There's a new old face heading up the Cardinals' draft this year.
Assistant general manager John Mozeliak, whose background includes a prior stint as the team's scouting director, has added those duties once again. Mozeliak took over for Marty Maier, who oversaw the Cardinals' past three drafts.
Whether the change means a change in philosophy remains to be seen. According to Mozeliak, it's more about a change in the assessment of talent before draft day than any major difference in the decisions that will take place on June 7.
"Most of the impact is pre-draft day," said Mozeliak. "But what I try to do with this department is bring some accountability to the scouts and allow the scouts to have more of a say in the players we pick. I've tried to come up with a little bit of a less subjective and a more rational way of disseminating talent."
St. Louis' drafts have been a mixed bag in recent years. Along with first-round disappointments such as Justin Pope (2001), Shaun Boyd (2000) and Chance Caple (1999) have come successes like Danny Haren (second round, 2001), J.D. Drew (first, 1998) and of course Albert Pujols (13th, 1999).
Last year the Cards got away from their usual preference for college players in the early rounds, taking high school catcher Daric Barton in the first. So far Barton has been a rousing success, with an auspicious pro debut in 2003 and a dominating start to his first year of full-season ball.
This season, most of the late-first-round talent (St. Louis picks 19th) projects to be of the college stripe. Baseball America recently assessed that Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields might be coming to the Redbirds system, but a strong showing in his conference tournament might have Fields' stock rising.
Past five No. 1 picks
2003 Daric Barton, C
2001 Justin Pope, RHP
2000 Shaun Boyd, 2B
1999 Chance Caple, RHP
Other players considered to slot in around the time St. Louis picks are Texas A&M lefty Zach Jackson and Virginia Commonwealth right-hander Justin Orenduff. Should Princeton outfielder B.J. Szymanski fall to the 19th pick, he'd likely interest the Cards, and Boston College right-hander Chris Lambert might be on the team's radar as well.
Mozeliak, as is typical of St. Louis front-office personnel, is playing it close to the vest.
"Where we pick, at 19, it's very difficult because I still don't know exactly what's happening in front of us," he said. "I hear a lot of the same things other people do, but you can't be sure. I'd say we have six or seven names circled that we hope will get to us, or we have a strong feeling will be there when we pick."
The Cardinals' system remains deeper in pitching talent than in position players, and there seems to be a dearth of hitting talent in this year's draft. Then there's the fact that at least two positions -- first base and third base -- are locked down for the next six years in St. Louis.
"When we pick, we're going to try to find and identify who we believe the best player is," said Mozeliak. "We have not ruled out or excluded any individual class of players in this draft.
"A high school pitcher is an option. A high school position player would be an option. A college pitcher or a college position player would be an option. I would say that if possible we would like to try to find a position player because that's what our need is. But we're not going to overdraft somebody to fit that need."