In building up their staffs for their academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela for the 2010 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have announced the signing of ten young hurlers from the two nations. All except one are still teenagers, ranging from 16 to 20 years of age.
Six of the ten are from the Dominican, with the other four Venezuelans. Though the Cardinals continue to search for elusive left-handed pitching anywhere they can find it, they fell short here. Each of the new recruits throw from the right side.
The new professionals 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.
Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez comments on several of their new signees.
Jean Carlos De La Cruz (RHP) *
6-1, 190; DOB: 8/5/1992; Santiago, DR
Not only is De La Cruz one of the top players among this group, but his story is one of the best, too. Rodriguez explains.
"As far as youth and development and this stage where they are, De La Cruz is one that's got us paying attention. He came to us as a third baseman but we didn't think his bat was going to take him a long way. We noticed his big-time arm and it was too valuable to ignore.
"He had a cannon of an arm at third base, so at one of our tryouts, we put him on the bump. Immediately his mechanics were clean and he was around the plate. He was loose and compact with his delivery and even flashed a slider with command. He was touching 89-90-91 like it was nothing!
"Until we put De La Cruz on the mound, his agent didn't know he had a big-time pitcher. He just turned 17 and is a guy to keep an eye on," said Rodriguez.
Arturo Toribio (RHP) *
6-1, 185; DOB: 1/3/1992; Puerto Plata, DR
Rodriguez' story about Toribio is less about the pitcher's skills and more about his town.
"Like our big outfield signing, Amauris Capellan and pitcher Ariel Gonzalez (see below), Toribio comes from Puerto Plata. Lately, it has been producing a lot of exciting players. That is where (Oakland's $4.25 million pitcher Michael) Ynoa came from. Oscar Taveras, who is a toolsy outfielder who will be traveling to our extended spring training, is also from Puerto Plata. So for us, it is really becoming a hotbed lately - definitely an area where we are putting a lot more emphasis.
"In fact, we took a team of ours over there consisting of our extended spring training travelers, our March travelers and some DSL players and we held a charity game against a local team to generate interest. It was sort of a Cardinals goodwill event. Taveras, Capellan and Toribio all played with the Puerto Plata team against the Cardinals team. Osvaldo Morales and Edgar Lara played for the Cardinals," Rodriguez recalled.
The event was a success locally and provided extremely valuable exposure to the Cardinals.
"The place was packed," he said. "According to our staff, there must have been 2,000 to 3,000 people there. It was pretty unbelievable."
We may continue to hear about Puerto Plata in conjunction with Cardinals signings in the future.
"There is a big-time pitcher from there that we are keeping tabs on," Rodriguez divulged. "He is going to be a big signing in the next couple of months. We have a lot of interest in him and have been engaging with the agents. We'll see where that goes."
Ariel Gonzalez (RHP) *
6-2, 170; DOB: 6/28/1990; Puerto Plata, DR
Hansel De Los Santos (RHP) *
6-3, 160; DOB: 7/8/1991; Santo Domingo, DR
Eduardo Hiraldo (RHP)
6-3, 183; DOB: 8/21/1989; Santiago, DR
Victor De Leon (RHP)
6-2, 180; DOB: 4/19/1992; Santiago, DR
Geudy Guerra (RHP)
5-10, 175; DOB: 8/13/1993; Isla Margarita, VZ
In Venezuela, the requisite background checking goes much more quickly than in the Dominican. As a result, the Cardinals already have a player through the process, just awaiting results of his physical, despite having been signed just a few weeks ago.
Rodriguez explains. "At the Caribbean Series, we held a workout for a lot of the top July 2nd kids in Venezuela. (VP of Scouting and Player Development) Jeff Luhnow was there and he was able to see them personally. Matt Slater, who is a special assistant to Mo (GM John Mozeliak) and Matt Carroll, who was just promoted to manager of pro scouting, was there along with Enrique Brito, our special assistant for international operations.
"From that tryout, we signed Geudy Guerra. He is an interesting kid. He is short, but he's got long arms and wide shoulders. His fastball is 86-88. He's got good rotation on his curveball, 71-74 miles per hour on his curve," Rodriguez said.
Though Guerra appears slight of build, the Cardinals aren't concerned.
"Sometimes the height scares teams away, but if this kid can play an entire season at 16, then he is ready," Rodriguez said. "He is definitely a player worth taking a chance on and not only taking a chance on, but developing him. We definitely think there is something there."
Anderson Gerdel (RHP)
6-3, 190; DOB: 3/22/1993; Charallave, Miranda, VZ
Alberth Almeida (RHP)
5-11, 189; DOB: 11/30/1991; Paracotos, Miranda, VZ
Silfredo Garcia (RHP)
6-2, 170; DOB: 7/19/1991; Puerto Cabello, Carabobo, VZ
Plus, there is more where these 21 players came from, according to Rodriguez. "We've also agreed to terms with five others but are waiting for background checks, physicals, etc. It's an exciting group," the international director exclaimed.
Check back here for news on those signings as well as ongoing information about the Cardinals growing international operations, exclusively for The Cardinal Nation / Scout.com subscribers.
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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