Root, Root, Root for…Who?

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy watching the ALCS and NLCS the past week plus.  It’s been challenging, not only because the Rays were knocked out in the last round, but also because it’s truly been hard to find a team to root for.

Sure, there are some ex-Rays on each team like Jonny Gomes (Boston), Joaquin Benoit (Detroit), Carl Crawford and JP Howell (Los Angeles), and Randy Choate (St Louis), but all four clubs are big-market teams with 100 plus million dollar budgets.  It certainly would have been easier to find a rooting interest with small-market teams like the A’s or the Pirates had they advanced.

While finding a rooting interest isn’t easy, it is easy to see the most admirable quality in any of the remaining teams from a Rays point of view.  The club with that quality is St Louis and the quality is their success in the MLB draft.

No fewer than 17 players on the Cardinals’ active playoff roster were drafted by St Louis.   That doesn’t include disabled draftees such as Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, and Jason Motte.

Of the 17 players with the Cardinals that are with their original organization, they cover drafts that run from 2000-2012, with most of the players coming from 2006-2009.  What’s impressive is that St Louis has had draft success while winning, something the Rays are trying to accomplish.  In the past 14 years, St Louis has had 13 winning seasons, 10 playoff appearances, and eight 90-win campaigns. 

St Louis, unlike the Rays, has the ability to keep more successful draft picks for longer periods of time, like Yadier Molina.  In addition, the Cardinals can supplement the roster by acquiring players like Matt Holliday (7 years, $120 million) and Carlos Beltran (2 years, $26 million), players the Rays don’t have the ability to add at their price tag (via trade or free agency).

Overall, St Louis has found a way to sustain success in the draft despite picking lower in the order each year.   It’s something the Rays are working toward.  St Louis has had success, not only with early picks like Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, but they’ve done it by choosing effectively throughout the draft.  They found Matt Carpenter in the 12th round, Trevor Rosenthal in the 21st and Matt Adams in the 23rd.  From 2005-2009, they drafted more than 20 players who finished 2009 in the majors.

Among small market teams, Oakland has sustained success through numerous successful trades, but it’s easier to keep this run going as your drafted players make it to the majors.

What St Louis did over a five-year-period trumps teams throughout major league baseball.  However, for the Rays to sustain success, the drafts (and international signs like Alex Colome and Enny Romero) have to be a bigger part of the Rays’ future.

-Neil Solondz

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