|Jim Callis' Quick Take|
|Most of us thought the Cardinals would take a college guy at No. 18, but they crossed everyone up and took Oklahoma high school shortstop Pete Kozma. I like the pick, as he's the best all-around shortstop in the draft. Texas outfielder Kyle Russell (fourth) leads NCAA Division I in homers, but may be a tough sign as a sophomore-eligible with a seven-figure price tag.|
ST. LOUIS--When it came to selecting a player with their highest pick since 2000, the Cardinals saw the swing, read the numbers and met the player. But they leaned a lot on the word of their scout, who knew the Oklahoma shortstop not only as a evaluator but as his coach.
In a pick that stunned most draftniks, the Cardinals chose Oklahoma high school shortstop Pete Kozma with the 18th overall pick.
"A lot of it is the fact that I got to know this kid," said area scout Steve Gossett, who coached Kozma on an Area Code Games team from the Tulsa area. "I know what’s in his heart . . . The big question for him when he was a junior was his bat. Was it ever going to play? It began to play."
The Cardinals shied away from the asking price of a player like Rick Porcello--though they had him highly ranked--and went with the swing and signability of Kozma. The club dispatched several officials to Owasso, Okla., for an individual hitting session with the infielder. They came away from that convinced the swing would translate eagerly from aluminum to bat and resolved that Gossett had his personality pegged.
Kozma won Oklahoma’s Gatorade baseball player of the year award after batting .522 with 11 home runs, 55 RBIs and 56 runs scored. The Cardinals believe he’s growing into his power and that he will remain a shortstop as he scales the system.
"He is a very good shortstop with a good bat. Those type of players are hard to find," said Cardinals vice president Jeff Luhnow, who oversees the draft and farm system. Kozma was rated 39th overall among draft-eligible players by Baseball America, but viewed as one of the top middle infield prospects.
"This guy is a first-round talent," Luhnow said. "He runs. He throws. He fields. But most importantly for us, he hits."
Kozma hit four home runs in the playoffs for his state championship team, including a solo shot to win the title game, 1-0. He was the only high schooler taken by the Cardinals on the first day of the Entry Draft. He grew on the Cardinals, rising in their estimation to a first-round pick only about a month before the draft.
And then they couldn’t shake his name from their list of top players. As Gossett said: See him play often and you "start to fall in love with him."
"Pete Kozma fits nicely," Luhnow said. "He’ll get a chance to prove to everybody that he merits that pick."
• With their first-round pick the Cardinals took a chance: They selected Texas outfielder Kyle Russell, the NCAA Division-I home run king with 28. The Cardinals had no inside intel on the draft-eligible sophomore and were braced for a costly negotiation. "He’s not going to be an easy sign," Luhnow said. "But we certainly wanted to have the opportunity to do it."
• The Cardinals had Russell and Kozma rated high, but that real surprise was their highest-rated college pitcher: Gonzaga’s Clayton Mortensen. Undrafted a year ago with a 5.89 ERA, Mortensen was coveted by the Cardinals because of his smooth delivery, four complete games to end the season and a mature repertoire, that includes a sinking fastball.