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Cardinals pluck three righthanders, one who throws 99 mph, in minor-league Rule 5 draft

Cardinals pluck three righthanders, one who throws 99 mph, in minor-league Rule 5 draft

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Cardinals spring training

Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque (right) talks with director of baseball administration John Vuch (left) during spring training in Jupiter, Fla. (Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com)

SAN DIEGO — The iPhone video taken of the broadcast of a game came from a scout the Cardinals had in Panama, and the 20-year-old pitcher they saw on the recording of a TV was intriguing enough for the Cardinals to take a low-risk move Thursday at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.

The Cardinals, ineligible to participate in the major-league portion of the annual Rule 5 draft, selected three players in the minor-league portion, and each shared a trait with a player the Cardinals have had success developing and deploying in the majors. The Cardinals selected three righthanded pitchers: Jordan Brink, a power reliever with independent ball roots; Jacob Bosiokovic, a former outfielder/first baseman recently converted to pitcher; and the aforementioned 20-year-old righty, Enrique Saldana.

He has been pitching in Panama this winter, and a Cardinals scout caught one of his games on television and relayed the video of it back to the officials in St. Louis.

“In the minor-league Rule 5, you’re throwing darts,” said Cardinals official John Vuch, who along with farm director Gary LaRocque ran the Rule 5 draft for the team. “These guys all have something that makes them interesting, whether it’s a conversion guy – we’ve had success with conversion guys in the past – and we’ve had success with independent-league guys. So, if you’re going to throw a dart at least go in the direction with guys where you’ve had luck in the past.”

Snapshots of the minor-league additions:

Jordan Brink, RHP, from Milwaukee: The 26-year-old pitched for Southern Illinois in the Frontier League, and it was against the River City Rascals this past summer that he hit 97 mph, 98 mph, and 99 mph during a game. Video of that outing was shared on Twitter. He landed a look from the Brewers, and threw 5 1/3 innings for the Arizona League team. The Trackman data at that level supported the velocity and spin he was getting. He struck out nine in those 5 1/3 innings, and he had one two-inning outing with five strikeouts. The Cardinals have him logged at 95-97 consistently. At his age, he’ll get a chance to move fast if he performs well.

Enrique Saldana, RHP, from Colorado: Awarded a bonus around $500,000 as a teenager by the Rockies to play shortstop, Saldana made the move to the mound this past season. The Cardinals had some video of him pitching against their teams at the Dominican academy, and that helped inform their selection. He hit .244/.300/.387 as he advanced as a shortstop. He’s a shorter, younger righthander that has velocity around 91 mph and could gain strength.

Jacob Bosiokovic, RHP, from Colorado: A Ohio native who played for Ohio State, Bosiokovic was drafted in the 19th round in 2016. He advanced in the minors as a first baseman/outfielder, and in 2017 hit 15 home runs for the Rockies’ Class A team. The righthander had Tommy John surgery in college, received a medical redshirt, and returned to pitching only this past season. He pitched 41 2/3 innings for the Rockies and had a 4.54 ERA and 42 strikeouts. He’s throwing 92-94 mph, according to scouting reports, and that’s with a two-seam fastball.

Unlike the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, all three players go immediately on a minor-league roster and the Cardinals have control of their rights. The player does not need to remain at that level or on the active roster all season for those rights to be claimed.

In the major-league Rule 5 Draft, any player selected must immediately go on the 40-man roster and remain on the 26-man active roster or injured list all season in order for the selecting team to claim complete control of the player’s rights. The Cardinals had a full 40-man roster and, thus, could not participate in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. In the minor-league portion they had a total spending of $24,000 to acquire the three players.

The Cardinals did not lose a player in the brief Rule 5 Draft. They did have two players selected by Seattle in the minor-league phase: catcher Brian O’Keefe and first baseman Daniel Gomez. Both were at lower levels and likely blocked at their positions from moving forward.

The Cardinals also have signed a few minor-league free agents to fill out their affiliate rosters. One player signed is a former prospect, lefty Rob Kaminsky. The Cardinals traded him to Cleveland for Brandon Moss in July 2015. At 25, Kaminsky, one of the best prep pitchers when the Cardinals drafted him 28th overall in 2013, has shifted to left relief and now relies on a classic fastball-slider combination.

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