Cardinals Add Pair of Lefties in Rule 5 Draft

St. Louis selects left-handed pitchers Ben Jukich from Cincinnati and Matt Meyer from Cleveland and loses veteran Mike Parisi to the Cubs in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.

Last month in Arizona, Cardinals VP of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow told me the organization was looking to add depth from the left side after having likely lost four left-handed members of the Triple-A Memphis staff due to free agency.

That need was partially addressed in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft as the Cardinals selected two left-handed pitchers. With the 20th selection (16th player taken) in the Major League phase, the Cardinals took Ben Jukich from the Cincinnati Reds organization. They also acquired Matt Meyer from Cleveland in the Triple-A phase.

Jukich to join Cardinals 40-man roster

Jukich, 27, was 9-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 17 starts for the Reds Triple-A Louisville club this past season. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder appeared in 29 games, threw 123 innings and struck out 106 batters after having been a non-roster invitee to Cincinnati's spring camp in 2009. His minor league career began in 2003, during which time he amassed a record of 34-19 with a 3.83 ERA over 469 innings.

The Cardinals will be the Jukich's third organization. He was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 13th round (398th overall) of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Dakota Wesleyan University. In April 2007, he was part of a trade to the Reds for outfielder Chris Denorfia which also included Athletics pitcher Marcus McBeth heading to Cincinnati.

In 2008, Jukich was the starting and winning pitcher for the North squad in the Double-A Southern League All-Star Game. He was the Reds organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Month that May. Jukich pitched for Surprise in the 2007 Arizona Fall League.

Jukich is currently pitching for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Republic winter league. He has made nine starts, posting a 3-2 record and 2.78 ERA. Jukich has allowed 49 hits, 17 runs (14 earned), three home runs, 12 walks, and struck out 32 over 45 1/3 innings.

Premium Article Subscribers: Follow Jukich's winter ball results in our daily Cardinals Winter Leagues Notebook exclusively here at The Cardinal Nation.

Before the draft, Baseball America named Jukich a pitcher to watch in this phase and that he has a fringe fastball and at times, a plus curve.

Video of Jukich:

Perhaps Jukich may be considered to take the place on the Triple-A Memphis roster of a 2009 workhorse, Evan MacLane. The now-free agent lefty joined the Pacific Coast League club early in the season after having been acquired from Arizona. Along with MacLane, the Cardinals lost left-handed relievers Royce Ring, Charlie Manning and Ian Ostlund to minor league free agency.

For Jukich to reach Triple-A however, the Cards would need to work a deal with Cincy to keep him. More likely, he is initially being looked at as lefty relief insurance for MLB incumbents Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes and could be thrown into the long reliever mix during spring training.

The Rule 5 draft permits Major League teams to draft unprotected players off other teams' rosters and pay $50,000 for each player in the Major League phase. If the player remains on the Major League roster for the entire season, the drafting team can keep him. If he is sent down to the minors, he must be offered back to the original team, in this case Cincinnati, for half of the purchased amount ($25,000).

This year, of the 17 players taken in the Major League phase, 14 were pitchers, including Jukich. He becomes the 37th player on the Cardinals' 40-man roster.

Meyer offers LH relief

In the Triple-A phase of Thursday's draft, the Cardinals selected pitcher Matt Meyer from the Cleveland Indians' Double-A Akron roster. Meyer, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound left-hander, compiled a 12-10 record with a 3.86 ERA and six saves over 148 relief appearances from 2006-2009 in the Indians organization.

The 24-year-old reached Triple-A Columbus this past September after splitting a majority of the season between A-Advanced and Double-A. Overall, Meyer appeared in 44 contests across the three levels.

The Minnesota-born hurler was originally drafted by the Tribe in the 15th round of the 2006 draft after having played his collegiate ball at Boston College. The durable hurler's 42 appearances in 2008 ranked fifth in the Indians' system, a year after he appeared in 43 games.

According to our Scout.com partners Indians Ink, Meyer was the number 49 rated prospect in the Cleveland organization during the site's countdown last off-season.

Video of Meyer:

Parisi gone and likely not coming back

The Cardinals also lost right-hander Mike Parisi to the Chicago Cubs with the 14th selection (12th player taken) in the Major League phase. Parisi, coming off August 2008 Tommy John surgery, was showcased in the Arizona Fall League this October and November and pitched reasonably well, only to be left unprotected by the Cardinals.

The 26-year-old was drafted by the Cardinals in the ninth round of the 2004 draft and became the first player from that class to reach St. Louis when he made his MLB debut in May of 2008.

Because Parisi has been outrighted previously, if he does not stick with the Cubs, he has the right to declare free agency, rather than be bound to return to the Cardinals. Parisi had also been left unprotected in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft but was not an appealing target for other organizations due to his recovery from surgery.

Leftovers

The Cardinals lost no players in the Minor League phases of this year's Rule 5 Draft. Including Meyer, 25 players changed organizations in that part of the proceedings. Those players are not required to be returned no matter what level they are assigned in their new systems in 2010.

Premium Article Note: The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com subscribers can read about the details of the Cardinals Rule 5 activity in recent years in this article: "Recent Cardinals Rule 5 Draft History."



The Cardinal Nation writers Dustin Mattison and Josh Jones also contributed to this article.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
Follow Brian on Twitter.

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