NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Cardinals may be the first team in the history of drafting to say it and mean it: they honestly didn't believe Brian Barton would be available.
It is, of course, what every team drafting in any sport at any position other than No. 1 overall says about its selection. But multiple reports leading into Thursday's Rule 5 Draft suggested that Barton would be the first player selected, or at least one of the first few. Instead, the Cardinals selected the outfielder from the Indians with the 10th pick.
"To be honest, I didn't think there was a chance he was going to be available where we picked," said Jeff Luhnow, St. Louis' scouting director and farm director. "We made inquiries about moving up, but there was a lot of competition for that top spot."
Barton represents the exact combination of skills and traits that the Cardinals were seeking. He's a young (25 years old), speedy, right-handed hitting outfielder with a demonstrated ability to get on base and occasional power. Entering this season, Barton was rated the No. 5 prospect in the Indians' system by Baseball America.
Barton is coming off of left knee surgery, but the Cardinals were not scared off by his condition. Baseball America reported that he battled knee problems throughout 2006 and 2007, so it is hoped that the operation corrects the troubles he was having.
"He's wearing a knee brace right now, but he was walking around," said Luhnow. "It looked like he was agile. We'll find out more about him, but our sense is that he's going to be ready for Spring Training."
Barton was the first player the Cardinals took in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft since they selected pitcher Juan Mateo in 2006. Mateo was later returned to the Cubs. The last Rule 5 selection to stay with St. Louis for a full season was infielder Hector Luna, also drafted from the Indians system, in 2003.
In addition to adding Barton, the Cardinals were pleased not to have lost any players. They had concern about pitcher Stuart Pomeranz, who had an exceptional Arizona Fall League campaign but was left off the 40-man roster. St. Louis didn't add or lose any players in the Minor League phases of the Rule 5 Draft.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.