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Draft Report Card

Justin Pope
Photo: Rich Abel

Best Pro Debut: The Cardinals’ top two picks, RHPs Justin Pope (1) and Dan Haren (2), were as polished as advertised. Pope went 2-4, 2.60 with 66 strikeouts in 69 innings at short-season New Jersey. Haren went 3-3, 3.10 with 57 whiffs in 52 innings for the same club. A couple of late picks had big debuts out of the bullpen. RHP Jared Blasdell (38) had a 1.26 ERA and 11 saves for New Jersey, while LHP Anthony Rawson (42) posted a 0.60 ERA and 10 saves at Rookie-level Johnson City.

Best Athlete: John Nelson (8), a college shortstop, had little trouble making a transition to center field. He’s an above-average runner with a solid arm and some pop. He needs to make more contact after hitting .238 with 76 strikeouts in 66 games at New Jersey, but he did contribute eight homers and 14 steals.

Best Hitter: Down the road, 3B Joe Mather (3) should hit for average and power. For now, 1B Jesse Roman (11) and 3B Matt Williams (15) are more advanced.

Best Raw Power: 1B John Davie (32) is raw and batted just .221-2-22 at Johnson City. He’s also 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, so it’s not difficult to envision him becoming a slugger.

Fastest Runner: Nelson is a 4.1-second runner from the right side of home plate to first base. He holds the Big 12 Conference record for career stolen bases.

Best Defensive Player: Cody Gunn (21) could develop into a frontline catcher. SS Seth Davidson (10) has terrific hands and good actions, though his arm isn’t as strong as desired for his position. He throws well enough to stay at short, or he could become an outstanding second baseman.

Best Fastball: Haren topped out at 95-96 mph during the college season and still was showing close to that velocity at the end of the summer. OF Skip Schumaker (5) threw 95 mph during UC Santa Barbara intrasquad games, but the Cardinals plan to use him as a leadoff hitter. Josh Brey (4), who spent his summer in the Cape Cod League, is a 5-foot-10 lefthander yet has a 94-mph fastball. Pope works at 92-93 mph and gets nifty life on his fastball.

Most Intriguing Background: Pope broke Roger Clemens’ NCAA Division I record with 38 consecutive scoreless innings last spring for Central Florida. Unsigned OF Michael Cust’s (35) brother Jack made his big league debut with the Diamondbacks in September, while a third brother, Kevin, plays in the Braves system. 2B Mike Fox’ (50) brother Matt was drafted in the sixth round by Arizona but didn’t sign.

Closest To The Majors: Pope and Haren could reach Double-A toward the end of their first full pro season.

Best Late-Round Pick: RHP Mike Wodnicki (16) got buried at times on a deep Stanford pitching staff, though he went 13-1 in three years with the Cardinal. Both his low-90s fastball and his breaking ball are plus pitches.

The One Who Got Away: The Cardinals signed their first 18 selections. RHP Blake Hawksworth (28), who touches 92-93 mph, was lost to Cal State Fullerton. Though OF Billy Paganetti (45) had a disappointing senior season after putting on a power display at the 2000 Area Code Games, he should get a chance to be a two-way player for Stanford.

Assessment: St. Louis is making a conscious effort to improve its stock of position players, yet most of the quality in its draft appears to lie on the mound. Pope and Haren are quality starters, Brey should make a fine reliever and LHP John Killalea (6) and RHP Tyler Adamczyk (7) are nice high school arms. Though the Cardinals paid out the smallest bonus for a first-rounder, Pope, they made up for it with a $700,000 payout to Adamczyk six rounds later.

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