3 Reasons the St. Louis Cardinals Have Had so Much Homegrown Success
The St. Louis Cardinals have one of, if not the, most solid farm systems in all of baseball right now?
An organization that once viewed prospects as trade chips has since begun treating them like assets.
While the Cardinals former business model was highly successful, the current system lends itself to more long-term success.
During the 2011 postseason, the Cardinals 25-man playoff roster was literally stacked with players who have spent their entire professional careers with the Cardinals–17 of them to be exact.
While some of those names are gone now, they’ve been replaced by even more who have come up through the system.
Don’t mistake this for a few lucky years of drafting because it has become a philosophy. With the development of young pitchers such as Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Tyrell Jenkins, there is reason to expect the Cardinals to move in this direction for years to come.
So what brought the Cardinals to this point? Following are three reasons the team will continue to reap the benefits of the front office’s business strategy.
1. Jeff Luhnow
While he may not be with the Cardinals any longer, they will be seeing the effects of Jeff Luhnow’s stint as Vice President of Scouting and Player Procurement for years to come.
Luhnow’s strategy, which relies heavily on data and analytics, ushered in this new era for the Cardinals. When he stepped into the role, with no baseball experience whatsoever, it seemed a bit odd.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see what convinced Bill Dewitt Jr. to hire him.
Under his tenure, the Cardinals saw huge success at the minor league level, winning five championships (and two at the major league level.)
Jon Jay, Lance Lynn and Allen Craig, who have all produced at the major league level, are each products of the Luhnow-era.
It will be interesting to see what he can do with the Houston Astros over the next few years.
2. Trades as Supplements, Not Centerpieces
Blockbuster trades for the Cardinals have existed only in rumors over recent years. The days of bringing in Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds are, at least for now, a thing of the past.
Those trades come from an era when farmhands were meant to be adequate fillers, but superstars were bought.
That’s not the case today. Now the biggest name in a trade might be the player leaving the Cardinals instead of joining the team.
The trade that brought Marc Rzepczynski, Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis in exchange for Colby Rasmus seemed lopsided on the surface, but in reality the Cardinals were bringing in the pieces to fix the problems they had.
They needed to bolster the bullpen and add a decent starter. That’s exactly what they did.
The trade for Edward Mujica in 2012 was viewed in similar eyes, but he was acquired to fill a very specific need.
So far this method has been working well. Don’t expect to see it change anytime soon.
3. John Mozeliak
When Walt Jocketty “left” St. Louis, many scratched their heads and most asked John who?
Jocketty was huge for St. Louis, but as the direction of the teams’ philosophy began to shift, he didn’t. So, they made a change.
At the time, it was hard to understand why a team as successful as the St. Louis Cardinals would fire Jocketty. In the years since, it’s become more obvious.
John Mozeliak has proved during his time as general manager that he is one of the sharpest minds in baseball. His ability to find the perfect man to fill a need, and to do it at minimal cost, has been invaluable to the team.
While the trades have been huge, his unwillingness to shop around the Cardinals top prospects is a major factor in their homegrown success. Mozeliak views this young talent as the future of the organization.
When the need arises, he has let go of a few. Colby Rasmus mostly left due to differences with then manager Tony LaRussa. Third base prospect Zack Cox, who was blocked at his position by David Freese, was swapped in the Mujica deal.
An asset the Cardinals no longer needed, Cox was traded for a piece that filled a weakness.
So far, Mozeliak has found a way to make that philosophy work.
If he can keep it up, expect the Cardinals to grow younger and potentially stronger in the years to come.