Cardinals overseas signees: More than Serrano

The St. Louis Cardinals have added or are adding 12 new international players and released five. One new name, left-hander Erick Hurtado, is especially notable.

The challenge of reporting on international signings is a considerable one. Even after tentative contractual agreements are put in place between club and player, months can elapse. Checking into background, age, identity, drug use and physical condition can be arduous and time-consuming.

Take the St. Louis Cardinals and Dominican pitcher Andres Serrano. The 17-year-old right-hander agreed to terms in mid-October, according to MLB.com. Yet here we are four months later and the deal is still not yet official. Called by one Cardinals official "the jewel of this group," Serrano will reportedly receive a signing bonus of $750,000 once his investigation is completed successfully. (For more details on Serrano, click here).

Done deals (4)

This winter, the Cardinals have added four new recruits to their international program, run out of the Dominican Republic. All four, an outfielder and three right—handed pitchers, have completed their investigations and physicals. Three are Dominicans while one calls Venezuela home.

They are:

Outfielder Bladimil Franco, 6-foot-0, 175 pounds, 18 years old, Bani, DR

Pitcher Juan Perez, 6-foot-2, 190, 16 years old, San Felipe, VZ

Pitcher Luis De La Rosa, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, 19 years old, San Juan de la Maguana, DR

Pitcher Dailyn Martinez, 6-foot-2, 155 pounds, 18 years old, Santiago, DR

(For these and any player with highlighted names, click on the link to be taken to their Scout.com player profile page, where additional information will be added over time.)

In the pipeline (8)

In addition to Serrano, the organization has also come to terms with seven other players whose investigations and physicals are at various stages of completion.

Though the other six in-process players will be announced later, the paperwork of one of the players is close enough that his identity has been disclosed. This young man is considered by the organization to be the second most interesting player of the group after Serrano.

The Cardinals did not have to go far to scout this individual. In fact, he is a "home town" player, coming from Villa Mella, Dominican Republic, the town located right near the Cardinals complex.

This new Cardinal is a valuable commodity, as well, a left-handed pitcher. Erick Hurtado, born November 21, 1994, is a July 2, 2011 player. The 17-year old is considered a strong-bodied 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.

In terms of his offerings, Hurtado features a sneaky tailing fastball that sits in the 88-91 mph range. He also has a sharp 74-76 mph curveball that he commands fairly well and serves as an effective out pitch. His changeup is developing but already usable.

Hurtado had competed in the International Professional Baseball Academy, a private academy to help players build their skills and showcase their talents headed by former New York Yankees senior executive Steve Swindal. Last year, one international media source suggested Hurtado could bring in a six-figure contract.

Releases (5)

Because of roster limits and lack of competitiveness to advance, some had to leave the organization as well. Five players have been released.

The now ex-Cardinals include an outfielder and four pitchers, including one lefty. Four hail from the Dominican with the other from Venezuela. The first two have an unpleasant common thread that makes their release even more understandable.

Left-handed pitcher Delvi Rodriguez. The 21-year-old returned at the end of July 2011 after being suspended for the first 50 games of the season for a failed drug test. Rodriguez fanned 47 but walked 44 in 51 1/3 innings over three seasons. He first signed as a non-drafted free agent in November 2008.

Right-handed pitcher Jean Carlos De La Cruz. Signed as a third baseman in October 2009 and converted to pitching. Like Rodriguez, the now-19-year-old sat out the first 50 games of the 2011 season after a failed drug test. If that wasn't enough, 26 walks in just 10 2/3 career innings should seal the deal.

Right-handed pitcher Douglas Planchart. The 20-year-old was signed as a non-drafted free agent from Venezuela during the second quarter of 2010. Planchart seemed to lose his control in 2011, walking 15 in 21 2/3 innings.

Right-handed pitcher Addelin Ceballo. Now 20 years old, the Santiago, DR native had been signed as a non-drafted free agent in May 2010. In 47 DSL innings over two seasons, Ceballo fanned 24 and walked 28.

Outfielder Domingo Diaz. Turning 20 next month, Diaz had first been signed as a non-drafted free agent in May 2010. In 299 plate appearances over two seasons, he just cleared the Mendoza line at .202, with a .624 OPS. Like Ceballo, Diaz' biggest claim to fame may be that his signing was announced the same time as Carlos Matias, now Carlos Martinez.

For more information: To view the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization by position and level, including a reflection of all these changes, refer to the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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