2008 ranking: Not applicable
School: San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic
Became a Cardinal: Came to terms as part of the July 2nd signings in 2008. Announcement on July 4, 2008.
Selected 2008 stats
Did not play.
Staff comments (individual rankings in parens)
Dustin Mattison (Not ranked): First, it is really good to see the Cardinals proving their commitment to the international market by paying out a reported seven-figure signing bonus. The Cardinals' biggest international signing in years, De La Cruz is reportedly a mature hitter who is quite polished for his age. The reports on his hitting and power tools have me excited about what he could bring to the organization. He is also supposed to be a solid third baseman with good range and an above average arm.
According to Jeff Luhnow, De La Cruz will probably make his debut in the states at Johnson City in 2009. That will be quite a challenge for the 17-year-old but it could establish him as one of the top prospects in the system.
Ray Mileur (Not ranked): If you don't think the Cardinals are willing to spend money on players, all you have to do is check out the $1.1 million deal for this 16-year-old third baseman. I have trouble wrapping myself around this kind of deal. He impressed the organization in workout sessions, but that is a long way in my book from breaking into the Birdhouse Top 40.
Message board community (24): The Birdhouse Community ranked De La Cruz substantially higher than the others doing the rankings. Even with that high ranking, there were those in the Community who wanted to rank him as high as #12 while others thought that any ranking for a 17-year-old who has yet to play a professional game was too high.
The Dominican third baseman reportedly received the highest signing bonus ever given to a Latin American undrafted free agent by the Cardinals organization. Glowing reports about De La Cruz's bat in the fall instructional league and Cardinal official Jeff Luhnow's prediction that De La Cruz will most likely start at Rookie level Johnson City next year seemed to win over initial Community member skeptics. - CariocaCardinal
Brian Walton (38): All indications are that this time next year, I will have regretted ranking this player, also known as Roberto Pina, so low. In fact, I already do.
Here's why. Money talks.
The Cards aren't known for throwing cash around, yet De La Cruz received more in bonus than any other Cards player taken in the June 2008 First-Year Player Draft not named Brett Wallace, a polished college hitter five years older than he. In fact, De La Cruz fetched the same bonus as the #29 pick in the first round!
Some scouts considered De La Cruz, like Wallace a third baseman, to have been the best hitter in this year's July 2nd class – a similar designation to how Wallace was tagged prior to the regular draft.
Since at least 2005 and probably much longer, only Wallace and Pete Kozma (2007) received more in bonus from the club than did De La Cruz. The players down the money ranking list include first-rounders Adam Ottavino (2006) and Colby Rasmus (2005).
While the Cardinals and Luhnow have a lot riding on De La Cruz, Luhnow went beyond just praising the third baseman's play in the fall Instructional League. He gushed to MLB.com that the youngster was "the most impressive player there offensively and defensively".
We are talking about a pool of 49 of the organization's best young players at Instructs, of which 11 already have full-season experience. Other than Wallace, every signed 2008 draftee through Round 24 was in camp. Yet, De La Cruz was the one singled out.
Like I said, I am pretty sure I ranked him too low. The others will be hopping onto the bandwagon this coming season.
To see our entire list of 40 prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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