Do the Cardinals Really Know How to Draft Pitchers Better?

by CubsfaninCA

Much has been made over the Cardinals “voodoo” that suddenly takes no-name pitchers and makes them stars. They seem to do the same with some hitters on occasion, but it’s mostly the pitchers that seem to come out of nowhere.

I wondered if it’s luck or voodoo, or do they really just know how to draft and/or develop pitchers better than other teams.  So I went through the last 10 drafts and pulled out the pitchers drafted by 4 teams—the Cards, our Cubs, the Braves (who also seem to have an abundance of young pitching) and the Phillies (who lately as an organization don’t seem to be doing anything well). I listed the pitchers who got to the majors and to eliminate the cup of coffee guys, used 20 Ks as a minimum threshold.   

There were a few interesting anomalies: the Cards drafted Michael Stutes but he didn’t sign and later signed with the Phillies, the Cubs originally signed Sonny Gray but he also didn’t sign, and it was fun seeing our own Brian Schlitter’s name in another team’s column.

Here are the results:


    W L SV K WAR
St. Louis Cardinals 52 32 1 666 9.1
St. Louis Cardinals 31 20 0 361 8.3
St. Louis Cardinals 24 27 32 431 5.8
St. Louis Cardinals 16 7 0 194 5.0
St. Louis Cardinals 43 27 0 484 4.8
St. Louis Cardinals 8 10 4 254 4.6
St. Louis Cardinals 5 12 61 245 3.9
St. Louis Cardinals 22 20 0 263 3.2
St. Louis Cardinals 11 11 4 212 1.8
St. Louis Cardinals 6 5 1 111 1.2
St. Louis Cardinals 13 15 6 233 0.8
St. Louis Cardinals 8 11 0 104 0.4
St. Louis Cardinals 4 2 0 39 0.4
St. Louis Cardinals 3 2 0 64 0.3
St. Louis Cardinals 4 2 0 31 0.1
St. Louis Cardinals 6 11 0 112 -0.2
St. Louis Cardinals 1 3 0 26 -0.8
St. Louis Cardinals 2 8 0 96 -0.8
St. Louis Cardinals 6 10 0 104 -2.4
  20 265 235 109 4030 45.5
    W L SV K WAR
Chicago Cubs 40 50 1 792 7.9
Chicago Cubs 22 33 0 391 4.9
Chicago Cubs 16 9 2 309 3.4
Chicago Cubs 10 17 3 224 1.9
Chicago Cubs 32 33 1 347 0.7
Chicago Cubs 4 9 0 70 0.5
Chicago Cubs 1 0 1 47 0.4
Chicago Cubs 2 3 1 85 0.3
Chicago Cubs 3 3 1 73 0.2
Chicago Cubs 8 13 0 123 -0.9
Chicago Cubs 1 2 0 30 -0.9
Chicago Cubs 10 10 1 165 -1.5
  12 149 182 11 2656 16.9
    W L SV K WAR
Atlanta Braves 15 11 198 502 11.9
Atlanta Braves 34 20 1 434 9.6
Atlanta Braves 49 35 0 648 6.6
Atlanta Braves 17 16 0 285 5.6
Atlanta Braves 38 36 0 566 3.8
Atlanta Braves 9 18 0 142 3.4
Atlanta Braves 9 10 25 211 3.3
Atlanta Braves 5 4 2 185 2.8
Atlanta Braves 8 3 1 89 2.0
Atlanta Braves 9 15 4 188 1.6
Atlanta Braves 6 5 0 60 1.5
Atlanta Braves 4 3 0 77 0.9
Atlanta Braves 1 1 0 34 0.9
Atlanta Braves 21 21 0 295 0.6
Atlanta Braves 7 9 9 130 0.3
Atlanta Braves 1 2 1 23 0.3
Atlanta Braves 2 2 0 23 0.0
Atlanta Braves 3 3 1 68 -0.1
Atlanta Braves 1 0 0 26 -0.2
Atlanta Braves 4 8 0 65 -1.1
  20 243 222 242 4051 53.7
    W L SV K WAR
Philadelphia Phillies 15 15 0 172 5.5
Philadelphia Phillies 29 25 0 366 5.2
Philadelphia Phillies 21 11 0 235 4.3
Philadelphia Phillies 19 19 0 163 3.1
Philadelphia Phillies 16 11 0 226 2.7
Philadelphia Phillies 4 2 1 84 2.0
Philadelphia Phillies 7 5 0 124 1.2
Philadelphia Phillies 5 5 0 72 1.1
Philadelphia Phillies 6 13 0 83 0.6
Philadelphia Phillies 1 0 0 75 0.4
Philadelphia Phillies 9 3 0 72 0.4
Philadelphia Phillies 3 2 0 32 0.0
Philadelphia Phillies 2 2 0 35 0.0
Philadelphia Phillies 8 15 0 121 -0.1
Philadelphia Phillies 3 2 0 52 -0.1
Philadelphia Phillies 5 9 0 59 -0.4
Philadelphia Phillies 0 1 1 42 -0.4
Philadelphia Phillies 7 11 0 200 -0.5
Philadelphia Phillies 4 2 1 52 -0.7
Philadelphia Phillies 1 1 0 33 -0.8
Philadelphia Phillies 4 9 0 71 -0.8
Philadelphia Phillies 2 6 0 42 -0.9
Philadelphia Phillies 6 9 0 80 -0.9
Philadelphia Phillies 25 28 0 229 -1.2
Philadelphia Phillies 7 13 0 117 -1.2
  25 209 219 3 2837 18.5



