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Cards turn focus to pitching on Day 2 of Draft

ST. LOUIS -- After making five selections on the first day of the First-Year Player Draft on Monday -- one of just two Major League clubs with that many picks on Day 1 -- the Cardinals drafted 14 more players on Tuesday's Day 2.

Four out of the five players drafted by St. Louis on Monday were college players. A similar trend occurred Tuesday, as the Cardinals used 11 of their 14 picks on college talent.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said it wasn't the organization's plan to draft college players, but they just happened to be the best players available at the time.

"Last year, when you look at our Draft strategy, we went very young, trying to inject a lot of high school players into our system. Whereas this year, we didn't have a set strategy going in. We wanted to take the best player available," Mozeliak said Tuesday. "But ending up with a collegiate Draft early on was a benefit, because in essence, this class will either catch up or either evolve last year's Draft class to a degree."

The Cardinals did however draft a high school player with their first pick on Tuesday, selecting Carson Kelly in the second round with the 86th overall selection. Kelly, a product of Westview High School (Ore.), has been scouted both as a right-handed pitcher and a third baseman, but Mozeliak said the club will develop him as an infielder.

"I guess some people did look at him as a pitcher, but that was not at all how we were viewing him," Mozeliak said of Kelly.

Kelly is a two-time Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year. As a senior this season, he finished 6-3 with a 1.09 ERA. He struck out 80 while walking just seven batters in 58 innings pitched. At the plate, he batted .398 with five homers and 26 RBIs while slugging .747 and posting a .514 on-base percentage.

As the No. 86 pick, Kelly's assigned signing bonus is $574,300, a number that can be negotiated but is unlikely to considerably rise.

Kelly has already committed to the University of Oregon, and Mozeliak said the third baseman could be one of the more difficult picks to sign.

"I feel pretty optimistic about where we're going with some of this," Mozeliak said. "But until they're done, we're not going to know for sure."

The Cardinals drafted just one pitcher on Monday -- Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha with the No. 19 overall pick -- and addressed that need Tuesday. St. Louis drafted five pitchers, including four in rounds 2-7. Left-hander Tim Cooney out of Wake Forest was the first to be taken at No. 117 overall in the third round. Three right-handers were taken in succession later, as Cory Jones (No. 180), Kurt Heyer (No. 210) and Kyle Barraclough (No. 240) each came off the board.

Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said he expects each of those pitchers to project as starters. Some pitchers chosen Wednesday in the final day of the Draft could begin in the bullpen.

"Tomorrow's going to be a different day," Mozeliak said. "We're certainly going to get Major League talent out of it, but it's sort of a different sort of lens if you will. We do need to fill rosters, and some of those roster spots are relievers."

Cooney, a junior from Wake Forest University, posted a 6-7 record with a 3.82 ERA in 99 innings this season. The 6-foot-3 left-hander had a team-high 90 strikeouts while walking 38 and holding opponents to a .264 batting average.

He impressed in the Cape Cod League last summer, despite finishing 2-5. He started nine games and fanned 48 against eight walks in 48 1/3 innings pitched, finishing the summer with a 3.54 ERA.

"Cooney is a left-hander with a classic natural delivery. The ball comes out of his hand really easy," Kantrovitz said. "Good changeup, good curveball. He's been durable. He's had some success in college and we feel he's got a good chance to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues."

University of Arizona product Alejandro Mejia was picked in the fourth round. The shortstop hit .367 this season as a junior en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, as well as Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American honors by Collegiate Baseball.

Mejia was one of five shortstops taken by the Cards on Tuesday. St. Louis used four of their last five picks on shortstops, taking high schooler Trey Williams (No. 360), Brett Wiley (No. 390), Anthony Melchionda (No. 420) and Bruce Caldwell (No. 480).

"Our intent is to and try and sign these gentlemen, and then we'll have to look at ways to get them playing time," Mozeliak said. "But I think when you look at the Draft today, as this starts to unfold week by week, how are we going to add the talent as we go? This could drag all the way out to July 13, so we needed that depth today."

July 13 is the deadline for all teams to sign their drafted players. The Cardinals have just more than $9.1 million to spend on their top 14 picks if they want to avoid penalties. This rule is in place due to spending caps instituted in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Draft continues Wednesday with rounds 16-40. Coverage will begin at 11 a.m. CT.

While Mozeliak said there is still plenty of work to be done on Day 3, both he and Kantrovitz agreed that the organization has plenty to be excited about so far.

"We think there's a combination of some high performers, quick movers. Speed and offense was a focus," Kantrovitz said. "We ended up getting a lot of players that we targeted going into, which doesn't really happen. We feel really good about the last two days, and tomorrow's another important day."

For a complete list of the Cardinals' picks on Day 2, check out the Cardinals' blog.

St. Louis Cardinals