Cards' Scouting Reports: Salas, Rivera

Cardinals vice-president for scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow provides scouting reports on the club's two recent Mexican signees.

In 2005, the Cardinals returned to the Dominican Republic after a two-year hiatus and have since expanded even further into Latin America, having opened an academy in Venezuela in 2006. In January, we reported that they will be exploring Asia for the first time in 2007. And now, with the recent acquisitions of 18-year-old Angel Rivera and 21-year-old Fernando Salas, it appears the Cardinals are now looking a little closer to home: Mexico.

"We want to be active," Cardinals vice-president for scouting and player development, Jeff Luhnow, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I've wanted to get involved in Mexico as long as I've been involved with the Cardinals. It's a unique situation but I think we're figuring it out."

Joe Strauss reported in Friday's edition of the Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals are believed to have paid more than $200,000 to purchase the contract of Salas from Saltillo of the Mexican League.

"It is expensive," Luhnow said. "But for me, it at least signals the beginning of us getting involved so we know how to do it the next time an Oliver Perez or Rodrigo Lopez becomes available. It at least puts us at the table."

Salas went 8-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 29 appearances (one start) for Saltillo in 2006. He allowed 40 hits, striking out 38 and walking 20 in 47.2 innings. Over the winter, opposing hitters hit just .168 against him and he went 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 26 relief appearances for the Mazatlan Deer.

Two months prior to the acquisition of Salas, the Cardinals signed outfielder Angel Rivera, avoiding negotiation with a parent team, which usually results with the player getting only a portion of the deal. Rivera's father, a Mexican scout, refused to let his son sign with a Mexican League club for that reason.

"It's not really cost-effective to sign players in Mexico because of how the system is set up," said Luhnow. "You need to know what you're doing and pick and choose your spots."

In 2007, Salas and Rivera are projected to play in the Texas League and Gulf Coast Leagues respectively if everything goes well in spring training.

Due to a request by our readers for more information regarding these two players following the report in the Post-Dispatch, here are Luhnow's comments to us about them.

Fernando Salas

"He features three pitches. A fastball that has average velocity and late life (meaning the movement happens as the ball approaches the plate - which is the ideal time). He has what our scouts call a "power" curveball. It's 78 to 82 and can be 12 to 6 at times, but he varies the angles. It is his out pitch right now and our scout who saw him called it "dirty". He has a change up which he rarely throws but has potential as a usable third pitch. He has some deception. He is a polished strike thrower who can get guys out at the high levels of the minor leagues and beyond. He has been a reliever but we will make the determination about his role once we see him in minor league camp."

Angel Rivera

"He is 5'10" and profiles as a left fielder. Our scout who saw him compared his hitting ability to (Matt) Sulentic and (John) Whittleman (two high school draft picks from Texas that have had early success in the minor leagues so far). He can catch up to a fastball and our scout saw him blast an 85 mph slider over the fence. He makes contact and rarely swings and misses. He uses all fields and has some home run power. He hit .361 with 11 home runs in a league filled with Mexican league players. He is a below average runner presently. His work ethic is off the charts."

Jason Scott can be reached via email at

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