Hometown: Changuinola, Panama
Selected 2015 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (18): Allen Cordoba had a good bit of support during the community vote, pulling in enough votes to finish as the #18 prospect. Oddly, he wasn’t picked by anyone at #17, but his season in the Gulf Coast League must have caught some of our message board posters attention.
MagnoliaCardFan made the only substantive post about Cordoba. His point was succinct, yet apparently influential as he stated that the 19-year-old is a shortstop with a bat. He mentioned Cordoba’s .342 batting average in his first season in this country as proof of Cordoba’s hitting skills and it seemed to be enough to sway the votes the youngster’s way. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (28): Of those on The Cardinal Nation's top 40, Cordoba is a name I'm least familiar with -- other than the fact he was Gulf Coast League Most Valuable Player in his first season of stateside baseball. For a complex league, the quality of talent was said to be off the charts, and yet Cordoba paced the league with a .342 batting average and 69 hits in 53 games this past summer.
Cordoba, 20, was a $7,500 signee out of Panama two years ago and spent the previous two seasons at the academy with the Dominican Summer League Cardinals. There, the shortstop was raw, yet able to hold his own. He did not break through as a legitimate prospect until 2015, though, with a league batting title to show for it.
According to a report from Ben Badler of Baseball America, Cordoba gets great marks for his athleticism and work ethic that has helped him develop in the short-term and will allow him to continue to improve. At the dish, he is said to have a fairly long swing but gets the barrel on the ball consistently and has a feel for the strike zone that is a rare combination for a teenager. He has taken full advantage of a professional workout regimen and got stronger over the last couple years, but power will be the element that will separate him as a top prospect.
Defensively, Cordoba’s future position is a bit cloudy with a stash of shortstops stocked ahead of him including Edmundo Sosa, who played short over him in extended spring training. Cordoba had to transition back to shortstop during the GCL season. His feet and hands are said to work well with a good arm and can be an above-average runner with more repetition.
“Allen is still developing as hitter and player; still learning his strength and weaknesses,” said hitting coordinator Derrick May. “But what he does possess is a desire to succeed and he is a fierce competitor.
“Compared to the other shortstops in the system, only time will tell, but I believe his bat shows some power potential. So if a move to third base were to happen, I think he has the versatility and strength to do it,” May said.
I was hesitant to rank Cordoba within my personal top 30, but he looks to be a sleeper prospect who can hit for average, put the bat on the ball, a proficient base stealer, and has already exceeded expectations from his $7,500 signing bonus. We will likely hear more of Cordoba in 2016 and hopefully in coming years.
Brian Walton (23): Not only did I independently split the difference between the other two voters, but my 23rd ranking of Cordoba became his overall top 40 placement as well.
As you read from Derek, there are a lot of reasons to like Cordoba, with few real issues with his game, other than ones related to his inexperience.
Understandably, Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque is pleased with Cordoba’s progress.
“Cordoba clearly had a great year, defensively and offensively,” LaRocque said. “He does a nice job in the infield at shortstop. He handles the routine ground balls well and has enough arm strength. He’s got good reactions, good range. He’s got very good instincts for a young player.”
Normally, I would have no issue with any of this. Yet, I have a nagging concern. We are just 12 months removed from Magneuris Sierra’s standout 2014. While it is not fair, perhaps, I cannot put aside the similarities between the two and the fact that when the Cardinals challenged Sierra the next year, a setback ensued.
A year later, Cordoba has closely matched the upturn part of Sierra’s path.
Following an interesting but not a standout stint in the Dominican Summer League, each player had a breakout initial season in the US.
After Sierra did the same things in 2014, Cordoba was a 2015 Gulf Coast League all-star, won the league’s batting title and added the cherry on top, the rookie league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
The latter is a rare occurrence. If my memory is accurate, these are the first MVPs anywhere in the Cardinals system since Matt Adams in the 2011 Texas League. Even he was not the batting champion.
“Very, very smart,” LaRocque said about Cordoba. “Again, his instincts for the game are good. It was a real compliment to be acknowledged as the MVP in this league. This league has some pretty good players, the GCL, and it follows on the heels of Maggie Sierra last year being it.”
When all was said and done, Cordoba also followed Sierra as The Cardinal Nation’s system-wide Player of the Year. The Cardinals did not follow suit, giving their honor to Stephen Piscotty, despite the latter having played his final minor league game on July 19th.
“The GCL team made a great run at it,” LaRocque said. “They won the division and unfortunately, they got beat in the playoffs. So he (Cordoba) was a big part of it. We see good things from him.”
How good will Cordoba be in 2016? Yet to be determined is where he will open the season. Will the Cardinals will try to push Cordoba to the Midwest League in the spring, as they did with Sierra?
One difference between the two is that Cordoba was a year older during his GCL year, 19 versus 18 for Sierra. The former had spent two years in the DSL, compared to one for the latter. One could argue that this difference in age is a good reason to move the shortstop aggressively. Cordoba is also two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier.
Then again, as Derek noted, Sosa is just ahead and it seems likely that he will be the shortstop at Class-A Peoria to open 2016. While Cordoba could be shifted to third base, why do that if it is not necessary?
LaRocque sounds like the organization may be willing to give Cordoba time.
“What we have done with all of our young players is give them all the time they need to develop without putting additional pressure on them as they move through the system on the lower levels,” the farm director said. “They need time. They need at-bats, obviously a lot of repetitions at the position and so forth. He is getting that.”
From my perspective, if Cordoba has to settle for a promotion to State College, that would be good enough for now. On the other hand, if he plays his age 20 season at Johnson City, I will be less excited about his long-term potential.
Our 2016 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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