Based on WAR, the Braves actually have fared the best, Cards 2nd and the Phillies and Cubs are quite a ways behind. The Cardinal names that jump out are Lynn, Miller, Gregerson, Wacha, Garcia, Rosenthal, Kelly and now Marco Gonzales. The Braves have Kimbrel, Medlen, Doolittle, Hanson, Jeff Locke, Alex Wood and Minor—definitely have gotten lucky with closers. The Cubs can at least point to Shark and Cashner, but the best the Phillies can do is Jarred Cosart and Vance Worley. Interesting that they had the most pitchers overall, but few of them amounted to much--i.e. “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.”  Another way of looking at Cards vs. Cubs is this: The Cards have drafted 116 more wins over 10 years than the Cubs, which could explain 12 games of why we’re usually behind them.


And if you’re thinking “That will probably change soon because of the new regime!,” from the 2011 draft they already have Seth Maness in the bigs and our hopes lie with Dillon Maples and the suspended Andrew McKirahan. And while Michael Wacha (picked #19 in 2012) is tearing it up this year, the best we can hope for from 2012 is Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn, and Duane Underwood.    


It’s a good thing we’ve been good at drafting hitters.



I think you're second choice, development, is probably the key. For the most part I imagine that teams pretty much have the same general scouting reports on guys, except for that occasional scout that goes all gaga for a guy he just knows is the next Whoever. I have a hunch that if you gave the Cardinals the same set of draft picks the Cubs have made over that time period, you'd end up with about the same number of successes. Time to poach their system and offer them Ricketts money?

Very interesting comp, thanks. Especially with pitchers, I imagine development is more important than scouting, but what do I know.

Maybe even with a lot of hitters, but it can be argued that the very very best of each self develop. Doesn't look like K Bryant has needed a lot of help from anyone.

I just searched the entire history of the Internets, that's the first time Schlitter and fun have appeared in the same sentence. Over time I have come to believe whatever is being evaluated, it's never ever ever just one thing. It occurs to me that some scouts might have a better eye for pitchers rather than hitters. St Louis probably has some of those. Long-term success suggests organizational thinking to me....something the current Cubs regime seems to have instituted with "The Cubs Way" rather than 5 separate levels of stream-of-consciousness coaching and development we were treated to previously. I think there also has to be a potential confounding effect--recent Cards pitchers have pitched in front of the Cards hitters and defense, recent Cubs pitchers have been overly-dependent on the Barney's and Sweeney's and Sappelt's of the world for W's.

I can corroborate that information regarding Schlitter.

This isn't an endorsement for Tribune reporting, but note the difference between one reporter's discussion with Theo and another's. That's the Tribune. Next is Willemeyer with the Suntimes. I'm not going to even link to that. Somehow, he got "Cubs going after Zobrist" out of that same discussion. Since a bunch of other quotes are the same, you can tell that Theo was holding court with beat reporters. I don't see the article on the Suntimes sports page but it showed up on my Flipboard. Maybe they took it down, but holy crap that guy needs an editor.

seriously, though...what would the cubs do with zobrist? turn him from a nice 2nd/SS/LF multi-tool into a boring LF guy? if he doesn't play 2nd/SS as a majority of his playing time he would be rather boring, and the cubs dont have a need there so he's rather boring in that respect. hell, he's not much of a SS anymore...he wasn't sharp there in 2014 and hasn't been healthy enough to snag play there in 2015.

