Scouting Reports: Cardinals July 2nd Recruits

St. Louis Cardinals Vice President, Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow explains how the four Dominican and two Venezuelan July 2nd signings were selected and provides scouting reports on each.

On Friday, July 4, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that six Latin American teenagers have committed to join the organization as July 2nd signees.  I was unable to attend the press conference at Busch Stadium that afternoon, but by the very next day, Cardinals Vice President, Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow was gracious enough to explain in detail how the organization targeted their newest players and follows up with scouting reports on each one.

 

The quotes that follow are his. The Birdhouse thanks Jeff Luhnow for his ongoing support that began over 3 ½ years ago.

 

On the search process

 

"Juan Mercado (Scouting Supervisor for Latin America) scouted all the Dominican players extensively over the past six months and had the top "July 2nd" prospects for a two day workout in May.  We had Joe Rigoli (North region supervisor), Kobe Perez (Northeast area scout), Charlie Gonzalez (Florida area scout), Moises Rodriguez (Director of Latin American Operations) and myself there to evaluate these players. 

 

We put them through a traditional workout format:  Running the 60 yard dash, outfielders throwing and fielding, infielders taking ground balls and throwing, including double plays.  Then we had the position players take three rounds of batting practice. 

 

After that, we selected a "dream" lineup of the amateur prospects and had them play a full game against our DSL team.  The pitchers that we wanted to evaluate would pitch in the game for one or two innings each.  Our DSL pitchers would face the amateurs.  We did this two days in a row so we saw 10 to 15 at bats for each top guy.  As the game wore on, we would have the top guys lead off every inning so we could get more looks.
 
Enrique Brito and Gregorio Gonzalez did the same thing in Venezuela, at our new academy in Portachuelo, also in May.  We had Charlie Gonzalez, Juan Mercado, Moises Rodriguez, Dann Bilardello (our catching coordinator) and myself there for the two days. 

 

Same process, with our VSL team providing the opposition.  We also arranged for a separate private session with Yorman Rodriguez and Cesar Valera and lined up a few pitchers for them to face.  In about an hour and a half we got 15 or so at bats for each guy.  Both had been seen multiple times before but mostly in simulated games at the agent's academy, so we wanted to see them against our pitchers.  We chose different types of pitchers (average fastball/curveball guy and control/command guy).
 
With that many scouts evaluating the players and a relatively brief look (compared to the number of looks we get in the US), we are bound to have differences in opinion, which we do most of the time. 

 

This group of evaluators were all in agreement about De La Cruz, Valera, and Franco.  It makes it easier to be aggressive and offer a high bonus amount when both the local guys who know the player the best and the imported talent evaluators, or cross-checkers, agree and are equally excited about him.  This was the case for these three players."

(Editor's footnote: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported De La Cruz "received a bonus in excess of $1 million, and two others topped $500,000." That is "more in bonuses than the Cardinals had ever spent before.")

"Below are my impressions from the looks I got, but keep in mind there are several scouts that know these players much better than I do."

 

Three unanimous selections

 

Third baseman Roberto De La Cruz (also known as Roberto Pina).  Born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic on 11/10/1991. 6-foot-2, 180 pounds.
 
"De La Cruz looks the part.  He was impressive in the traditional workout... showed that his hands and feet work well at third, plenty of carry on his throws, and could start double plays.  His batting practice stood out among the group.  He hit a lot of line drives, didn't miss hit many balls, and in the last round hit a few to the wall and out. 

 

It was during the games that he got everyone excited.  He went four for four in the first game, and the next day he got 3 hits in 7 at bats.  He connected on fastballs and breaking balls and used the entire field. 

 

He attended our workout in Memphis and took three rounds of batting practice.  Our Assistant Scouting Director, Jaron Madison, was seeing him for the first time and liked his bat as much as any other player at our workout (there were about 30 position players from high school, junior college and colleges around the US)."

 

Shortstop Cesar Valera.  Born in Ocumare, Venezuela on 3/8/1992.  6-foot-1, 180 pounds.


"Valera is a high waisted, lean but strong shortstop.  He is a solid average runner and will likely always run well enough to maintain that position.  He is not a burner. 

 

He has all the tools to play shortstop and we see him as an offensive middle infielder.  He has no fear at the plate and lays off of bad pitches.  He has a line drive stroke with good bat speed.  He has good instincts both ways."

 

Right handed pitcher Santo Franco.  Born in Bani, Dominican Republic on 11/28/1991.  6-foot-7, 190 pounds.
 
"Franco pitched two innings in the game at our complex in the DR.  The first pitch out of his hand was 90 but he was mostly 88 to 89.  Our local scouts have seen him many times and have recorded him up to 92.  He is an impressive guy physically.  Tall, loose and lean - a great profile for a Dominican pitcher. 

 

He wasn't trying to strike everybody out... he wanted to make his pitches and get outs.  Our DSL players mostly put the ball in play but didn't hit anything hard, and there were a few swing and miss pitches - one on a change up and one on a breaking ball.  He let a few go well outside the zone, but that happens with these young pitchers that are still working on grips and trying different pitches. 

 

With proper instruction, he has the potential to have three plus pitches and be durable.  He does profile as a starter."

The other three new Cardinals

 

Right handed pitcher Dennis Montero.  Born in Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic on 11/20/1991.  6-foot-1, 162 pounds.

 

"Montero was in the DR and also pitched in the game against our DSL players.  He was mostly 88 to 90 but touched 91.  He showed command of all four of his pitches (fastball, slider, curveball and changeup) which is almost unheard of for a 16 year old.  Pitchability will be his greatest asset and that starts with control and command. 

 

He may not have the tools ceiling of Franco but he could move a lot faster and I never count out a command guy (ala Jess Todd and P.J. Walters)."
 

Shortstop Grabiel Hernandez.  Born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic on 10/16/1991.  5-foot-10, 150 pounds.


"Hernandez is one of those players who will stay out on the field during batting practice and take grounder after grounder after grounder... tireless and loves to field.  He's one of those guys who hopes the ball is hit to him on every pitch.  He's smooth and quick defensively. 

 

At the plate he's a switch hitter who is not noticeably better from one side than another at this point, which means he should be able to stay that way.  He's likely to be a scrappy hitter who makes contact and gets on base."
 

Left handed pitcher Jose Weffer.  Born in Moron, Venezuela on 5/18/1992.  6-foot-1, 178 pounds.


"Weffer is the youngest of the group.  He pitched at 84-86 but our scouts have seen him up to 88.  There is something about his delivery though, that makes it hard for hitters to see (which we call deception). 

 

He got our VSL hitters to swing and miss on both his fastball and his change up.  He also has a curveball.  If he can develop both of those off-speed pitches, he can be a starter in pro ball."

 

 

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

 

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