Pitchers and Catchers Kind of Report

1. Treachery! Tony La Russa will apparently be unofficially assisting Jim Leyland for part of Spring Training in Detroit, proving that La Russa's apparent connection to every living 1980s coaching star works in both directions.

2. Wainwright, some more! Adam Wainwright threw to live hitters again, and the other starters are already in camp. No word yet as to what Roy Oswalt did, though if it's anything like what I do when I'm underemployed he probably sat in Chipotle by himself, reading a magazine and hoping against hope that the lady who swipes his Discover card twice a week didn't recognize him as the Magazine Guy.

3. One more potential Matt Adams skeptic! One of these threads about minor league first basemen over the last few days reminded me rather abruptly of Mark Hamilton, who comes into this season 27 years old, still option-able, and about to get run over by an actual first base prospect after three Memphis half-seasons in which he's hit .319/.406/.530 and scuffled in patchy St. Louis assignments. I'm told he's less than convinced about Adams's ability to maintain a workable OBP in the Major Leagues, and more convinced that Adams should retire, or become a pitcher, or just go away or something.

Hamilton doesn't project especially well thanks to his inability to stay on the field, his age, and his weird hitting profile—last year he hit .345/.439/.472, which is probably not a real thing—but I've always been curious to see what he could do given the chance for some other team; if he ends up back in Memphis, unfortunately, he'll be forced to stomp around the outfield some more.

(While we're on the subject, 2006 might be the ultimate representative Mozeliak/Luhnow-era Cardinals draft. Some disappointing front-line picks—Hamilton and Adam Ottavino—some additional replacement-level guys who get call-ups—Shane Robinson, P.J. Walters—and two not-entirely heralded starters in Allen Craig and Jon Jay, not to mention Chris Perez, David Carpenter, and Luke Gregerson.)

While we're still on the subject, Joe Strauss did his only-realist-in-the-world thing on Twitter the other day, responding with #NoSixYearFAs and #SelfFulfilling to a factoid to the effect that the Cardinals had drafted and graduated 24 players between 2005 and 2007.

Here's what that looked like. (Warning: The following embedded tweet might be a Hazard Zone, because Joe Strauss is maybe the kind of guy who walks into a room and says, "Storm warning, bros, the Realist is in the building.")

It's true that I don't get especially worked up about the difference between, say, Prentice Redman and Shane Robinson, but in this particular case I think cause and effect are being mixed up. The Cardinals haven't hit on a Ryan Ludwick since Mozeliak became GM, but they have remained weirdly amenable to replacing a homegrown prospect with an expired suspect when given the opportunity.

So Bryan Augenstein, grabbed off waivers, beat both Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez to the roster in 2011, with Raul Valdes and Ian Snell also given every chance to spend time in the majors; so the Rich Hill and Charlie Zink experiments went on in 2010, while 2009 featured two prototypical minor league free agents, Joe Thurston and Royce Ring. In the Rule 5 draft this year, while they were at it, they pulled Erik Komatsu, who is basically a less homegrown version of Adron Chambers.

If these guys sound less exciting than the likes of Salas and Sanchez and Lance Lynn and Daniel Descalso and even Adam Ottavino and Mitchell Boggs, it's not because you're a member of the Hyperventilating Prospect Geek Fraternity—it's because they are much less exciting than the guys the Cardinals have been drafting. Here's my theory: The more players you have who don't suck, the less frequently you have to dip into a pool of players whose previous teams mostly thought they sucked. The Cardinals aren't signing so many minor league free agents because most minor league free agents aren't as good as the players in a Top 10 farm system.

Here's those players they graduated; pick out the ones that look like marketing to you.

2005: Colby Rasmus, Tyler Greene, Bryan Anderson, Mitchell Boggs, Nick Stavinoha, Jaime Garcia

2006: Adam Ottavino, Chris Perez, Jon Jay, Mark Hamilton, Shane Robinson, Allen Craig, P.J. Walters, (David Carpenter), (Luke Gregerson)

2007: Pete Kozma, Clayton Mortensen, Jess Todd, Daniel Descalso, Steven Hill, Andrew Brown, (Brian Broderick), Tony Cruz, Adron Chambers

I count... Pete Kozma. But if it's any consolation, the Cardinals did sign Freddie Bynum and Ramon Vazquez to minor league deals last year; in a pinch either one of them would probably have been able to hit .176 over 17 at-bats, though I'm not sure they'd have gotten out with that .333 OBP.

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