St. Louis Cardinals' Mitch Harris—after almost 5 years in the Navy—finally reports to Spring Training

Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Mitch Harris, drafted on the same day as Brett Wallace and Lance Lynn, will join the St. Louis Cardinals for Spring Training in 2013.

The St. Louis Cardinals' top 2008 draft picks are mostly notable for why they aren't currently in the organization. Brett Wallace and Shane Peterson aren't highly touted prospects anymore, but they netted the Cardinals Matt Holliday; a few years later Alex Castellanos's unexpected breakout season brought them Rafael Furcal. Mitch Harris, their risky, high-upside 13th-round pick, has never thrown a professional pitch, because he's spent the last five years in the Navy. After being denied early release last year, Harris posted this on Instagram last week:

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Harris wasn't an ordinary 13th-round pick, but the risk of losing him for five years dropped him down there. Cue the worst-case scenario: The Cardinals lost him for five years, and now he's a 27-year-old with no pro baseball experience. But it's great to see him playing baseball again, whatever happens, and amid all the pieces about players being in the best shapes of their lives he'll make for a fascinating story.

And it's worth keeping this in mind, when judging the gamble the Cardinals made: If Mitch Harris manages to finish even one run above replacement level in the major leagues, he'll become the second-most-valuable player of their entire draft.

Rnd OvPck Tm Pos WAR G AB HR BA OPS G W L ERA
1s 39 Cardinals *Lance Lynn (minors) RHP 2.4 53 54 0 .056 .159 53 19 8 3.67
10 305 Cardinals Alex Castellanos (minors) 2B -0.3 16 23 1 .174 .591
32 965 Cardinals Sam Freeman (minors) LHP -0.3 24 0 0 24 0 2 5.40
1 13 Cardinals Brett Wallace (minors) 1B -0.5 232 709 16 .250 .699
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/14/2013.
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