By Rob Rains
LAS VEGAS – When the Cardinals set their 40-man roster, they knew they were taking a gamble by leaving off a couple of prospects, making them eligible to be selected by other teams in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.
The decision forces other teams to then make a decision – knowing that if they select a player, he will have to remain on their active 25-man roster for the entire season or they will have to offer him back to the Cardinals.
The Padres did that two years ago, taking shortstop prospect Allen Cordoba, and kept him on their roster all season even though he had never played above rookie ball.
On Thursday, the Cardinals knew they could lose prospects, and they did – when Texas claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Ellis, and then traded him to Kansas City. But the two prospects generally regarded as the top ones available from the Cardinals, right-hander Junior Fernandez and infielder Max Schrock, were not selected.
“That happens each year,” said Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals’ director of player development, “which is what is so interesting about the Rule 5 draft.”
The Cardinals had a full 40-man roster, so they were not able to make any selections in the major-league portion of the draft.
They did pick up two players in the minor-league portion of the draft, right-handed pitcher John Fasola from the Rangers and shortstop Alberto Triunfel from the Angels.
“You’re trying to upgrade at certain levels where they are at,” LaRocque said. “We feel pretty good about it.”
The Cardinals lost one minor leaguer, right-handed pitcher Wintson Nicacio, who was selected from the State College roster by Pittsburgh.
Players selected in the minor league portion of the draft immediately become the property of the new organization and are not subject to the same rules as players picked in the major-league portion of the draft.
Schrock, who spent the 2018 season at Memphis after coming to the Cardinals in the Stephen Piscotty trade, and Fernandez, who returned to the mound in Springfield after missing almost a full year because of a sore arm, were ranked going into the draft by MILB.com as two of the top eight picks available.
The injury concerns, and control issues, likely made teams shy away from Fernandez while Schrock did not have as good a season offensively in 2018 as he had in the past.
Fasola is a 27-year-old reliever who missed the 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery and only pitched 26 innings for the Rangers’ Double A affiliate last season because of an ACL injury.