Cards active in Rule 5 Draft's Minor League phase
Shortstop Miclat, corner infielder Ustariz selected by St. Louis
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cardinals neither picked nor were plundered in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Rather, the organization's concentration of Rule 5 activity came during the Minor League phase.
Included among the three players lost in the Triple-A part of the Draft was Jake Lemmerman, the shortstop the Cardinals acquired when trading Skip Schumaker to the Dodgers a year ago. The Cardinals were not down a shortstop by the end of the morning, however, as one of their two selections was targeted to address this organizational need.
St. Louis selected shortstop Greg Miclat out of the Rangers organization in the first round of the Draft's Triple-A portion. The Cardinals then added first baseman Jesus Ustariz, taking him from the Tigers. The Cardinals paid $12,000 to acquire each player, both of whom had been left off their organization's respective Triple-A rosters.
Unlike the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, where clubs must carry a player on the big league roster for a full season in order to retain his rights, there are no rules about what level these Minor League selectees have to play in the following season.
In addition to losing Lemmerman to the Padres, the Cardinals watched as the Twins selected right-hander Kevin Thomas and the D-backs took left-hander Hector Hernandez from the organization. Hernandez split the 2013 season between the Cardinals' Class A affiliates. Lemmerman played the full year in Double-A. Thomas was in Double-A for the majority of the season, as well.
Still seeking to add depth in the area of shortstop, the Cardinals entered the Draft with their eye on Miclat.
"When you look throughout the industry, even in just the amateur draft, the number of quality shortstops, it's very similar to finding quality catching. It's more challenging every year," said Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals' senior advisor to player development. "We've used all the options that are out there for us over the course of time. That's how you do it. That's what the Rule 5 Draft does, that's what potential trades do. You have to explore it that way, I think."
Though Miclat has played both middle infield spots during his climb through the Minors, the Cardinals intend to use him primarily at short in 2014. Miclat is coming off a season in which he played 79 games at the Triple-A level. There, he posted a slash line of .238/.329/.279.
"We feel Greg has got some tools that play pretty well," LaRocque said. "He's got some good speed. Offensively, he will help us and provide some depth for us at a position where we were looking. He's a good fit."
Ustariz, 20, is still quite raw. Signed out of Venezuela as a teenager, he has played just two professional seasons in the United States. He batted .302 in 42 Rookie level games last year before finishing the year with an 11-game stint in short-season low Class A ball. The Cardinals envision the corner infielder settling in as a first baseman.
"Jesus is a young bat that we have seen at the lower levels," LaRocque said. "We're anxious to get him into the system and get him some at-bats."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.