Cardinals Winter Instructional League Roster
Garcia, who was drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of this year's draft, was signed on July 16, but due to the fact that the Cardinals were unable to acquire a work visa for him, he was unable to play for pay. He worked out at Johnson City for much of their season, but was not allowed to receive a salary, much like players in the Instructional League receive expenses, but not a salary during the period they're in Jupiter. (Thanks to Brian Walton and Leonda Markee for this information.)
The 19-year-old left-hander did not attend school this year after being drafted in the 30th round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2004 out of Sharyland High School in Mission, Texas. Disappointed by being drafted so low, he did not sign, graduated from high school, and returned to his hometown of Reynosa, Mexico, which is right across the United States border from Mission and re-entered the draft this year.
Until four weeks prior to the 2004 draft, Sharyland and MLB teams thought Garcia had another year remaining of high school baseball. However, after a closer look, it was ruled that Garcia's eligibility had been used. If not for this misunderstanding, it is possible that he could have been taken higher.
Following is what Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals Vice President of Player Procurement, had to say about both players on Thursday.
"Jaime Garcia is a Mexican left handed pitcher who recently turned 19 years old. He finished high school in Texas and was therefore draft eligible. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles last year but did not sign. The scout who drafted him with the Orioles now works for us (Joe Almaraz), so he was interested. I had been interested in him after I saw him at an international tournament in Mexico during the summer of 2004. We know there were a few teams interested in him, so we stepped up and drafted him as soon as we could – given everything else we were trying to do with this year's draft.
"We worked him out after the draft and he was not in shape, nor was his stuff there the way both Joe and I had seen in the past. We decided to sign him to a 2006 contract and invite him to Johnson City to work out with the team and get in shape. He did his part, so we invited him to instructional. So far, he has not allowed a run and has struck out eight batters in five innings pitched, but more importantly, his fastball is in the 88 to 91 range and his curveball is working.
"After the instructional league, he will go to the Dominican Republic (along with a few other drafted players – Wilfrido Pujols, Steve Gonzalez, and Christian Lopez) to get more playing time as part of the Dominican Instructional League in November and early December. I can tell you that while I was in Florida last week, one of the scouts for another team commented to me that he was very impressed by what he saw in Garcia. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Every organization needs good left handed pitchers, and we are no exception."
"Edgar Lara is a player we just signed from the Dominican Republic. Lara is an exciting 16-year-old outfielder (6'3" and growing) with amazing power, good swing mechanics, and an above-average arm. He was pursued by at least four teams, but our scouts in the DR managed to sign him, in large part due to the relationship with the family and agent that we fostered for over a year.
"For the past two years, Lara has been working out and playing in the same field where Albert Pujols trained prior to coming to the US. I first saw Lara in August of last year when he was just 15, and at the time I put him high on my wish list for 2006. He became eligible to sign on July 2nd of this year, and we went to work right away to get him into our organization.
"One of the key factors for us, which enabled us to aggressively go after him, was his work ethic and desire to improve. He insisted on coming to instructional as part of the deal, because he wants to get better fast. Last week he got a start in right field and had two hits and two RBI against the Mets. You should have seen the smile on his face after his first hit as a Cardinal. I hope we see that smile for years to come.
"He played right field while Rasmus played center and Jones played left…16, 17, and 18 year old outfielders with advanced tools and unlimited potential. I sure hope someday we see that trio roaming the outfield of the new stadium… but there is a lot of work to be done before that day arrives.
"Lara will head from Florida back to the DR and will participate in our winter program. After that, we will decide what makes sense for him next year. I suspect he will need a year in the DSL (Dominican Summer League), but you never know. It turns out (now 17-year-old Columbian shortstop Donovan) Solano didn't, and he was the same age."
Cardinals Winter Instructional League Schedule