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
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
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
This group of evaluators were all
in agreement about De La Cruz,
(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 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
Shortstop Cesar Valera. Born in
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,
"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
"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.
Shortstop Grabiel Hernandez. Born in San Pedro
"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
"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 email@example.com.
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