Cards again have draft-pick surplus

Cardinals enjoying another draft-pick surplus

A year ago, the Cardinals turned in their most well-regarded draft in recent memory. They also had six of the first 78 selections, and seven of the first 110. These two tidbits are not unrelated.

So when the 2006 First-Year Player Draft rolls around, the Cardinals will be happy to use quantity in order to make quality more likely.

For the second year in a row, St. Louis will have a bounty of picks in the early rounds. It's not quite the extravaganza of 2005, but it's a nice haul -- the Cards pick 30th, 42nd, 54th, 74th, 76th and 106th. They receive compensation for the losses of free agents Matt Morris and Abraham Nunez.

That's great news for the folks in the scouting department, if not necessarily for the people who sign the checks.

"When you have extra picks, you can do a few more things," said Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' vice president of player procurement. "You have a little extra flexibility. But the reality is it costs money to sign these players. It's not like free passes when you can take extra risks without thinking about it."

In 2005, the surplus of selections allowed the Cards to mix things up. After taking a high-upside high school hitter (Colby Rasmus), they took a more polished college position player (Tyler Greene). They took a high-risk, high-reward college pitcher (Mark McCormick), followed by two high school pitchers (Tyler Herron and Josh Wilson).

When you have a large number of selections, you can take an extra risk here and there. And risks are a big part of what makes a good farm system. But don't expect to see any crazy chances, paying seven figures to a high school kid who can hit 100 mph but not the side of a barn.

The Cardinals will be looking for that old standby, "best available player," rather than trying to fill any particular needs. One consideration in some cases will be a player's perceived ability to advance through the Minor League ranks quickly.

"You always need pitching, that's for sure," Luhnow said. "So we're going to address that. We'd like to ideally get some more outfielders that can move [through the system] fast. Now whether that happens or not, this is not a deep draft for college outfielders. We could go without one in the early rounds for sure just because of that reason."

Here's a look at the Cardinals' first pick in each of the past three drafts:

2005: OF Colby Rasmus, pick No. 28:
The most promising position player to come into the Cardinals system in several years, Rasmus has followed up a fine debut with an outstanding first season in full-season ball. He's hit for average and power, showed a developing batting eye and he's handling center field well. He's one of the main players to watch in the St. Louis system.

2004: RHP Chris Lambert, pick No. 19: Lambert shows flashes of exciting ability, but he has yet to take his success to Double-A. He's been stymied by far too many walks, both in his 2005 debut at Double-A as well as in his second time around at the level. He's still only 23, so it's far too early to count him out, but the Cards would definitely like to see him make some progress.

2003: 1B Daric Barton, pick No. 28: Barton, still only 20, was dealt to Oakland in the trade that brought Mark Mulder to St. Louis. He's shown an ability to get on base at every level of professional baseball. However, Barton has been moved away from catcher, and his bat has stalled a little bit.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.