Right-handed pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was the Cardinals' pick in the ninth round of the draft on Friday. 

By Rob Rains

All eight players selected by the Cardinals on the second day of the baseball draft on Friday have a story to tell, but probably none of them are as interesting as the one scripted by Daniel Poncedeleon.

Poncedeleon was the Cardinals’ pick in the ninth round, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher from Embry-Riddle University, an NAIA school of less than 5,000 students in Daytona Beach, Fla. His performance this season alone justified his selection, but that is only part of Poncedeleon’s story.

A senior, Embry-Riddle was Poncedeleon’s fourth school, and Friday marked the fourth time he has been selected in a baseball draft. He was a 24th round pick by Tampa Bay in 2010, a 38th round selection by the Reds in 2012 and the 14th round choice of the Cubs last year.

At that time, Poncedeleon was pitching for the University of Houston and was the Cougars’ Friday night starter. He agreed to terms with the Cubs after the draft, but never actually signed a contract and failed the team’s physical exam for an undisclosed reason.

Poncedeleon thought when that happened he would return to Houston, but was told that he had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA because of his deal with the Cubs, even though he never actually signed a contract and never received any money.

Needing a new place to play, Poncedeleon landed at Embry-Riddle, where he immediately landed on the radar of Charlie Gonzalez, the Cardinals’ area scout.

“From the beginning of the year I remember Charlie and Fernando (Arango, Southeast crosschecker) were on him and thought he was a pretty stud senior,” said scouting director Dan Kantrovitz. “Anytime you kind of have a guy who has that kind of a buzz as a senior your ears perk up because you tend to get those players for a pretty good value.

“As time went on, I think Charlie must have covered every one of his starts . He’s 90-95 (mph) with a nasty sinker, a high 80’s cutter, a good slider, a good changeup. He’s got the stuff to be a starter and move quick.”

Poncedeleon came to the Cardinals’ pre-draft workout in Jupiter, Fla., where he also impressed Kantrovitz and the others in the organization who had not seen him pitch.

“We all saw it first-hand,” he said. “Charlie was right on. He has some legit stuff. We’re excited to get him out there and get going. He can move quickly.”

Kantrovitz said Poncedeleon will go through a physical, but he did not see any evidence of any injuries which raised a red flag for the organization.

“He pitched all this year, he pitched all last year and hasn’t had any hiccups,” Kantrovitz said. “We’re anticipating him getting out there. I don’t anticipate any hiccups there. The story is interesting and the stuff is outstanding.”

In 14 starts this season, Poncedeleon was 9-2 with a 1.60 ERA. In 95 2/3 innings, he allowed 69 hits, walked 36 and struck out 103. He allowed only one home run and held hitters to a .197 average.

The 22-year-old Poncedeleon suffered his two losses in games in which he allowed a total of three earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. A native of California, he began his college career at Arizona, where he spent his freshman year, before transferring to a junior college, then on to Houston.

“We’ve been following him for a couple of years but this was the year he really came on the scene pretty quick,” Kantrovitz said.

The Cardinals also chose a student who transferred schools with their eighth pick, outfielder Nick Thompson from William and Mary. He played two years at East Carolina, where he was able to earn his B.S. degree in biochemistry in 2 ½ years because of all the advanced college credits he received while he was in high school.

Thompson was pursuing a master’s in biology at William and Mary, with his eye on going to medical school. While on the baseball field, he hit .368 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs in 56 games.

“Not only is he book smart but he’s also got a really high baseball IQ,” Kantrovitz said. “This guy has an approach that he knows that a walk is as good as a hit and when he gets his pitch he capitalizes on it with power. His intelligence off the field carries over to the field. We were targeting him all over the place today.”

Of the Cardinals’ eight picks, seven were from four-year colleges and one, second baseman Darren Seferina was a junior college player, from Miami-Dade Soyth (Fla.) College. They took two seniors, Poncedeleon and Stanford first baseman Danny Diekroeger, in the 10th round.

The third-round pick, 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher Trevor Megill from Loyola Marymount, did not play this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery a year ago. He is scheduled to pitch this summer in the Cape Cod League, and the Cardinals could elect to let him pitch there for a month before trying to sign him before the mid-July deadline.

The Cardinals’ other picks on Friday were left-handed pitcher Austin Gomber from Florida Atlantic in the fourth round; shortstop Andrew Sohn from Western Michigan in the fifth round, and catcher Brian O’Keefe from St. Joseph’s in the seventh round.

Two players with area connections also were picked on Friday – Missouri right-handed pitcher Brett Graves, a Francis Howell product, went to Oakland in the third round, and the Cubs chose Saint Louis University right-hander James Norwood in the seventh round.

The draft concludes on Saturday with rounds 11 through 40.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains