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Pujols prime example of late Draft value

Pujols prime example of late Draft value

ST. LOUIS -- The first round draws all the attention, but there's plenty more to baseball's First-Year Player Draft than the first round or even the first day. And nowhere do they know that better than in St. Louis.

That's because the best player in baseball is not only a Cardinal, but a late-round Draft pick. Albert Pujols was selected in the 13th round of the 1999 Draft. He spent the 2000 campaign terrorizing pitchers at three Minor League levels, and in 2001, he emerged as a fully-fledged Major League star. The National League hasn't been the same since, and neither have St. Louisans' perceptions of the Draft.

It's not always that simple, but it's clear that the relevant part of the Draft didn't end on Tuesday night. Things start back up on Wednesday with pick No. 112. And just from the Cards' current active 25-man roster, 14 different players were drafted later than 112th overall. Pujols is the model, but he's just one of an army of later picks who are currently Cardinals.

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After 111 picks on Day 1 -- including Round One, Compensation Round A, Round Two, Round Three and Compensation Round B -- the Draft will resume with exclusive coverage on MLB.com with the Fourth Round at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday and will be tentatively scheduled to go through the 30th round. The Draft will conclude on Thursday with the 31st through 50th rounds, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

MLB.com's coverage will include a live pick-by-pick audio stream, expert commentary and the exclusive Draft Tracker, a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player, featuring statistics, scouting reports and video highlights.

Fans will not only be able to follow along every minute of the way online, but they'll be able to interact directly with Draft-eligible players and MLB.com Draft experts, among others.

The Draft Tracker will also feature the addition of Twitter, and the participation of "tweeters" such as MLB.com Draft expert @JonathanMayoB3, who will also be serving as on-air talent for all three days of the Draft; and reporter @LisaWinstonMLB, who will be writing the up-to-the-minute coverage for MLB.com.

In addition, MLB.com has created a Twitter account devoted to the Draft, where you can stay updated on every piece of info as it becomes available (@MLBDraft).

Here's a look at the full list of current Cardinals selected 112th or later:

Brian Barden: A sixth-round pick of the D-backs in 2002, Barden made his way through the Arizona system for five seasons before cracking the Opening Day roster in 2007. He still stuck around in the Minors for a while longer, but this year he's gotten his longest continuous taste of the Majors.

Ryan Franklin: The Cardinals' closer was a "draft-and-follow" player more than 15 years ago. The draft-and-follow system no longer exists, as teams must sign their players by Aug. 17. But Franklin was selected in the 23rd round in 1992, signed in May 1993 and made it to the Majors on May 15, 1999.

Blake Hawksworth: Another draft-and-follow player, Hawksworth signed to much fanfare in May 2002 after the Cardinals drafted him in the 28th round in 2001. After battling injuries for many years, he finally made his Major League debut on Saturday.

Jason LaRue: A fifth-rounder in 1995, LaRue moved fairly quickly through the Minors. He debuted with the Reds on June 15, 1999.

Kyle McClellan: The hometown boy was a 25th-round pick of the Cardinals in 2002. Another player sidelined by injuries in the Minors, he jumped from Double-A to the Major Leagues when he broke camp with the big league team at the start of 2008.

Yadier Molina: The Cardinals knew what they had in Molina very soon after drafting him in the fourth round (No. 113 overall) in 2000. He debuted with the Cardinals on June 3, 2004, after Mike Matheny suffered an injury, and the next year he was handed the starting catching job for the reigning National League champions.

Jason Motte: Few players had a more fascinating path to the Majors than Motte, who was a 19th-round pick as a catcher in 2003. After he struggled to hit in pro ball, the Cardinals moved him to the mound, where he rocketed to the Majors and debuted on Sept. 3, 2008.

Joel Pineiro: A 12th-rounder in 1997, Pineiro quickly established himself as one of Seattle's top pitching prospects. He made his first appearance as a Mariner barely three years later, on Aug. 8, 2000.

Pujols: This one you know about. It was less than two years from Draft to debut, and four years later Pujols won the first of his two MVP awards.

Brendan Ryan: A seventh-rounder in 2003, Ryan advanced quickly before an injury short-circuited his 2006 season. He nonetheless made the big leagues less than four years after he was drafted, debuting on June 2, 2007.

Skip Schumaker: It was once a little-known fact that Schumaker played infield in college before he was drafted. Since his conversion from the outfield to second base, that fact is well known once again. Schumaker was a fifth-rounder in 2001, and he cracked the Major Leagues on June 8, 2005.

Nick Stavinoha: Drafted in the seventh round out of LSU in 2005, Stavinoha hit at just about every level until he forced his way to the Majors. He debuted last June and has impressed this year in limited duty.

Brad Thompson: Thompson was a 16th-rounder in 2002, but a record scoreless streak at Double-A put him on the radar. He first appeared as a Cardinal on May 8, 2005.

Joe Thurston: Taken in the fourth round (134th overall) in 1999, Thurston was a top prospect in the Dodgers' organization and made his debut quickly, on Sept. 2, 2002. However, he never did stick for an extended period of time until this year with the Cardinals.

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

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