Part one covered the Gulf Coast League.
The Dominican Summer League first began play in 1985, though the Cardinals only joined recently, in time for the 2005 season. That fall, the organization opened their new academy near Villa Mella, DR.
The 2007 schedule of 66 games began on the first Saturday in June and ran through the fourth Friday in August.
There were 34 teams in the league across five divisions in 2007. Five organizations - the Yankees, Nationals, A's, White Sox and Blue Jays - had enough prospects that they could field two separate teams. The NL Central Milwaukee Brewers are the only MLB organization that did not staff a DSL squad.
With a 30-35 (.462) record, the 2007 DSL Cardinals finished in fourth place among the five teams in the Santo Domingo North Division, 16 games behind the first-place Phillies.
DSL roster sizes are limited to 35 active players, only 30 of whom may be in uniform and eligible to play in any given game. No more than eight players may be 20 years old or older and no more than two players may be 21 years old or older. At least ten of the players must be pitchers. No player may have four or more years of prior Minor League service. As one would expect, most players are from the Dominican Republic, though that is not a requirement.
Cardinals Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow offers his thumbnail sketch of the season. "The DSL season was our third and it had its ups and downs. We started slowly but then went on a tear to get several games over .500, but slipped back down the stretch."
It is fair to acknowledge that the new Gulf Coast League squad had to dilute talent somewhat. It isn't an excuse – it is reality. Luhnow had this to say on the matter. "They were affected by the GCL taking many of their better players and the team was very young. Overall, I was pleased as several players did take a step forward and many of the pitchers performed well."
Offensively, the Cardinals were a mixed bag. Overall, they were 26th of the 34 teams with a .223 batting average and hit just 11 home runs, which was 28th best. Even worse was their run production, just 31st in the league.
Yet, there were some very strong individual stars whose contributions could get lost in the mediocre averages. Here are the hitting leaders with those who placed among the division leaders noted in the right column.
Jeff acknowledges several of his standout hitters as contenders for the team's most valuable player. "Juan Mosquera (SS), Edwin Gomez (OF/IF), and Juan Castillo (C) all deserve consideration for the MVP among position players," he explained.
I asked Luhnow to provide a sketch on each of the three.
"The best prospect is Castillo. As a 17-year-old catcher, he was the team leader and league All-Star. He is a very good defensive catcher and he has demonstrated skills at the plate. He will almost surely be our #1 catcher in the GCL next year, following in the footsteps of Luis De LaCruz with possibly more upside.
"Gomez is a player we have been patient with and it paid off. He is fleet of foot and has some pop in his bat. He has certainly earned a shot at playing in the US next year.
"Mosquera is from Panama and he works for everything he gets. He is a high energy player who doesn't wow you with his tools but he gets the job done. From the day I tried him out on a dusty, hot field in Panama City to now he has progressed. He communicates via email with Dan Kantrovitz regularly as they formed a special bond when Dan went over to the DR to coach last summer. Every time I see him he asks me about Dan," the farm director explained.
On the pitching side of the ledger, the aggregate team results were only slightly better. The Cardinals finished 26th in ERA at 4.24. They were 20th in strikeouts, but 24th in walks. Individual leaders follow.
|Home runs||Randy Santos||10|
Luhnow calls out his top hurlers next.
"For the best pitcher, it is between the four guys we sent to the Instructional League. Angel Tapia, Randy Santos, Arquimedes Nieto and Ramon Urena. I'd give the nod to Nieto (another Panamanian) due to his strikeout to walk ratio (which is my favorite pitching stat). The staff there considers Tapia to be the best prospect. All figure to be in the US for extended spring training," Luhnow forecasted.
I asked if there were any other players who may have been overlooked from the stat sheet perspective. Several names came quickly to mind.
"David Medina is the other player that needs to be discussed. He is a left-handed outfielder who is young and has a body you can dream on, as scouts like to say. He has a sweet swing and is the guy that other organization's scouts would most definitely pick out of all our players on this team as the guy to watch," Luhnow said.
Make sure you read the following about Jose Pasen. He looks like a player we are going to be hearing more about in the future, one way or another.
"Pasen is an interesting player. He is an outfielder with a plus-plus arm. We have put the radar gun on his throws from the outfield and clocked him at 98 and 99 miles per hour on multiple occasions. His teammates would hope that someone would try to tag up and run home on fly balls to right field so they could watch him throw the guy out. I witnessed this myself on at least two occasions this summer during games.
"The obvious question is why is he not pitching, and the answer is that many of our staff believe he can and will hit, and with that hose he could be very valuable. We won't wait forever, though, which is why he came to instructs to work closely with Dan Radison on his hitting approach," Jeff explained.
There also was at least one casualty from the 2007 DSL season, but even from it comes a positive.
"Quincy Martina decided to stop pursing a career in baseball so he is no longer playing. His younger brother was signed by us this spring and is a promising athlete," said Luhnow.
Quincy Martina is not officially retired, but instead was placed on the Restricted List. That enables the Cardinals to retain his rights should he change his mind and resume his playing career.
In closing, I asked Luhnow if any changes are expected for the fourth season of the Cardinals' play in the Dominican Summer League in 2008. It sounds like not.
"I don't expect any major changes next year; just further integration of our domestic player development philosophy into the Dominican Republic and possibly a staff addition, said Luhnow.
Note: Full 2007 DSL Cardinals stats are located here.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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