First baseman Luken Baker, the third player selected by the Cardinals in this year's draft, was recently promoted to Class A Peoria. (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

By Rob Rains

When Bob Gebhard was the general manager of the Colorado Rockies, the current Cardinal executive used to tell his scouting director that he had the best job in baseball.

The reason was that after making the team’s selections in the draft, the scouting director didn’t have to answer questions about how those players were doing for three or four years.

It usually takes that long, especially for high school players, to show how successful they are going to be as professionals.

The Cardinals’ current scouting director, Randy Flores, understands and appreciates that philosophy – but he also knows fans are a lot more anxious and quick to judge those draft picks, not wanting to wait for three or four years of development before labeling the draft as a success or failure.

Most of the players picked in the June draft have been playing for about six weeks now, enough time to take a look and see how they are doing – even if their raw performance data is not really the same way they are being evaluated and measured by the organization.

“The most important thing in these two months is to keep everybody healthy and monitor their work loads,” said Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals’ director of player development. “It’s less about the numbers and more about the consistency of their work.

“We don’t like to make a lot of changes. Let them pitch or if they are regulars let them hit and play with what got them there. … It’s not really about the production at the front end of the development cycle. It’s more about making sure we monitor what they’ve done throughout the year.”

Keeping that in mind, and realizing the sample size for the players’ first exposure to pro baseball is very small, here is a rundown on how some of this year’s draft picks have been performing:

Nolan Gorman – The Cardinals’ top pick, the 19th overall selection in the draft. Is back playing for Johnson City after missing a week because of a bruised hand suffered when the third baseman collided with the team’s catcher trying to catch a foul ball.

Gorman was the subject of a recent in-depth profile on STLSportspage.com. Through his first 25 games the left-handed hitter has a .301 average and seven homers in 93 at-bats.

Griffin Roberts – The second pick by the Cardinals, the 43rd overall selection, Roberts has yet to pitch this summer but he is not hurt. The organization, as it has done in the past with college pitchers such as Michael Wacha and Dakota Hudson, has been cautious to not over-wor Roberts after he threw 96 innings this spring for Wake Forest.

“It’s not unusual, we’ve done that before,” LaRocque said. “He’s in the middle of a throwing progression. It’s all about workloads.”

Wacha made his professional debut on July 11 in 2012 while Hudson’s first game was on July 18 two years ago.

Luken Baker – The Cardinals’ third pick, out of TCU, was also brought along slowly as he recovered from a broken leg suffered during the college season. He has been back playing now for a couple of weeks and earned a quick promotion from the rookie GCL Cardinals to a full-season club, Peoria, last week. In his first three games for the Chiefs, Baker, a right-handed hitting first baseman, was 6-of-14.

Mateo Gil – One of the youngest players in this year’s draft, Gil just celebrated his 18th birthday. The son of former major-leaguer Benji Gil has been the primary shortstop for the GCL Cardinals, where he had a .255 average in his first 25 games.

Kevin Woodall – The Cardinals’ 10th round pick from Costal Carolina recently hit three homers in one game and leads the Johnson City team with nine homers and 24 RBIs to go along with a .296 average after 26 games. The nine homers in 98 at-bats ties him for the league lead.

“He’s played both at first and the outfield and handled it well,” LaRocque said. “Offensively he is adjusting to the league and the everyday part of it. It’s been good to watch.”

Francisco Justo – The 12th round pick out of a junior college in New York, the 19-year-old right-hander has been impressive during his early outings for the GCL Cardinals. Three of the five runs he allowed in his first 15 innings came in one appearance lasting only one-third of an inning. He has 16 strikeouts in the 15 innings while issuing only four walks.

Michael Baird - Picked in the 23rd round out of Southern Illinois, Baird has been used as both a starter and reliever in State College and in his most recent start pitched five no-hit innings. Overall the right-hander, who turned 23 earlier this month, has allowed just 12 hits in 24 innings while walking two and recording 27 strikeouts. He has a 1.48 ERA and has held opponents to a .146 batting average.

Parker Kelly – The younger brother of Memphis catcher Carson Kelly was the Cardinals’ 20th round pick out of Oregon. The right-handed reliever is at Johnson City, where he allowed six runs in his first 10 appearances but four of those came in one game. Overall he is 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA.

Connor Coward – The 26th round selection from Virginia Tech has pitched in five games for the GCL Cardinals, recording 15 strikeouts, walking one and allowing just nine hits in 16 innings. He has a 1.13 ERA and has limited opponents to a .164 batting average.

Perry Dellavalle – The right-hander selected in the 27th round might be the Cardinals’ latest small-college pitching find, coming from Seton Hill in Pennsylvania. In his first six games for the GCL Cardinals, Dellavalle is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA with 30 strikeouts and five walks in 23 innings.

Andrew Warner – The Cardinals’ final pick, in the 40 round, Warner has been one of the best players on the GCL Cardinals, posting a .343 average through 27 games. The outfielder from Columbia (Mo.) College has hit three homers and driven in 22 runs, which Is tied for third in the league.

“He’s been aggressive and gone through good stretches,” LaRocque said. “We’re pleased.”

Ultimately, how far all of these players – and the rest of this year’s draft picks - progress through the farm system will be up to them. In a couple of years, all of the questions will begin to be answered.

“With the whole draft, you can write all the reports you want but the fact of the matter is those kids will write their own report after about three years,” said Mark DeJohn, the Cardinals’ field coordinator. “They write their own report, which is about as accurate as you can be.”

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