Seven of the ten are from the Dominican, with the other three Venezuelans. From a positional perspective, four are outfielders, two are catchers; there are three shortstops and a second baseman.
The group came to terms at various dates since last October, with four of them * having been on the Cardinals' radar screen early enough to have played for the organization's Dominican winter instructional league team. They didn't necessarily have to be signed at that time, as league rules allow tryout players to participate.
I sat down with Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez to learn more about the newest Cardinals. He selected two of the ten, an outfielder and an infielder, to highlight.
Ronald Castillo (RF) *
R/R, 6-5, 198; DOB: 6/16/1992; Santo Domingo, DR
Even before I asked, Rodriguez laid a big-time comp on the table.
"Castillo has a Vladimir Guerrero-type body," Rodriguez said. "He's a plus runner for his size and gets out of the box quickly. On the stopwatch when you clock him from home to first, you look down and ask ‘Did he really run that?', so he is fast for his size."
Rodriguez was among those who scouted Castillo and really likes what he saw.
"We had him in instructional league and he smoked the ball to right field during a game I watched when I was down there in November," Rodriguez recalled. "The sound and the quickness in which the ball left the park made me really excited about his future. He has tremendous tools."
The Cardinals seem very high on Castillo's upside but still acknowledge the youngster is far from a finished product.
"He's got a below-average arm and is a right-handed hitter. We see him as a run-producing right-fielder eventually and a power bat. He's young – just 17," Rodriguez concluded.
Castillo is expected to make his professional debut in right field for the 2010 Dominican Summer League Cardinals next to also newly-signed Capellan in center.
Jhohan Acevedo (CF)
R/R, 6-1, 170; DOB: 3/28/1993; Caracas, VZ
Eduardo Celestino (OF)
L/R, 6-2, 175; DOB: 8/9/1992; San Pedro de Macoris, DR
Jose Martinez (OF)
6-0, 170; R/R; DOB: 11/3/1992; Maracaibo, VZ
Not to be confused with his countryman, a second baseman also named Jose Martinez, born 1/24/1986.
Starlin Rodriguez (2B) *
R/R, 5-10, 168; DOB: 12/31/1989; San Cristobal, DR
Rodriguez is the oldest of the group, having turned 20 on New Years Eve. Moises understands that isn't a sexy age for a new signee, especially for an undersized player.
"You get a 19- or 20-year-old middle infielder that is 5-foot-10 and a lot of times, that scares teams away," Moises admitted. "Starlin has tools – hit bat and his legs. Those are definitely important ones to have.
"They are big-time tools. His bat is really impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if he was considered for coming to extended spring training when the time comes for that decision. He has really opened up some eyes down there."
Starlin is the most advanced of the group of signees, actually having eight games of DSL experience with the Rays last summer before experiencing a Wagner Mateo-like conclusion to his first professional contract.
Moises is pleased the Cardinals snared the second baseman on the rebound. "Starlin's contract was voided because he failed a physical and his contract with the Rays was never enforced," he said. "Our physical did not turn up any reasons to be concerned.
"He's a lightning bolt. He is small, about 5-foot-10, but is very fast and has a lot of strength. He's got some work to do defensively and is still a bit rough but is not awful at second base.
"Starlin is going to open a lot of eyes," Moises concluded. "This guy is a player!"
Note: Other sources have incorrectly reported Starlin's date of birth as 12/13/89. Based on the documents in their possession, the Cardinals are sure that 12/31/89 is accurate.
Junior Agustin (SS) *
R/R, 6-3, 170; DOB: 4/2/1993; Santo Domingo, DR
Daniel Barbuena (SS) *
S/R, 6-1, 165; DOB: 3/23/1993; Santo Domingo, DR
Rafael Medina (SS)
6-2, 170; R/R; DOB: 10/24/1991; Santo Domingo, DR
Fernando Baez (C)
6-1, 190; R/R; DOB: 2/1/1992; San Cristobal, DR
Jose Gomez (C)
5-10, 175; R/R; DOB: 1/10/1992; Maracaibo, VZ
No matter how bountiful the Cardinals harvest is, there are always the ones that get away. Such was the case about two weeks ago with 21-year-old shortstop Ivan Marin from Nicaragua. A disappointed Rodriguez explains.
"We just missed out on Marin. We verbally agreed to a deal but he backed out and signed with the Braves. He had no other offers but as soon as the Cardinals made one, he seemed to become that much more attractive to others."
Coming up in the next article exclusively for The Cardinal Nation / Scout.com subscribers, Rodriguez will break down some of international pitchers the Cardinals have added recently as well.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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