Matt Baker has a really well written article up on Pete Kozma. To a lot of us, this probably seems like a dead horse, but remember that he’s writing for Springfield where Pete Kozma was recently called up. For the casual S-Cardinal fan, the 2007 draft was probably just another day in their work week.
There’s been a lot of back and forth on this site about Kozmanaut and Rick Porcello. I’ve tried to stay in a middle ground of sorts — Kozma was never the worst draft choice but I was never excited by his talent or thought it was first round caliber talent. It’s not a pleasant position to take because it leaves both flanks open for assault. The Kozma-lovers say I’m underrating his tools/overall package and the Kozma-haters say that I’m not coming down hard enough on a guy who looks like a utility player right now.
One things for sure, Pete Kozma and Rick Porcello are inextricably linked in the minds of Cardinal prospect followers. I think the reason for that linkage is important to decipher. It’s about more than just those two prospects; it’s about the often underwhelming nature of the Cardinal drafts. Jeff Luhnow and Co. operate from a different playbook than we might like. They aren’t going to pick the flashy draftee to appease the hardcore fanbase and I’m certain they have good reasons for the picks that they’re making. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating for us fans though. When an instance comes along that so precisely mimics the macrocosm in micro, well, Pete Porcello and Rick Kozma is born.
After the jump there’s a few quotes from Baker’s piece I want to look at.
Despite the uproar, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak defended the pick in an interview with the News-Leader earlier this year.
“One of the things we were trying to address at the time was talent at the middle infield. We were looking to draft what we perceived was a legitimate need, and we accomplished that.”
I don’t want to read too much into this quote because it’s defending a specific pick and not an overall philosophy, at least that’s my hope. It’s a dangerously incorrect strategy, imo, to look at the big league club and say in 4 years we need to have middle infield talent ready and, therefore, draft a middle infielder. The perception that I’m left with after reading the quote is that the Cardinals may not be drafting the best available player. Now, Brett Wallace in 2008 would seem to quell those fears but I really find that quote troublesome.
“Did you ever look at all the players who went after him (Kozma)? Not too many have come back to bite anybody,” Mozeliak said.
Without looking up their stats, there are 3 players that I was higher on than Kozma at the time of the draft. JP Arencibia was a catcher drafted by the Blue Jays. He’s put up some decent offensive numbers but nothing world beating. I’ll take a miss on that one. If the Cardinals weren’t going to draft Porcello though, the real problem for me, was that there was other pitchers still on the board with top notch stuff in Michael Main and Tim Alderson. These are the high risk, high reward players that I would have preferred to see the Cardinals gamble on and exactly the kind of player they are habitually reluctant to take. So I think Mozeliak is being a little defensive here and you can make a decent case for several of the players after Kozma and before Mortensen being better draft picks.
“Solid,” Springfield manager Pop Warner described Kozma. “A solid all-around player. And that’s what you want.”
I agree with Warner and it’s important to reiterate. Kozma is young and there’s still room for growth. He is a solid all around player and you do want guys like that on the team. He’s a good prospect and he’ll remain on the top 20 for next year baring something unforeseen. That said, if you asked me if that was what I wanted from a first round draft pick #18 overall. . .I think that might lead to a slightly different answer.
At the end of the day, there shouldn’t be any lingering resentment over this because 1) it’s a decision made that can’t be changed and 2) Kozmanaut is our prospect now. Everyone, even the skeptics, should want him to succeed. Bandage up the wound, bury the hatchet and whatever other cliche analogy you need to read. . .Kozma is ours and his success is part of St. Louis’ success.