The Rule 5 draft was predictably boring for the St. Louis Cardinals, but it's something to talk about that's not the Winter Meetings.
The Rule 5 draft used to be exciting, because the rules used to be different and teams used to be dumber. Now teams have control a year longer, and they realize that you maybe want to keep Chris Shelton around, let alone Johan Santana. There wasn't even an Erik Komatsu for the Cardinals this year; their 25-man roster is filled-enough with near-prospects as is. But they did lose an old-for-his-league, under-utilized bat-first minor league catcher in the minor league Rule 5 draft, for the second year in a row. And they gained a guy with a career minor league line of .263/.371/.348.
Last year's model, in case you forgot, was Charles Cutler, who struggled to keep a full-time starting job in AA Springfield in 2011 despite hitting .333/.398/.475 in 62 games. The Pirates took him and he managed to play 55 games at AA Altoona, which is not a Rule 5 success story. (Afterward he was starting catcher for Team Israel, which is a promotion.)
This year the Athletics took Steven Hill, who for five years now has managed to hit the Cardinals organization's tweener exacta, perennially stuck between AA and AAA and catcher and corner-infielder. Hill has always seemed like a nice player to have in AAA; he can play multiple positions, and his power numbers have fluctuated between interesting and really-interesting.
But he couldn't stay healthy, and when a roster spot opened up the Cardinals always seemed to have a catcher or a third baseman who was more interesting to them, on a 15-day basis, than their catcher-and-third-baseman. For them, at least, the versatility he had on offer, given the questions about his on-base percentage and his defensive competence, was more theoretical than practical.
In the same draft the Cardinals took Jay Voss from the Tigers and Matt Cerda from the Cubs. Voss was the Tigers' return for Nate Robertson in 2010, and was not a Top-20 prospect at the time (though some of our HPGF brothers at Fish Stripes were pissed about the move.) He's 26, recovering from elbow surgery, and has never made it out of AA. His walk rates weren't terrible for a left-handed relief kind-of-prospect; other than that, he's a guy.
Matt Cerda, a 23-year-old third baseman, draws a ton of walks, recently moved from second to third base, and was part of the whole Danny Almonte thing. You can check the numbers yourself, but he strikes me as a less-interesting version of the Cardinals' own Jermaine Curtis, who at 24 last year hit .313/.417/.378 in AA Springfield while moving permanently from second to third base.
At some point talking about the less-interesting, less-impactful side of the Rule 5 draft—discussing whether someone is the poor man's Jermaine Curtis or just Jermaine Curtis—should drive us to reconsider what we're doing with our lives. But I feel like the John Mozeliak-Jeff Luhnow Cardinals have taught me or forced me to appreciate these random minor league widgets more than I should.