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Pirates would like to emulate Cardinals' path to baseball success

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, left, talks with pitcher Jason Motte during a workout Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, in St. Louis. Game 1 of the NL Division Series baseball playoff between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates is scheduled for Thursday.

ST. LOUIS — For most teams, losing a star such as Allen Craig on the cusp of the postseason would be devastating.

Craig hit .315 with 97 RBI this season and is one of the best clutch hitters in the game. He will miss the NL Division Series with a left foot injury.

But the Cardinals aren't like many organizations.

They have sustained winning over decades because of drafting and development.

To replace Craig in the lineup, they inserted Matt Adams — a 2009 23rd-round draft pick out of Slippery Rock — who could be a starting first baseman on many NL teams.

Adams has hit 17 home runs with an .838 OPS in 319 plate appearances this season.

The Cardinals are familiar with baseball's postseason, making nine playoff appearances and winning two World Series since 2000. The Pirates are new to baseball's second season, and they would like nothing more than to mirror the Cardinals' sustained success.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who spent a year with St. Louis as a player in 1986, knows replicating the Cardinals begins with the draft. Hurdle believes the Pirates have more impact players coming through the pipeline such as rookie Gerrit Cole, who will start Friday's Game 2.

“The thing that impresses me is sustainability,” Hurdle said. “So obviously, the scouting program is in a very good place. Their player development program is in a very good place. They've had very good leadership in the general manager seat and obviously the manager's seat.”

To understand how well the Cardinals have drafted, examine their 2009 class:

• First-round pick Shelby Miller has developed into one of the best young starters in the NL.

• Third-round pick Joe Kelly has had success as a starter and reliever and features a mid-90s fastball.

• Matt Carpenter wasn't selected until the 13th round. He has produced the second-best WAR among major league second baseman (6.6), trailing only the Yankees' Robinson Cano.

• Cardinals scout Aaron Looper saw Trevor Rosenthal pitch one inning in a community college tournament in Wichita, Kan. Later that spring, the Cardinals drafted Rosenthal in the 21st round. He is viewed as the club's future closer.

• Adams was unearthed from a Division II college.

“We're very, very proud of our development system,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Our scouts have chosen the right kind of guys that can handle coming up here at a young age without a lot of experience.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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