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Pujols compensation works out well for Cards

NEW YORK -- Headlined by No. 19 overall pick Michael Wacha, a right-hander out of Texas A&M University, the Cardinals corralled five players in the first night of the three-day First-Year Player Draft. Sixty players were selected in all on Monday, with only St. Louis and Toronto making more than four selections.

The opportunity to select Wacha -- a player whom scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said the organization was "thrilled" to still see available during the second half of the first round -- was actually made possible by Albert Pujols leaving. In losing Pujols to the Angels during the offseason, the Cardinals were compensated with a pair of picks.

That 19th overall pick, which belonged to the Angels, became property of the Cardinals. St. Louis also was given the chance to select 36th overall. With that pick, the Cardinals took Stanford's Stephen Piscotty.

Rounding out the team's Day 1 picks were outfielder James Ramsey (No. 23), infielder Patrick Wisdom (No. 52) and catcher Stephen Bean (No. 59).

This marked just the third time in the past 21 years that the Cardinals were able to pick twice in the first round. The last time they had a pair of first-round picks was in 2005, and they used them to take infielder Tyler Greene and outfielder Colby Rasmus.

"Really exciting players," Kantrovitz said of Monday's group. "I think, as a whole, there's some diversity to the group and hopefully fast-movers. We've been hunkered down in the war room for the past four days, and these were all guys that our scouts pounded the table for us to draft."

The Cardinals will make another 39 selections before the Draft is eventually complete, but these first five picks are projected to eat much of the organization's Draft budget. Due to spending caps instituted in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cardinals have just over $9.1 million to divvy among their top 14 picks if they want to avoid penalties.

As the 19th overall pick, Wacha's recommended slot signing bonus is $1.9 million. The deadline to sign this year is 11 p.m. CT on July 13.

"Hopefully we can get a deal worked out pretty soon and go from there," said Wacha, who is represented by Jeff Barry. "It's an unbelievable feeling. Dreams do come true. It's just an honor to be picked by the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a proven history of success, and I can't wait to get involved with it."

Wacha learned of his selection while watching the Draft on TV alongside family and some teammates in College Station, Texas. He noted that while he was aware of the Cardinals' interest in him, he wasn't sure exactly where he would land.

In 16 starts for the Aggies this season, Wacha went 9-1 with a 2.06 ERA. In his 113 1/3 innings, Wacha struck out 116 and walked 20. Opponents hit just .228 off Wacha, whose uncle, Dusty Rogers, played in the Reds' organization. Wacha's ERA was the third lowest among starters in the Big 12 Conference this season. He ranked fourth in strikeouts.

In his sophomore year, Wacha was named to the Big 12 All-Second Team after finishing 9-4 with a 2.29 ERA. Assuming that the Cardinals and Wacha are able to come to an agreement, he'll leave Texas A&M having struck out 336 batters. That is a school record.

"I pitch mainly off my fastball, both sides of the plate," Wacha said. "Then work in a changeup, mainly as an out pitch. Then also my slider got a little better as the season went on. Hopefully that'll come into play, as well.

"But I just go out there and try and compete and pitch to the best of my ability and try to get the win for my team."

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Wacha is projected to rise through the Minors fairly quickly, meaning he could have an impact in St. Louis earlier than many others in the 2012 Draft class.

Scouting reports note that Wacha's fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, with potential for improvement. Baseball America listed Wacha as the 11th-best pitcher available in the Draft.

While Wacha will forever be loosely associated with Pujols, so too will Piscotty, a versatile player out of Stanford.

Recently named to the All-Pac 12 First Team, Piscotty told reporters in California that he was talking with teams selecting after the Cardinals when he learned that St. Louis was going to take him.

Piscotty led the Cape Cod League with a .349 average last summer after hitting .364 for Stanford during his sophomore season. This year, Piscotty is batting .318 with 55 RBIs. In his three collegiate seasons, Piscotty has started all 170 games and has a career .336 batting average.

While the right-handed-hitting Piscotty hasn't shown significant power, scouts believe more could come. He also has the ability to be placed at a number of different positions and is said to have an accurate arm and good hands on defense.

Piscotty's value to Stanford extends beyond the offensive numbers, too. Though the Cardinals will groom Piscotty as a position player, he is also 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA this year.

"Piscotty has some versatility," Kantrovitz said. "We're going to try him out at corner outfield, first base and third base."

The Cardinals last had a pool of five first- and supplemental-round picks in 1991, when they selected Dmitri Young fourth overall. The Draft continues with rounds 2-15 on Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

St. Louis Cardinals