner: 2B Covelli Crisp (7) isn’t a burner, but has a very quick first step and 4.1 speed to first base. He stole 27 bases at Johnson City, more than any first-year Cardinal.

Best Defensive Player: Johnson fits the profile for a defensive right fielder perfectly.

Best Fastball: RHP Josh Pearce (2) showed the most consistent fastball among Cardinals picks that played during the summer, throwing consistently in the 92-94 range. RHP Jim Journell (4) had Tommy John surgery in June, but could hit 95-96 mph before the surgery. RHP Nick Stocks (1) threw 95 consistently this spring for Florida State. RHP Chance Caple (1) is inconsistent in this department; he might throw 88 mph in one outing, 96 in the next.

Most Intriguing Background: Duncan is the son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. His older brother Shelley is a power hitter of note at the University of Arizona.

Closest to the Majors: Pearce has command of three solid pitches and even had an 83-pitch complete game this summer. Stocks, who signed late, has a power fastball/curveball combination and should move quickly.

The One That Got Away: The Cardinals didn’t think they had much of a chance to lure RHP Josh Teekel (6) away from Louisiana State, but did so with a $250,000 bonus. 2B Aaron Davidson (11), the team’s only unsigned pick in the first 18 rounds, chose to attend the University of Florida.

Best Non-Draft Sign: A late sign from the ’98 draft, switch-hitting OF Johnny Hernandez (15) debuted in the Appy League this June and showed excellent hitting instincts from both sides of the plate. He hit .262-1-32.

Summary: The Cardinals fielded last-place teams in both the New York-Penn and Appy leagues but drafted more top pitching prospects than they have in years, which will be a boost to their somewhat depleted system. They did gamble on the surgically repaired elbows of Stocks and Journell.

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