Cardinals Sign Three from Caribbean Nations

In pursuit of three of their most recent free agent signings, St. Louis Cardinals Caribbean scouts have traveled from Haiti to Curacao to Venezuela. One player is a former Little League World Series star and another is the brother of a famous New York Yankees signing from 2006.

The new members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization are 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Edouard Estalis from Haiti, catcher Jesus Montero, age 16, a native of Venezuela and 17-year-old outfielder Tharick Martines, who hails from Curacao.

Each of the three newcomers will join a group of earlier "July 2nd" signees (click on highlighted link to review that article) on the rosters of the 2008 Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League Cardinals for their initial formal professional experience next season. Several are getting early experience now with the Cardinals' squad in the Dominican Winter Instructional League.

Tharick Martines is no stranger to international competition, including play in the USA. He received considerable notoriety in 2003 at the age of 12 when he pitched his Curacao team to the consolation championship of the 2003 Little League World Series (LLWS), tossing a pair of complete-game one-hitters and fanning 14 then ten in the process. Martines also hit a three-run home run in a semifinal contest.

The good news is that Danny Almonte, he ain't. Cardinals fans can rest assured that Martines' date of birth, 11/19/90, is accurate. It was validated very carefully by LLWS officials as the result of an anonymous "tip" they received during the 2003 tourney. (Almonte was the Dominican-born former Bronx pitcher who was found to be two years too old after his team won the 2001 LLWS.)

Though Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles, is not normally considered a baseball hotbed, Martines' team was the third consecutive LLWS third-place finisher from his nation.

Free agent outfielder Andruw Jones is the most famous MLB player from Curacao, along with ex-Yankee Hensley Meulens and former Cardinals minor leaguer Ivanon Coffie, the first Major Leaguers to hail from there.

The name "Jesus Montero" should also be familiar to those with interests in Caribbean baseball. On the July 2, 2006 international free agent signing date, one of the most coveted power-hitting prospects at the time agreed to terms with the Yankees for an estimated $2 million signing bonus. His name? Jesus Montero.

The then-17-year-old Yankees catcher (he turns 18 this week) posted a .280/.366/.421 line (BA/OBP/SLG) in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 after being ranked by Scout.com as the 54th-ranked prospect in baseball one year ago and the third-ranked minor leaguer overall behind the plate.

Calm down! The new Cardinal is not the same guy, but it could be argued he is close.

The smaller (5-foot-10, 180 pounds vs. 6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and younger brother (by about 18 months) is now and forever named "Jesus R. Montero" in an attempt at clarification. To further complicate matters, this younger Montero plays the same position and is now a member of the Cardinals.

It only seemed a matter of time until some family tried to top the catching Molinas of Puerto Rico! I wonder if there is a third Jesus Montero coming down the line?

As far as I can tell, there is no such story of interest about Edouard Estalis, but perhaps that is only because it has not yet been unearthed. His nation of Haiti may be best known as the other side of the island of Hispaniola from the Dominican Republic. Though baseball is not nearly as popular there on the French-speaking side as in the Spanish-speaking Dominican, during the 1970's and 1980's Haiti was a primary source of MLB's baseballs via Rawlings.

It is worth noting that of the 1,268 Latino players that have played in MLB since 1900, over half were either from the Dominican (463) or Venezuela (213), but I have not yet been able to identfy one man from Haiti who has reached the ultimate level of competition.

Scouting reports
Here are short scouting reports on each of the three new players and their initial roster assignment, whether Dominican (DSL) or Venezuelan Summer League (VSL).

RHP Edouard Estalis (DSL): 6-foot-1, 172 lbs. from Haiti. 18.9 years old. Lean body, room to grow. Fastball consistently 88-92, mostly 91 w/sink. Slider potential strikeout pitch, 79-82 MPH. Solid mechanics, strikeout pitcher. Needs to add a change-up.

C Jesus R. Montero (VSL): 5-foot-10, 180 lbs. from Venezuela. 16.4 years old. Good arm, good bat speed, not a power hitter, but ball jumps off his bat. Drives to opposite field well. Best tool is defense. Good instincts behind home plate, blocks plate well, good leader. Brother of Yankees prospect.

OF Tharick Martines (DSL): 6-foot-2, 175 lbs. from Curacao. 17.0 years old. Tall, lean body, raw, quick hands, good bat speed, athletic outfielder with average speed. Lots of tools, limited baseball experience, quick learner on the field. Needs more playing time.

Of the earlier players signed, here are their tentative 2008 assignments:

DSL: RHP Ramon Urena, OF Andres Beras, OF Ryde Rodriguez.
VSL: RHPs Ruben Alvarado, Javier Avendano and Deimer Bier, C Kevin Moscatel, SSs Carlos Yeguez and Jorge Lopez and OF Kaizay Inojosa.

It should be noted that one player from that earlier group of ten July 2 signees, right-handed pitcher Jaime Sanchez, did not pass his MLB investigation and will not be joining the Cardinals organization, after all.

Make sure you check back here in upcoming days as we update all our minor league rosters and player profiles for the 2008 season. Click on any highlighted name above to be taken to their current player page.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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