Not that I'm eager for a trade like that, but I think the reasoning is he'd be a bench guy to spell others - gosh I don't really know. But in a long season it would be good to have a guy come in for the infielders once in awhile, even if he's not top grade anymore. I just hope that Cubs fans don't pressure TheoCorp to rush things. We've got three rookies starting every day, and suddenly no bullpen. It's gonna be rough sailing. I don't want them selling the farm to fix this. That's not a wait til next year call, it's just that I'm happy seeing these guys work through their inconsistencies, and see what happens. Eventually Soler is going to be ready for the 4 spot, and that will knock Starlin down to where he needs to be, lower in the lineup. They have no bench, either. So these are pretty big holes. I thought going in that it would be a 6 and out team, meaning you get to the sixth inning with the Cubs and you better be winning, but it hasn't worked out that way so in my mind this is a .500 team, and that's if things don't get any worse. The rookies will keep getting better, good enough, along with Rizzo, to keep things interesting. Unless there's some killer trade on the horizon I'm hoping they just hold fast, although maybe Vogelbomb could bring something nice from an AL team.

his cost vs already having castro/russell/baez in house makes it sketchy to me. OAK didn't give up the farm, but they gave up a cheap C (who got badly injured 1st game he played), an interesting SS prospect, and a utility OF "prospect" in the deal to get zobrist. i'm sure they'd want a fringe prospect at the very least (such as vogelbomb) as a starting point to move him. if the cubs needed a 2nd, i'd be stoked to have that link being made (even though a weak link, as pointed out in the original media critique post). it's nice that the cubs pretty much only have a need in the pen + LF...and one could argue that LF is being adequately covered anyway (especially when deno gets back to support cog). aside from the pen, the biggest holdup is the normal curve of youth development in the bigs...not a bad place to be.

Not sure I'd call Vogelbach a "fringe" prospect just yet, limited to 1B and DH for sure, but he could have a special bat and OBP that would make him very attractive to an AL team. He's one of our best chips and no way I'm trading him for a rental of a 34-yr old utility player. Maybe as part of a package for a rental (Price?) starter but Zobrist isn't that important of an upgrade for us.

the prospect game always has it's outliers. i view him as a fringe guy, others are excited about him to the point of calling him a legit prospect. he's done very little so far in his career to argue with someone who views him as a legit prospect. the holes in his game seem to mostly revolve around his defense now that his weight issue seems to be on the backburner. it's worth mentioning that p.goldschmidt didn't make hardly anyone's top prospect list, though some people saw greatness in him. we know where that stands now. i also agree that zobrist is unneeded on this club given it's excess of talent up the middle, or at the very least a luxury piece. they have needs elsewhere as of now.

righty pitcher, Tayler Scott promoted from Pelicans to Smokies

Re: Weinermeyer, #SunTimes, a close friend of mine was the Union Steward recently, and fortunately found a job after being offered severance (which he took), after having been a writer there for 14 years. The whole "ship" is going down unless a miracle happens and its not a surprise that this guy will say anything to sell a few more papers or get a few more eyeballs. There has been a rumor during the ThoJed regime that the guy purposely is told to be negative by his Editor, but I have never corroborated that.

Whiny-Meyer? The new Paul Sullivan.

Interesting article on pitchers, but remember this -Samardzija/Hammel was flipped for Addison Russell/Billy McKinney/Dan Strailey. -Strailey with Valbuena was traded for Dexter Fowler -Cashner was traded for Anthony Rizzo -James Russell was traded for minor league prospect Victor Cartini So it's not as bad as people may think

and we got Hammel back a few months later.

And James Russell!

Recent comments

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  • Arizona Phil 1 hour 57 min ago (view)

    Beginning in 2019, a club must wait a minimum of seven days before it can place a player who was claimed off Outtright Assignment Waivers during the off-season back onto waivers, so because he was claimed off waivers on Wednesday 11/27, yesterday (Wednesday 12/4) was the first day the Cubs could place LHRP C. D. Pelham back onto Outright Assignment Waivers, and so tomorrow (Friday 12/6) is the first day the Cubs can send Pelham outright to the minors (if he was placed back onto waivers yesterday).


