St. Louis Cardinals

Flores to oversee amateur draft with Cardinals

The opening day of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft Thursday will see the St. Louis Cardinals select three players in the first round.

St. Louis’ first pick will be No. 23 overall.

The draft, which begins at 6 p.m. and will conclude Saturday, will be televised by the MLB Network. There will 77 players will be chosen Thursday. The draft consists of 40 rounds.

The Cardinals, guided by first-year scouting director and former left-handed reliever Randy Flores, 40, will receive two additional first-round selections as compensation for the Chicago Cubs’ offseason signings of free agents John Lackey and Jason Heyward.

The picks for losing Lackey, a veteran right-handed pitcher, and Heyward, a Gold-Glove right fielder, will be Nos. 33 and 34 overall – the final two picks of the first round.

St. Louis’ second-round pick, also taken Thursday, will be No. 70 overall.

Taking the best player

Since Flores has no draft history, it’s difficult to determine the Cardinals’ strategy. Much, of course, could be determined by which players are chosen ahead of St. Louis.

Typically, teams insist they will take the best player available, and the Cardinals are no different. Historically, pitching has been a priority in the draft.

Last year, however, St. Louis chose a high-school prospect, left-handed-hitting outfielder Nick Plummer, of Bloomfield, Mich. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Plummer, 19, batted .228 with eight doubles, five triples, one home run and 22 RBIs for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals will pick 23rd in the first round of the amateur draft Thursday. They have two additional first-round picks because of the losses of free agents John Lackey and Jason Heyward. St. Louis will make four selections Thursday. The draft consists of 40 rounds and will conclude Saturday.

The Cardinals had not selected a position player with their first pick in the draft since 2011 when they chose second baseman Kolten Wong from the University of Hawaii.

St. Louis’ three No. 1 picks after Wong were pitchers: Michael Wacha in 2012, Marco Gonzales in 2013 and Luke Weaver in 2014. The Cardinals’ first six picks in 2014 were pitchers.

Signability also is a factor. The Cardinals have a draft pool of $9.1433 million to use to sign their selections. The value assigned to their top pick is $2.2225 million.

Any team that exceeds its pool up to 5 percent will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Any team that exceeds its pool by 5 to 10 percent will be taxed at a 75-percent rate and lose a first-round pick in the 2017 draft. There are additional penalties for overspending at higher percentages.

Deep draft

Baseball America, which specializes in evaluating amateur talent, considers the draft to be lacking in star power, but possessing plenty of depth.

The publication ranked pitchers A.J. Puk, Riley Pint and Jason Groome at the top of the class. Puk, a junior left-hander at the University of Florida, is 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 15 starts, with 95 strikeouts in 70 innings and a .195 batting average against.

Pint, a right-hander, and Groome, a left-hander, recently completed their high school careers, Pint at St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park, Kan., and Groome at Barnegat in New Jersey.

Baseball America considers right-handed-hitting outfielder Kyle Lewis to be the top position player in the draft. Lewis, a junior at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., batted .395 with 20 home runs and 72 RBIs in 223 at-bats. He had 66 walks and 48 strikeouts.

No guarantees

There’s no recipe for slam-dunk success in the draft. Luck is a factor. No. 1 picks don’t always become stars at the big-league level, while low-round picks are capable of maturing and developing into solid major-leaguers.

The Cardinals have six players on their roster who were not considered top-flight prospects when they were chosen: infielder Matt Carpenter (13th round), pitchers Trevor Rosenthal (21st round) and Jaime Garcia (22nd round), first baseman Matt Adams (23rd round) and pitchers Dean Kiekhefer (36th round) and Kevin Siegrist (41st round). Another player, outfielder Tommy Pham (16th round), has been injured most of the season.

Flores is the Cardinals’ third scouting director in three years. He replaced Chris Correa last summer after Correa was charged with illegally hacking into the Houston Astros’ database to gain proprietary information. Correa pleaded guilty in January and is awaiting sentencing.

Dan Kantrovitz was the Cardinals’ scouting director prior to Correa. Kantrovitz left the Cardinals in November 2014 to become assistant general manager with the Oakland A’s.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm