Gil Takes Advantage of July 2 League

Suspended for falsifying his age and identity, Cardinals shortstop prospect Ronny Gil suits up in an informal league for newcomers in the Dominican Republic.

One of the most disappointing stories in the year to date was the news that promising St. Louis Cardinals shortstop prospect Grabiel Hernandez was suspended for the 2010 season. As part of his application procedure to receive a visa to play in the United States this summer, the Dominican Republic native was found to have falsified his age and identity.

Now Ronny Gil, the switch-hitter aged two-and-a-half years as a result of the investigation. Instead of being 18 1/2, he is actually 21. That has a huge impact on his prospect clock.

MLB's penalty was to place Gil on their Disqualified List for a period of one year. That precludes him from sanctioned league activity, such as the Dominican Summer League, where he competed last season.

In the last few years, there has been a somewhat informal summer league also held in the Dominican that is simply called the "July 2 League." Gil will be playing there in 2010.

The purpose of the league is to provide more opportunity for players of several types to play in a semi-structured format against outside competition. Many of these players are already at the various organizational academies working out and practicing against each other.

The most important population consists of July 2 players signed for "future services" that now have an organized league in which to participate prior to joining the DSL. For example, Gil (when known as Hernandez) first signed on July 2, 2008, but did not suit up in the DSL until the 2009 season.

There aren't enough of those newly-signed players to field an entire team, however, so organizations fill out their rosters with tryout players and players already under contract on the DSL roster that don't play there regularly. With DSL rosters typically at 30 players or more, it is difficult to find enough competitive at-bats and innings for everyone. The July 2 League helps fill an important need.

Teams only play a few games per week with scheduling said to be very flexible. While there are umpires, there are no formal rosters or scorekeepers, so no stats are available to share with interested fans.

Despite all 30 organizations with DSL teams and a handful staffing two, last year only the Cardinals, Texas, Florida, Boston, and Kansas City fielded July 2 League clubs. This summer, Boston and Kansas City are out, but Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the New York Mets are in, expanding the group to six.

Given that the best prospects in the July 2 League will usually be the youngest players, I asked Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez if Gil wouldn't be too advanced for his competition.

"Ronny will be noticeably more skilled than many of the players in the league but he'll get reps he wouldn't otherwise get since we are limited in where he can be assigned to play this summer," Rodriguez explained.

This will help keep Gil in top playing shape until he can reach US soil next spring, albeit 2 1/2 years older and a year later than planned.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Brian pens a column each Wednesday at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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