Cardinals Sign Five, Begin Venezuelan Play

The St. Louis Cardinals signed five pitchers for their Venezuelan Summer League roster as 2009 league play began this week.

On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals began play in the 2009 Venezuelan Summer League (VSL). The initial 34-man roster includes players that range in age from 17 to 21 with the vast majority still teenagers. Five countries are represented, with Curacao, Nicaragua and Colombia (two each) plus Panama (one) along with 27 native Venezuelans.


Five members of the 18-man pitching staff are new to the organization. At least initially, all are being listed as relievers.


Angelo Echeverria, Dail Villanueva and Ramon Ulacio are Venezuelan signings the Cardinals have made over the last few months. Echeverria and Villanueva are both left-handers, while Ulacio is right-handed.


Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez commented on several of the new signees, including Villanueva.


"Villanueva is the most polished. He is a 19-year-old who touches 90 mph and pitches low in the zone. He's impressed so far in camp but has little experience in organized ball, similar to many in Latin America," Rodriguez said.


The other two new hurlers, John De Aguas and Johnny Polanco, hail from Colombia and Nicaragua, respectively.


"De Aguas, a left-hander pitcher from Cartagena, Colombia, is a small frame pitcher with a quick arm and good control. He tops out at 88. 


"Johnny Polanco is a right-handed pitcher from Nicaragua that we signed over the weekend.  He's 6-foot-3, 192 and throws a low 3/4.  We beat out the New York Yankees and Mets for his services.


"He was represented by former San Francisco Giants Nicaraguan scout Alex Torres who has a baseball academy in Sebaco, Nicaragua. The same program that last year produced July 2 right-handed pitcher Jose Valdivia who Seattle signed for more than $700,000," explained Rodriguez.


For additional information on Polanco, signed by Cardinals scout Christian Blanco, check out "Cardinals Best News Links".


Another change on the VSL Cardinals roster is Francisco Guzman, who took on a move growing in popularity across the system – from catching to pitching.


The organization likes what they've seen so far. Rodriguez explains. "Guzman was effective closing games during the Liga Paralela and we'll see if that small success carries over to 2009."


Outfielder Tharick Martines and infielder Hayrich Martina, the pair that hail from Curacao, were reassigned to the VSL from the Dominican Summer League.


Extended Spring Training News


First-time international participants in Extended Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida include Angel Cruz (RHP DR), Amaury Castillo (RHP DR), Luis Orozco (RHP Colombia - signed last December), Geney Rios (RHP VZ), Yorbel Alcala (C VZ), Luis Polanco (C DR), Gerardo Mambell (IF VZ), Alberto Rivero (OF VZ) and Roberto De La Cruz 3B DR. The latter signed last summer for an amount estimated to be over $1.1 million, the largest international bonus in Cardinals history.


Two others invited to EST, catcher Juan Castillo and right-handed pitcher Edouard Estalis, are hung up in the Dominican Republic with visa issues. Castillo is coming off a 50-game suspension after testing positive for Stanozolol, a banned substance, last August.


Rodriguez commented on several other former academy players currently standing out in EST.


"Angel De Jesus, right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic, has pitched well and continues to improve. He is vying for a spot in Johnson City.


"Venezuelan shortstop Cesar Valera has opened everyone's eyes in camp and shows flashes of how great a player he could become. He just turned 17. 


"Catcher Audry Perez from the Dominican is hitting and looks like a likely choice for Johnson City. He was a DSL ALL-Star last year who we brought to the GCL toward the end of the 2008 season," Rodriguez noted. 


2009 VSL Cardinals opening roster


PITCHERS (18) Pos. B/T HT WT Age
Alvarado, Ruben  LHR L/L 6-1 170 18
Avendaño, Javier  RHS R/R 6-3 180 18
Bier, Deimer RHS R/R 6-2 174 18
Cedeño, Fernando  RHR R/R 6-2 189 19
Colorado, Moises LHS L/L 6-3 190 19
Corpas, Hector (PAN) RHS R/R 6-3 180 19
De Aguas, John (COL) LHR L/L 5-10 160 17
Echeverria, Angelo  LHR L/L 6-2 170 17
Guzmán, Francisco RHR R/R 5-11 190 21
Marquez, Fabian E. RHR R/R 6-1 178 18
Nieves, Sergio  RHS R/R 6-0 180 17
Oraá, Carlos RHS R/R 6-3 176 19
Polanco, Johnny RHR R/R 6-3 192 17
Ramos, Gregorio  RHR R/R 5-11 170 19
Solarte, Jackson  RHR R/R 6-0 180 18
Ulacio, Ramon  RHR R/R 6-1 190 18
Villanueva, Dail LHR L/L 6-3 180 19
Weffer, Jose  LHR L/L 6-1 180 17
Rivas, Limbert  C R/R 6-0 185 19
Vilória, Omar  C R/R 6-1 180 18
Velazco, Gerwuins C R/R 6-1 190 17
García, Hector 3B R/R 6-2 180 19
Perez, Roberto  1B R/R 6-1 190 20
Marquez, Moises  IF R/R 5-9 175 18
Martina, Hayrich (CUR) IF R/R 6-1 180 18
Yeguez, Carlos IF R/R 5-11 180 18
Medina, Osmir  SS R/R 6-2 175 18
Vargas, Ildemaro 2B/SS S/R 6-0 170 17
Inojosa, Kaizay OF R/R 6-0 180 18
Martines, Tharick (CUR) OF R/R 6-3 185 18
Argeñal, Jem (NIC) LF L/L 5-11 180 17
Castellano, Alexander (COL)  CF/LF S/R 6-0 180 20
Fonseca, Anthony J RF R/R 6-1 178 20
Cortez, Jose A LF/CF R/R 6-0 178 20


Note: The 2009 Venezuelan Summer League Cardinals roster will be updated soon here at Refer to the "Minor League Rosters" dropdown below and to the right of The Birdhouse logo on this and every page.


In addition, I am continuing to maintain a "Cardinals Roster Matrix" on my blog, The Cardinal Nation. It includes all rosters from the Cardinals system plus the players currently at Extended Spring Training.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.


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