2013 DSL Cardinals Player of the Year

Offense was expected to be the strength of the 2013 Dominican Summer League Cardinals. Though the club fell short of expectations overall, three hitters stood above the others, with one winner.

Here in the fourth phase of our annual recaps of the top players across the St. Louis Cardinals system, we move from starting pitchers to position players, beginning with the entry classification, the Dominican Summer League.

Edmundo Sosa
While the DSL Cardinals suffered through a 12-game losing streak in August that dropped their overall record just below .500, the offense improved in most categories from year to year.

Under first-year hitting coach Kleininger Teran, the team batting average rose from .219 last season to .228, though that was still in the bottom third of the 35-team league.

However, in 2012, the Cards had been dead last in runs scored - improving to 15th with 317 runs scored this summer. The 2013 team OPS of .636 was right in the middle at 17th compared to .608 and a 33rd-place ranking in 2012.

Following are the individual hitters' stats, listed in descending batting average order.

DSL Cards hitters AB  2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS 
Bladimil Franco 138 23 49 8 3 3 29 12 16 5 0.355 0.403 0.522 0.924
Robelys Reyes 104 21 33 4 3 0 13 13 14 7 0.317 0.393 0.413 0.807
Edmundo Sosa 169 33 53 8 3 3 27 22 15 7 0.314 0.396 0.450 0.846
Allen Cordoba 125 20 34 5 1 0 7 19 24 5 0.272 0.389 0.328 0.717
Magneuris Sierra 212 44 57 6 3 1 21 29 33 15 0.269 0.361 0.340 0.701
Jorge Baez 103 9 24 3 2 2 16 10 38 0 0.233 0.307 0.359 0.666
Jeffry Cerdas 74 11 17 1 0 1 2 10 13 1 0.230 0.329 0.284 0.613
Dionenrys Pena 62 9 14 3 1 0 5 3 13 0 0.226 0.284 0.306 0.590
R. Encarnacion 160 29 36 3 2 0 9 21 24 15 0.225 0.324 0.269 0.593
Joaquin DeLaCruz 135 10 29 6 0 1 14 20 35 1 0.215 0.335 0.281 0.617
Sergio Ripoll 135 13 27 6 0 1 13 18 27 1 0.200 0.341 0.267 0.608
Diory Paulino 55 5 11 1 0 1 7 5 16 2 0.200 0.308 0.273 0.580
Luis Bandes 222 20 41 11 2 2 18 17 50 3 0.185 0.258 0.279 0.537
Joshua Lopez 168 20 29 10 0 2 21 29 54 7 0.173 0.302 0.268 0.570
Ramon Luna 152 20 25 6 0 1 10 18 44 10 0.164 0.253 0.224 0.477
Yunior Sanchez 66 13 10 1 1 0 6 9 21 2 0.152 0.250 0.197 0.447
Henry Alvarado 187 17 28 7 0 3 18 17 78 0 0.150 0.233 0.235 0.469

Bladimil Franco was a bit of a surprise at the top of the board. In fact, had the outfielder taken enough at-bats to qualify, his .355 mark would have led the entire league. Because the 19-year-old missed close to a month due to injury, however, he is not our Player of the Year, either. However, Franco is clearly the most improved DSL Cardinal.

Cardinals director of international operations Moises Rodriguez has seen these players compete many times and was impressed with Franco's uptick in fortunes.

"Franco was on fire," Rodriguez said. "He is a guy we did not sign for a lot of money at 18 years old a year and a half ago. He always had tools. He throws well. He is aggressive at the plate. He runs. He just wasn't very polished and didn't have a lot of playing experience under his belt.

"Franco hit .245 last year and this year he seemed to put it together. His approach was better. He was less aggressive when he didn't need to be that aggressive. He turned in a very nice campaign, but he was hurt for about three or four weeks, so that limited his at-bats.

"It will be fun to see him over here next spring and complete with the other outfielders in Jupiter," noted Rodriguez.

In his fourth DSL campaign, infielder Robelys Reyes was the second of the club's .300 hitters. Finally receiving his visa to enter the US in late summer, Reyes finished up in Johnson City. At age 23 next season, the 2011 DSL batting champion and our DSL Cards Player of the Year two years ago needs to quickly make up for lost time.

Despite batting just .173, highly-touted catcher Joshua Lopez was second on the team in doubles with 10 and tied for fourth with 21 RBI and seven stolen bases. Signed for $475,000 last July 2nd, the 17-year-old needed some time to adapt to the professional game.

"Batting average-wise, Lopez didn't have a good year," Rodriguez admits. "He got off to a little of a slow start with a couple of hits in his first 50 at-bats. Digging out of that hole was tough for him. At his age and inexperience, that is not always easy to do.

"You pay attention to your batting average and you start chasing pitches and get anxious. At some point, we needed to sit him down and explain to him that drawing walks is as important as getting hits.

"‘Don't just look at your batting average. Keep in mind that you are a catcher and you need to manage a game.' Try to get his mind off just the batting average. He made progress defensively. His throwing accuracy got better. He received better throughout the year. We were pleased he did not bring his offensive numbers into his defense.

"He ended up taking a lot of walks and hit some doubles. He made some adjustments and I think now coming in instructional league in October, he will be able to take some of those pressures off and concentrate on his mechanics and some things we have identified.

"We think he can be very good both ways. He is a 17-year-old kid in his first DSL season so we are not going to panic," Rodriguez concluded.

As a team, the Cardinals were more active on the basepaths than in recent years. Though at first blush, their 81 stolen bases in 71 games seemed modest at a tie for 18th in the league, it was their second straight year of improvement. With 15 steals each, outfielder Magneuris Sierra (in 22 attempts) and infielder Ruben Encarnacion (in 20 tries) tied for the team lead.

"Going into the year, when we met with our academy staff and some of our coaches, we recognized that we had the ability to run and we had some kids that can use that tool," Rodriguez explained. "We made a conscious effort to have those kids run a little more than in years past - Encarnacion, Sierra, Edmundo Sosa. Sosa didn't get as many stolen bases because he was hitting third in the lineup."

Speaking of Sosa, in addition to being the club's lone offensive DSL All-Star, the shortstop was the Cards' third .300 hitter. He led the club with 27 RBI and impressively walked (22) more often than he struck out (15) in 169 at-bats.

"Edmundo Sosa was tremendous," Rodriguez exclaimed. "He played good defense and got better defensively as the year went on. He has a pretty good understanding of the strike zone for a 17-year-old. When you watch his at-bats, he looks a little more polished than a lot of the DSL kids you seen down there.

"He flashed some power. He hit some balls in the gaps – the opposite field side and the pull side. You just sit there and say, ‘Wow! Where did that come from?", because he is not a big guy. He is a 6-footer, about 180 pounds. He has gotten a little stronger over the last year," the international director noted.

Rodriguez wants to make sure we remember Sosa, though his results in the future may just remind us, anyway.

"We should get used to hearing his name as he is going to be a pretty good prospect for us in the near future," Rodriguez concluded.

Sosa has been joined by Franco and two pitching teammates in the Cardinals fall instructional league currently underway in Jupiter, Florida and will be competing for a job in the US next spring.

Congratulations to Edmundo Sosa, our choice as The Cardinal Nation DSL Cardinals Player of the Year for 2013.

Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Player of the Year across all the Cardinals minor league affiliates as well as our system-wide awards.

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