Baseball Card of the Week: How the Cardinals Could Have Drafted Chase Utley of the Phillies
Let me tell you all a little story, children. Wait, first, let me paint you a picture.
Okay, so I didn't really paint a picture. I did, however, scan and upload a picture, which is essentially the twenty first century version, so there. Do you like the picture? It is of a 2003 Chase Utley card by Bowman. Nice, huh? The same Chase who is becoming a World Series hero for the Philadelphia Phillies So anyway, let's get on with the story, shall we?
The story begins in the year 2000. That charmingly antiquated time seems so very long ago now that, honestly, it's a little hard to even remember what the world was like then. There were no iPods, no War on Terror, and Mandy Moore was still jailbait. As through a glass darkly, and all that, yes?
Anyhow, in baseball's First Year Amateur Draft that year, the St. Louis Cardinals had the 13th overall pick, thanks to an ugly 1999 season that culminated in many Cards fans calling for both Walt Jocketty and Tony La Russa to move along and let someone with a clue take over.
In that particular draft, the Cardinals had early on determined that the middle infield was a priority. If there was a guy available at Number 13 who played in the middle of the diamond, they were going to take him.
The first pick that year went to the Florida Marlins, and with that pick they took a High School first baseman from Chula Vista, Florida, by the name of Adrian Gonzalez. He plays for the San Diego Padres now, if you were wondering.
The Twins picked, the Cubs picked, the Royals and the Expos picked. Honestly, you probably wouldn't recognize the names of the players taken if I told you, proving that the draft, even at the top, really is a bit of a crap shoot. The Tampa Bay team, then still with the "Devil" in their name, took a kid by the name of Rocco Baldelli at 6 overall. You've probably heard of him.
As the round went on, two players emerged from the morass, two middle infielders, either one of whom would be perfect for the Cardinals. One was a college second baseman by the name of Chase Utley, who had just finished OPSing 1.137 for UCLA his junior year. The other we'll get to in a moment.
After Baldelli went to the Devil Rays, the Rockies, Tigers, Padres, and Angels picked. Not one of the players chosen has ever made it to the big leagues. Not a real great draft, at least not in the first round, to be honest.
Milwaukee picked eleventh, and took Dave Krynzel. He had a cup of coffee with the big club a couple of years ago, but no more. At twelve, the White Sox took Joe Borchard, who at the time was one of the Next Big Things. It didn't quite work out that way, of course, but such is life.
And so finally, the Cardinals were on the clock. They had two middle infielders to choose from. One was polished, the other extremely raw. One was a college player, the other just a high school kid. Utley had blossoming power, a sweet, short stroke from the left side of the plate, and an exceptional batting eye. Unfortunately, what Utley didn't have was the range to play shortstop in the big leagues. The high school kid, while certainly no one's idea of a polished bat, probably had the range for short, and had plenty of projection left.
The Cardinals made their choice, and they took the raw, toolsy kid. The Phillies took Utley two picks later, at fifteen, and got one of the building blocks of their team. A guy who, quite honestly, if he can stay healthy, just may have a shot at some town in upstate New York down the road somewhere.
The Cardinals? Well, they may not have gotten that, but they did get Shaun Boyd, a high school second baseman and occasional shortstop from Oceanside, California.
Yeah, there's a reason you haven't heard of him, either.
I have lots of reasons not to like the Phillies. I hated the Darren Daulton/Lenny Dykstra/John Kruk Philly teams of the early 90s. Their fans are just awful, awful people. (Honestly, how many human beings would boo Santa Claus? It's just appalling.) Their slugging first baseman stole the MVP from our slugging first baseman a couple of years ago. Their stadium is a bad joke of a bandbox. I could go on.
And, of course, I somehow will always feel like they stole our second baseman. I know, I know, that doesn't make any sense. But you know what? I don't care. They stole him, and that's that. So there.
One different choice in a draft almost a decade ago, and the Cardinals could have had one of the best right side infield tandems in the history of the game. Instead, we're treated to an endless carousel of Aaron Miles, Felipe Lopez, Ronnie Belliard, Junior Spivey, and our long term solution, Adam Kennedy. How's that for sour grapes?
One other little note: in the first round of that 2000 draft, there were only four players taken that could be considered true difference maker type players. The three I already mentioned; Gonzalez, Baldelli, and Mr. Utley, and one other. With the 29th overall pick in the first round that year, the Braves took a tall drink of water, a high school pitcher with a big curveball by the name of Adam Wainwright. So at least the Cards ended up with something out of that draft, right?