Cardinals Sign "Best Prospect Since Martinez"

Calling it their most significant international signing since Carlos Martinez, the St. Louis Cardinals have added 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Leobaldo Piña.

The St. Louis Cardinals have announced the signing of shortstop Leobaldo Piña, a 16-year-old from Maracay, Venezuela. The youngster is highly thought of by the Cardinals organization, with Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez calling him "our second-best prospect signed last year after Carlos Martinez".

As is their custom, the club did not disclose the signing bonus involved, however the Post-Dispatch later reported the deal is for around $300,000. (updated at 5:30 P.M. ET on 2/10/11)

Unlike some of the organization's other signees whose names have trickled out in the last few days, all the necessary investigations and paperwork in support of Piña's signing have been completed. To give a feel for the time delay involved in such cases, the Cardinals actually signed Piña last September, five months ago, but waited until now to make the announcement.

Scouting reports note that at 6-foot-2, 168 pounds, Piña is high-waisted with a lanky, projectable frame. While he appears comfortable at shortstop, the youngster's arm is only considered average at this point, with opportunity to improve. Piña's running is labeled as slightly above average and he is said to have "surprising pop" with the bat.

While he is still raw overall, the Cardinals believe Piña has what it takes to remain a middle infielder as he progresses. In the short term, he is expected to compete for time at shortstop on the Dominican Summer League squad with Daniel Barbuena, a 17-year-old Dominican signed one year ago. Whichever does not play short may see time at second base or perhaps even first base or serve as designated hitter.

The Cardinals got an extended look at Piña when he played in the Dominican Instructional League this past winter and he is expected to return there in 2011.

In summing up the signing, Rodriguez said, "We are very excited to have him."

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