“We’ve been looking for a power hitter and we think Coleman is the type of guy who is going to come through,” Fred McAlister, Cardinals director of scouting, told Vahe Gregorian of the Post-Dispatch on draft day. “He’s built along the lines of a Bo Jackson.”Frank Thomas, of course, had just hit .401 with 19 home runs in his junior year of college. The thing about leaping back to the '80s is that everything you read in Moneyball, a book that a year after its release was already a Baseball Primer punchline, is suddenly actionable against a huge organization filled wih baseball lifers. Paul Coleman's high school stats tell you all kinds of things about the player you hope he'll be; Frank Thomas's college stats tell you something about the player he is.
Coleman, 5 feet 11 and 215 pounds, hit .498 with 39 home runs in his high school career. He was 63-for-67 in steal attempts during his prep career.
Thomas was good-but-not-great in a two-month try-out in A-ball. Then he morphed into Ted Williams: In 1990 he played 109 games of AA ball, hitting .323 with 112 walks, 74 strikeouts, and 18 home runs until the White Sox had no choice but to promote him. Then he hit .330/.454/.529 in an American League that was still three years away from what we remember as the steroid era.
Paul Coleman never stayed healthy, and the Cardinals pushed him through the minors in a way that seems entirely divorced from his results. In 1989 he was one of the youngest players in the Appalachian League, and he hit .233. In 1990, then, the Cardinals made him one of the youngest players in the Sally League, where he hit .209. In 1991, still young for low-A Springfield, he hit .185.
And so on. In 1993, finally healthy and effective enough to play a full season, he hit .244/.311/.372 in the AA Texas League—by far his best results as a pro. So the Cardinals made him a pitcher. He blew his arm out, and that was it.
After that—Well, are you ready for what Paul Coleman is doing now? Are you really ready?
On a high school sports forum in Texas people are talking about the "Best in East Tx you have ever seen." Coleman is still remembered there for what he did back in Frankston—not just by the people who played against him, but the people who watched him—only nobody knows exactly what he's doing now. Finally somebody volunteers this:
Paul Coleman blew out both knees in Cardinals org (Little Rock AA). Saw him on the cover of a radio control car magazine living in California.
That would make him this Paul Coleman, which is wonderful.
The Cardinals didn't draft another high school outfielder until this happened back in 2000:
"[Shaun] Boyd has one of the quickest bats I've ever seen," Cardinals scouting director John Mozeliak said.