School: Embry Riddle Aeronautical
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (34): During the community vote, phrases about Daniel Poncedeleon like “projectability”, “good control”, “dominant performance”, and “likely to move fast” came up a lot. MagnoliaCardFan mentioned that Poncedeleon has good movement on all of his pitches and improved as the season progressed, finishing with a six-inning shutout during the New York-Penn League championship clincher for State College.
Poncedeleon had his detractors though, with their fears due to his failing of a physical (allegedly due to nerve placement issues) when drafted by the Cubs in 2013. Nerve issues, however, are a Cardinals specialty as Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia went through nerve-related issues at the big league level in recent seasons. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: Poncedeleon was the Cardinals’ ninth-round pick and comes with a very interesting background, having attended four different colleges and being drafted four times before finally settling into to a professional organization with the Cards.
The 22-year-old was one of the first to sign out of the organization’s draft class this June. He was assigned to State College for the regular season with excelled. In fact, Poncedeleon’s strong performance led to him being named TCN’s 2014 Cardinals Minors Rookie Starter of the Year.
Scouting director Dan Kantrovitz described Poncedeleon as having a “nasty, sinking fastball at 92 to 95 and a cutter in the upper 80s. I don’t think he could throw a straight fastball if he tried.
“He’s got an outstanding slider and an above average changeup and he’s got a chance to move quick if he stays healthy.”
TCN’s State College writer Robert Davidson, who has seen Poncedeleon pitch since he was drafted said this, “Poncedeleon was working with a max-effort, flat, low 90s fastball at the beginning of the season, but his delivery has looked smoother as the season has gone on.
“If his last two starts are any indication (a combined 10 innings pitched, no runs, eight hits, two walks and 15 strikeouts), Poncedeleon has a very high ceiling, and would be my highest-rated ‘true starter’ in the Spikes’ current rotation,” Davidson wrote.
Given Poncedeleon’s results so far, one cannot argue with the success. It looks like he will start next spring at Peoria and hopefully performs and impresses enough to see some action at Palm Beach before the 2015 season is up.
Brian Walton (37): The well-traveled Poncedeleon was strongly endorsed by long-time Cardinals talent evaluator Charlie Gonzalez, who was the area scout covering Florida before his recent hiring by the Houston Astros.
Not only did the Cardinals see a strong, good-sized (6-foot-4) pitcher in Poncedeleon, they had a senior whose financial leverage was low. As a result of that and perhaps with a lingering question about his health, the organization signed him for a bargain-basement $5,000 bonus. That freed up over $137,000 of pool money, later used to help sign over-slot pitchers Jack Flaherty and Bryan Dobzanski.
The Cardinals were well aware of Poncedeleon’s health history and later administered a physical, which was passed. In remarks to reporters at the time the pitcher was signed, Kantrovitz noted that Poncedeleon had pitched the last two seasons with no issues, and the Cardinals had scouted every one of his 2014 starts in person.
As a Spike, the right-hander finished second in ERA among all first-year starters in the Cardinals system, just 0.14 off the lead, and his FIP shaved another one-third of a run off his 2.44 mark. Poncedeleon's 52 strikeout total was tops in the first-year group and he did not allow a home run during the entire New York-Penn League schedule.
As noted, the Californian continued to improve all summer long. His two post-season starts (not included in the totals above) for the eventual NYPL champions were exceptional - just one earned run allowed in 11 innings, with 11 strikeouts against three walks. That followed a 1.88 ERA in his five August appearances.
Although it is still very early, Poncedeleon fits the profile of potentially becoming another unheralded mid-rounds find by the Cardinals. He has the kind of upside that makes doing these rankings so enjoyable, especially as others “discover” him later.
Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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