Known as "El Chino" in his hometown of Puerto Plata, Capellan, 17 years of age, reportedly received $450,000 to sign with the Cardinals late last year. The club held off on announcing his signing until medical and background checks could be completed. (His name is pronounced ah-mah-REES cah-peh-YAHN.)
Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez is very excited about one of the newest Cardinals, a stocky, 6-foot-0, 180-pounder.
"Of all the players we have signed this year, Capellan is the one with the most upside, the guy who can provide the most impact in a short period of time," Rodriguez said. "He was a July 2nd guy from this past year."
When quizzed for the inevitable comparison to a major leaguer to better relate the unknown signee, Rodriguez did not hesitate.
"He is a strong-bodied, stocky-build Raul Mondesi-type outfielder," Moises offered. "That is everybody's favorite comp. Similiar tools. Capellan doesn't have that cannon of an arm quite yet, but he has a good arm. He has good carry (on his throws)." (Like Mondesi, Capellan bats and throws right-handed.)
Asked to provide a scouting report on the teenager, Rodriguez was eager to comply.
"He's got a lot of lower-half strength, but he still has some room to grow," Moises said. "Capellan is athletic despite his sort-of-stocky build. His bat and his game power will really catch your attention. He is aggressive and plays the game hard. He is an average runner."
One point is very different from a polished major leaguer like his countryman Mondesi, who played 13 seasons in the major leagues after debuting in 1993 at the age of 22. Despite all the excitement, some patience will still be required.
"He is just 17. He turned 17 at the end of September," Rodriguez reminded.
The Cardinals list Capellan as a centerfielder. Remembering that Mondesi was capable of playing center but spent most of his MLB career manning the corners, I asked the Cardinals international director about that. The organization sees a similar path ahead for their new recruit.
"Capellan will probably start in centerfield and play it well, but in the future, I think we see him as a run-producing right-fielder in the big leagues. I think that is where he will end up," Moises explained.
Looking for a more current comparison to some of the other highly-touted players to have come out of the Dominican this year, I asked Rodriguez where he sees Capellan stacking up. The short answer is ‘very favorably.'
"Comparing his bat to Mateo, Sano and all the big names that signed last July 2nd, I think to us that Capellan was among the top five bats. That is the way we looked at him," Rodriguez said. (16-year-old shortstop Miguel Angel Sano signed with Minnesota for $3.15 million in late September.)
Though the July 2nd first date of signing has long been past, the Cardinals have been watching Capellan for some time in multiple countries. Other teams reportedly interested in him included the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.
"He is a player who was brought to the States. He was shown around here in September and October by his agents," Rodriguez recalled.
The agency representing Capellan is Philadelphia-based "Pro 1 Baseball" (Sports Management) run by Layne Gordon and is associated with Capellan's school and a number of other aspiring baseball players in Puerto Plata, a growing baseball hotbed.
Many wonder why organizations don't do all their signings right on July 2nd and are sometimes concerned there might be something wrong with a player that doesn't come to terms until later on. Rodriguez did not mince words in his view of that line of thinking.
"It is the wrong way to look at things," he said flatly. "This was a player that was ready to be signed when we signed him."
While the organization does not discuss money, the amount of Capellan's deal has been reported by several sources. Rodriguez' assessment is that the Cardinals cut a good deal, helped by their patience.
"Not trying to compete on the first day eligible, they aren't going to cost as much," he explained. "They aren't cheap. You've got to pay for talent, but you can get them at a price that is much more reasonable in some cases.
"We felt like we got a big time bat at a very reasonable price," Rodriguez concluded.
Capellan is expected to make his professional debut in centerfield for the 2010 Dominican Summer League Cardinals.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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