NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A year after the Padres snagged a promising pitching prospect from the Cardinals in the Rule 5 Draft to assist in their rebuilding efforts, San Diego went after St. Louis' talent again. This time it was plucking infielder Allen Cordoba, who led the Appalachian League in batting average this past season and was ranked as the organization's 19th-best prospect in MLB Pipeline, with the third overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.
Cordoba was the only Minor League player in the Cardinals' system picked in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, which marked the final official event of the Winter Meetings. The Cardinals didn't make a selection until the Draft's Triple-A phase, when they nabbed outfielder Austin Wilson, a player with whom they are plenty familiar.
The Cardinals understood the gamble in leaving Cordoba exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but they also recognized the challenge another team would have in keeping Cordoba on a big league roster all season. The Padres did it last year, though, when they accepted Luis Perdomo's uneven results for the long-term gain of keeping him in their system.
Any Rule 5 Draft pick who does not stick on the Major League roster the following season must be offered back to his original club. If that's the case with Cordoba, the Cardinals could pay $50,000 to take him back. The Padres paid $100,000 to make the acquisition.
"I think it's very challenging to keep someone who has been on a short-season club on a Major League roster, but a team that had the space and might not be trying to contend this year can roll the dice," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But I still think there's a pretty good chance we get him back."
Cordoba, who turned 21 on Tuesday, was signed out of Panama in January 2013. He played two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and another in the Gulf Coast League before starring for the short-season club in Johnson City (Tenn.) this year. There, Cordoba hit .362/.427/.495 with a .922 OPS.
Mozeliak was relieved not to have lost any other players in the Major League phase of Thursday's Draft. There had been some concern that lefties Ryan Sherriff and Corey Littrell would draw interest after strong Arizona Fall League showings.
The Cardinals lost a pair of players -- shortstop Matt Williams and right-handed pitcher Kyle Grana -- in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft. They also added Wilson, an outfielder the Mariners drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft. That came three years after the Cardinals drafted him with the hope of luring him from his college commitment with an above-slot signing bonus offer.
Wilson ended up going to Stanford University, where he became teammates with, among others, Stephen Piscotty. However, Wilson's Minor League climb hasn't been nearly as rapid as Piscotty's. Wilson topped out at Class A within the Mariners' system, and he hit .226/.338/.375 with a .713 OPS in 104 games in 2016.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.