Sardinas looking to follow idol Vizquel

SURPRISE, Ariz. - The Texas Rangers gave 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Luis Sardinas a $1.5 million bonus on the international signing date last summer, and Sardinas is currently flashing his tools during his first Spring Training. Lone Star Dugout recently sat down with the talented prospect.

The Texas Rangers spent plenty of money on the Latin American free agent market last summer, and because of that, it has caused a couple players to be a bit overshadowed.

Shortstop Jurickson Profar, who received a $1.55 million bonus, stole the show with his dazzling play and hard-working nature at Fall Instructional League this past offseason.

But with Profar not playing in games during Spring Training this season, that has allowed $1.5 million bonus-man Luis Sardinas to steal the show at shortstop.

A switch-hitter, Sardinas is clearly more advanced from the right side–his natural side–at this time. As a righty, Sardinas gets good extension and lift in his swing, allowing him to drive the ball fairly well. From the left side, Sardinas is clearly still feeling his way. He seems to have an advanced eye for the strike zone–particularly for a 16-year-old–but he does more slapping as a lefty right now.

The Venezuela native may have the best overall defensive package for an infielder in the system. Sardinas has soft hands, big-time range, and a very strong arm. In addition, the youngster [he doesn't turn 17 until May] is one of the faster players in the system.

Sardinas' rail-thin body has already begun to get a bit thicker since signing, but he was just 6-foot-1, 150-pounds last summer. Because his body isn't yet developed, Sardinas may struggle statistically for a year or two in the States, but he has the raw talent to be an All-Star caliber player someday.

Lone Star Dugout recently sat down with Sardinas for an interview through the translation of first base prospect Michael Ortiz.

AZL Rangers manager Jayce Tingler speaks with Sardinas.
Jason Cole: Take me through the signing process. What led you to ultimately choose the Rangers?

Luis Sardinas: Throughout the workouts and the tryouts that we all go to, Texas was one of the first organizations to show interest. Every time I was with them working out, I just always had a good feel for the organization and the people. It just attracted me more.

Cole: You signed as a 16-year-old. At what age did the Rangers begin contacting you and did you start seeing them around?

Sardinas: When I was 15, Texas started scouting me. They were coming to see me, talking to me, and showing interest. But basically I just waited until the signing period before I got serious with Texas.

Cole: You got to come to instructs this past offseason and now you're at your first Spring Training. What are your thoughts on the Rangers organization so far?

Sardinas: Instructional League came around, and it was my first time to ever come to the complex in Arizona. I was a little timid at first–I was shy because all the guys were older and bigger than I was. I didn't know what to do or expect. But I realized it was the same game as back in Venezuela and that I have tons of confidence in my bat, my glove, and my speed. I want to utilize all of it as best as I can on the field.

Coming into Spring Training, I want to carry over everything I learned during Instructional League–all that one-on-one time–and put it on the field. Also, I made a lot of friends and met a lot of people during Instructional League, so I feel more comfortable now because I know everybody.

Cole: Had you ever been to the U.S. before instructs?

Sardinas: This is my first time in Arizona, but I had been to the United States three times. The first time was for a workout with the New York Yankees, and then a Perfect Game showcase in Minneapolis, and then I had a workout in the big league stadium in Arlington.

Cole: When you worked out with the Yankees, was that in New York or was it in Tampa?

Sardinas: In Tampa.

Cole: Talk to me about that workout in Arlington. What was it like to play in the big league stadium and who did you get to meet out there?

Sardinas: The first day I got to the big league stadium, I got to meet Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. They were all super nice guys, and they kind of took me in on the first day. Scott Servais and Jon Daniels were also there. I was a little nervous at first, but on the second day, I felt more comfortable and I was fine with it.

Cole: Your parents are with you in Surprise right now. What does it mean to you to have your mother and father all the way here in Arizona to watch your first Spring Training?

Sardinas: Having my parents here kind of puts me at ease mentally, and it makes me happy. It makes me feel more at home with my family watching me every day. My mom and dad are telling me to just play my game–they say it's the same game and to stay relaxed and confident. I couldn't be happier.

Cole: Growing up in Venezuela, was there a shortstop or a player in general that you tried to model your game after or that you really looked up to?

Sardinas: Even growing up, I looked up to Omar Vizquel. But when I was going to sign, I got the chance to practice with Omar Vizquel, and that was a dream come true. It was a great experience for me. If there would be any guy that I could play like, it would be him.

Cole: Did you get to practice with Omar Vizquel in Arlington or was it in Venezuela?

Sardinas: Arlington.

Cole: What was that experience like, getting tips from your hero?

Sardinas: I was all ears, just trying to soak it all in. I felt that I was doing everything right because Omar Vizquel told me I was doing everything right.

Cole: Were you nervous at all when you met him and then when you were playing in front of him?

Sardinas: At first, I didn't know what to do. But after I started practicing with him and talking with him, I got loose and confident with him. It felt like he was an old friend of mine that I had known forever.

Sardinas looks on during batting practice.
Cole: As a switch-hitter, do you have a natural side?

Sardinas: Right-handed.

Cole: How long have you been switch-hitting for?

Sardinas: Two years.

Cole: Because you are a natural righty, do you feel more comfortable from the right side at this point?

Sardinas: I'm obviously much more comfortable right-handed, but since coming off Instructional League and working on my left-handed swing, I feel like I'm getting there. I feel that they are almost equal.

Cole: As a left-handed hitter, what are you working on right now and what do you feel you must improve upon the most?

Sardinas: I feel that I have more bat speed right-handed and more solid contact, so for me, I need to put the fat part of the bat on the ball left-handed. And also, I must get bigger and stronger so I can power the ball left-handed.

Cole: What are some of those things you are doing to get stronger and fill out your frame?

Sardinas: I'm working hard with the weights, and I'm trying to eat as much food as I can–but as much healthy food as I can. I'm not trying to stuff my face with bad stuff.

Cole: Overall in your game–offensively and defensively–what are you focusing on most this spring?

Sardinas: I want to obviously work on my hitting–I want to get better with my hitting. But also, Spike [Owen] was telling me that I have a strong arm, but I want to work on the accuracy–accurate throws is the biggest thing for me.

Cole: When you came to the U.S. for Instructional League, what was the most difficult thing to adjust to off the field?

Sardinas: When it comes to baseball, I feel that it's all about routine and being prepared. In baseball, I didn't have to adjust because it's the same game. But for me, the adjustment was the climate–the different weather, the air, and the elements. They're different from where I am from.

Cole: Obviously you are still young and you are trying to learn the English language. How do you feel that is coming along?

Sardinas: I feel that since Instructional League, I've learned a lot of English. But I'm trying to put myself in certain situations where I have to learn, like hanging out with the American guys, because I want to play in a higher league as soon as I can. I know I have to know English to be up there.

Cole: Has there ever been a time, like now or in instructs, where a coach gave an instruction and you didn't understand what they were saying at all?

Sardinas: I understand everything they're telling me for the most part. When it comes to baseball, there are a few terms that–if you play baseball–you can understand. But with Spike, sometimes it's a little hard to understand because he speaks fast when he gets mad.

Cole: Since you and Jurickson Profar were the two big signings in last year's Latin American class, and you're both shortstops, do you feel any sort of competition with him?

Sardinas: I don't think about me and Profar being in a competition because right now, I'm just trying to become the best player I can. I know that if I'm thinking about another guy, I can't better myself. Right now, all that is on my mind is making myself better as a player on and off the field. The only thing a baseball player can do is worry about what he can control.

As always, thanks to Michael Ortiz for helping translate the interview!

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