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 44 min ago (view)

    A Competitive Balance draft slot can be traded only during a period of time starting on December 2nd and extending up until two hours prior to the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft), so don't be surpised if these draft picks are traded during the off-season.

    Keep in mind that the slot cannot be traded for cash unless it is a financial adjustment made to offset the salary of one or more of the players involved in the trade.


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 46 min ago (view)

    The active list roster limit changes scheduled to go in effect in 2020 have not yet been officially approved. Same goes for the three-batter minimum (or else record the third out in the inning) for relief pitchers. 


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 49 min ago (view)

    And then the active list roster limit will expand from 26 to 28 on September 1st (max 14 pitchers in September). 


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 52 min ago (view)

    The "26th man" who was added for doubleheaders will now be the "27th man" and he can be a pitcher. 


  • crunch 1 day 4 hours ago (view)

    ATL signs cole hamels 1/18m...a'ite then.

    also, z.wheeler 5/100+ to the phillies.


  • Charlie 1 day 20 hours ago (view)

    I think without the off-field issues, a front-office might at least be tempted to gamble on Russell's youth and dreams of his upside. But with what we all know about him now, the challenges of improving both on and off the field are too great to gamble on.


  • George Altman 2 days 10 hours ago (view)

    This was the easiest non-tender decision, maybe ever. As if there weren't enough off-field reasons alone, there were even more baseball reasons. He became a sub .700 OPS hitter with bottom of the order OBA results. His defense, formerly his strength, became inconsistent due to attention deficit issues. He turned himself into bench infielder with suspect skills which is someone you don't pay more than $1--1.5M/yr.


  • crunch 2 days 23 hours ago (view)

    he was due for a 3.5-4m payday (3.4m last year) at a minimum, anyway.

    it's as good of a time as any to cut him loose.  nico hoener's spring just became a lot more important.


  • Craig A. 2 days 23 hours ago (view)

    Addison Russell, to no one's surprise, was  non-tendered. I still think he has the talent to excel in the major leagues, but it'll take a new attitude for him to realize his potential. It can't be easy to deal with his baggage in front of millions of fans. I won't forget his contributions in 2016, or that beautiful play that used to be the banner of TCR.


  • crunch 4 days 18 hours ago (view)

    keuchel doesn't have draft pick compensation attached to him and he's a decent enough ground ball pitcher...that will be attractive to a lot of clubs.  that would put 3 lefties in the cubs rotation (pending a trade) again, though.  not sure they want to go for that look again.

    that said, i still imagine the cubs are probably looking to make this thing happen via trade.  it's hard to tell what their $$ situation is, but they've done a great job signaling they're not looking to spend $$ this offseason.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 5 days 48 min ago (view)

    Looking for impact starting pitchers, but won't be shopping at the top of the market? So I guess they won't be in the market for impact starting pitching.

    Still hoping they find a taker for Q.


  • crunch 5 days 2 hours ago (view)

    "Patrick Mooney of The Athletic writes the Cubs are in the market for impact starting pitchers but won't be shopping at the top of the market."

    darvish, lester, hendricks, Q, (???, a.mills, t.chatwood)...pending trades

    d.keuchel?  r.porcello?  trade target pitcher?


  • Arizona Phil 5 days 3 hours ago (view)

    HAGSAG: I suspect going into his age 30 season and coming off a great year as a pinch-hitter, LaStella wanted a chance to be an everyday player, and since that obviously wasn't going to happen if he stayed with the Cubs, TLS (or his agent) may have asked the Cubs to trade him somewhere he could get that opportunity.


  • crunch 5 days 4 hours ago (view)

    dunno any official reasoning, but his D is miserable and they decided to "upgrade" there with descalso for similar loot as well as getting a trade piece back.  the whole a.russell thing was lingering over the team.

    it's not like descalso is great with the glove, but la stella plays a miserable 2nd and meh 3rd.

    i do wonder if things would have turned out differently if russell wasn't due to miss significant time.


  • Sonicwind75 5 days 7 hours ago (view)

    Was just thinking about this, maybe that isn't a good thing for TLS?  I wonder if Maddon will use TLS differently after seeing his success last year.  That's my gripe with people complaining about Theo trading away a player that turns into an All Star.  If TLS had stayed with the Cubs, Maddon would most likely kept using him in the same manner and with the same results.