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Selected 2016 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (41): Daniel Poncedeleon received some high praise within the community last year, finishing at #17 in the prospect list. He wound up at #41 this year.
Opening our vote discussion this fall, scadder21 said that he really liked what he saw of him in the past. Desmetlax12 also liked Poncedeleon picking him as his 30th best prospect. Desmetlax12 recalled that while Poncedeleon had an okay year, he remembers him having some upside last year. Desmetlax12 was right as last year MagnoliaCardFan and Mudville threw out words like projectability, upside, and likely to move up fast. This year, 14NyquisT noted that Poncedeleon pitched better down the stretch and is a true innings eater, throwing 151 innings in 2016. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (39): Despite slipping 15 spots on this winter's list, Poncedeleon had a very educational 2016 campaign, anchoring the S-Cards' rotation en route to being named The Cardinal Nation's 2016 Springfield Starter of the Year.
Poncedeleon, 24, a Texas League mid-season All-Star, was manager Dann Bilardello's most resilient and consistent starter throughout the 2016 campaign, making 27 starts (tied for most in the Texas League) while leading the pitching staff with 151 innings.
He also led the Springbirds with nine wins and 122 strikeouts, finishing eighth among league leaders with a 3.52 ERA and sixth with a 1.22 WHIP.
"The 2016 season performance was a bit of mixed for me," Poncedeleon said this fall, reflecting on the season. "I was happy I pitched the entire season and made every scheduled start. I was not happy with my consistency of throwing strikes the whole year. If I was around the zone, I'd have a good game.
"If not, it was a battle to have a good game for my team. Altogether, I am happy with the final results. Also, this season taught me a lot about what I could handle and what I needed to do to succeed at a higher level pitching every five days," he said.
Adjusting to the eight-team Texas League is a new challenge for many pitchers, including this one.
"I felt that I saw those guys a hundred times," Poncedeleon said. "You've got to be able to throw your off-speed in different counts and mix up your stuff against different batters.
"In the lower levels, they have one or two good hitters that would be in Double-A, but in Double-A almost every hitter is a good hitter on a lower level roster. You are competing through the whole lineup, and they do have a little more plate discipline than usual."
The deceptive right-hander attributed his growth as a pitcher to having a renewed mental approach and finding more consistency within his mechanics.
"The main thing we've focused on was staying fluid and directional towards our target." Springfield pitching coach Jason Simontacchi said. "Having a better tempo and really focusing on his release point of what his hands and fingers feel like when the ball releases out of his hand, so he can get there and repeat that.
"He's got a lot of moving parts which creates a lot of deception in his delivery, but if he can just get to the end result of having a consistent release point, then he allows himself to be successful - or at least competitive."
As mentioned, Poncedeleon doesn't have ideal mechanics as he altered his delivery from a semi-windup to a full and back to a semi before the end of the summer. He is tall and skinny with some funk and has a low chance to stick as a starter due to below-average arm action.
He throws an average low 90s cutter with life that cuts sideways and he can use it to induce ground balls. Poncedeleon also deploys an average curveball and changeup which helps him neutralize same-sided batters. The curveball showed a lot of progress as a swing-and-miss pitch as he learned to harness the depth of the offering.
"From last season, I would say my curveball (is most improved) because last year I was mainly a fastball and cutter guy while getting most hitters out with the changeup here and there," Poncedeleon said. "I would say my changeup has greatly improved. I have thrown that a lot more this year than last year, so those are the pitches that have gained ground.
"My cutter has been pretty consistent."
Scouts project Poncedeleon as a longman/swingman depth type with a usable four-pitch assortment and strike-throwing ability. One talent evaluator said he is not sold and has concerns about the right-hander’s shoulder history. However, the LA Mirada, CA native has the upside of a fifth starter if everything works out.
"My plan this off-season is to gain 15-20 pounds of muscle," Poncedeleon said. "That would be my number one priority. Secondly, I'd like to cement home my mechanics and repertoire of pitches.
"It's hard enough facing good hitters and changing stuff every week during the season. Just adds another level of difficulty to it, so it'd be nice not having to worry about that stuff next year."
Brian Walton (35): Like the other voters, I lowered my relative view of Poncedeleon compared to other Cardinals prospects opposed to his 2016 placement. The difference that last year, I had him ranked worst among the three voters at no. 26. This year, I am most aggressive at no. 35.
To me, it seemed likely that the 24-year-old would need some acclimation time in his first taste of Double-A after just six starts of high-A experience at Palm Beach. As 2016 spring camp broke, Poncedeleon was a late add to the Springfield roster, but performed well out of the gate. Despite inconsistent run support that led to just two wins in his first 10 starts over April and May, the right-hander logged a 3.58 ERA.
His best month was June, but still the offensive backing was not there, as he managed just two wins and three no-decisions despite a 1.91 ERA. Poncedeleon’s worst month followed in July, as five gopher balls helped contribute to a 4.78 ERA. Even so, Texas League hitters managed to hit just .234 against him. There was a return to normalcy in August with a 3.38 ERA.
His lefty-righty splits indicate one problem area – control against left-handed hitters – specifically 33 walks in 48 1/3 innings. As lefties hit just .235 against him, it is not a lost cause, but if not corrected, it could ultimately help push him into relief.
I don’t get the durability concerns suggested above. Poncedeleon did have shoulder questions back in 2013 but underwent nerve surgery. He missed the final three weeks in 2015 due to shoulder discomfort, but still threw almost 120 innings. Further, his 151 frames in 2016 was second in the entire Cardinals system - with no time missed.
Undoubtedly, making the Memphis rotation will be his goal out of camp, but the numbers game suggests to me an initial return to Springfield may be at least as likely.
TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)
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