Cardenas Is The One To Watch

Adrian Cardenas wasn't the big name on the Monsignor Pace High School baseball team, but somehow, he managed to stand out and find himself being drafted by the Phillies with the 37th overall pick in the 2006 Draft.

There is no doubting that Chris Marrero will be a good baseball player. The Washington Nationals drafted him with the 15th overall pick in the draft last week out of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami. Some scouts though wouldn't have had Marrero as the best player to come off of that state championship team. Some believe that in the long run, Adrian Cardenas could be the one to watch.

The Phillies drafted Cardenas with the 37th overall pick in the draft. Actually, most scouts became aware of Cardenas when they watched the Spartans to get a look at Marrero. Cardenas opened some eyes and jumped onto team radars as the draft approached.

After all, there is plenty to like.

Cardenas set a Dade County single season record with 18 homeruns, just one shy of the state record. He also became just the third Dade County player to win the Gatorade Player of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of Tony Fernandez (who also graduated from Pace) and Alex Rodriguez. Cardenas also served on the Team USA Junior National team in 2005. Plenty of accolades to consider. Cardenas started the year hitting .784 (29-for-37) with eight homeruns, an incredible streak that put him squarely in the eyes of scouts. Cardenas had 65 RBI this season, eclipsing the total of 55 that he had in the previous two seasons, but of course, he also eclipsed his combined .463 average from the previous two seasons as well.

Scouts were also caught off guard by Cardenas' confidence. The 18 year old told the Phillies brass that he could "hit like Chase Utley." After watching him for some time, the Phillies came away believing it.

Cardenas played shortstop in high school and the Phillies will likely give him a chance to stay at the position, but odds are that he'll shift over to second base, probably prompting even more comparisons to Utley. If he does wind up at second, the Phillies will have to consider what happens down the road if Utley stays entrenched at second and Cardenas develops as well and as quickly as they hope. That's an issue for a few years down the road though and a lot can happen between now and then.

The left-handed hitting Cardenas has one of those sweet swings that you love to watch. It's like a smoot, sudden burst of energy with little extra movement and he gets around well on hard throwers without letting himself get fooled too often by off-speed pitches and breaking balls. Cardenas has learned to use all parts of the field and doesn't force his power. There's just average speed in his legs, which limits his range, one of the reasons why he isn't likely to last at short. Some scouts believe he could be more suited to a move to the outfield, but some believe he doesn't have a strong enough arm to play defensively in the outfield.

One of the most intriguing parts of Cardenas' makeup is his mental approach to the game. Hearing that an opposing pitcher liked to work away from hitters, Cardenas took to the batting cage and hit a steady stream of pitches that were away from him. When game time rolled around, Cardenas was looking in the perfect spot for pitches and had a big day. There was no coaching or prodding, just a kid who knows the game of baseball getting ready to face an opponent. That's impressive.

Cardenas will likely sign with the Phillies rather than pursue going to the University of Florida, where he's signed to go. It was thought that if Cardenas went in the first round - even in the supplemental phase - he would sign with whatever team drafted him rather than playing at Florida. The Phillies, of course, are hoping that's exactly what he'll do and it figures that they touched base with him on what his plans would be if he were drafted at number 37.

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