I asked Jeff Luhnow if he could provide us with details on the new Latin American signees, and he was kind enough to oblige. Here are his words on the newest Cardinals:
Roberto De La Cruz. He runs a 6.9 60 yard dash (slightly above average), but he’s probably not going to get faster as he matures because he will get bigger and stronger. His hands and feet work really well at 3b and he has plenty of range to play that position. He can handle short now but his range will be limited there and he doesn’t have the body type to play there. He has a strong lower half and generates bat speed and power by using his middle. I gave his arm an average grade for 3b as he made all the plays. I was impressed by how he started the 5-4-3 double plays… quick release and accurate throws. He has a short stroke to the ball and follows through (short to, long through). I saw him drive three 88-92 mph fastballs – one to left, one up the middle, and one to right. He also sat on a 82 mph slider and punched it to right for a single. While some have compared him to Villalona (who will play in the futures game) I don’t think they are the same guy. Villalona (whom we scouted extensively) had more developed power at this stage but we felt was less likely to stick at third and more likely to be a first baseman. (Erik: That’s Angel Villalona of the Giants who he’s referring to, as I’m sure most of you are aware.)
Santos Franco. There are quite a few similarities between Franco and (Michel) Inoa… both of whom we saw many times over the course of the past few years. Both are similar in stature and body type. Inoa throws harder right now and is more polished (truly a special talent). Franco has a fastball in the 87 to 92 range during workouts and 2 inning stints, so he will likely start his career pitching at 87 to 88. However, he is only 16 and has a loose, projectable arm. He should have a plus (92-93) possibly a plus plus (94+) fastball as he matures. He throws both a breaking ball and a change up, and has decent control (he’s around the zone with an occasional miss). We really like his work ethic and attitude and he will be very coachable. With some tweaking, his mechanics could be exceptional and he could be a fast mover in our system.
Cesar Valera. This young shortstop was in the same program as the most high profile position player in Latin America, Yorman Rodriguez. We saw Yorman over a dozen times over the past 24 months (I personally have seen him 5 times – there is a lot to like) and we found ourselves talking about this shortstop every time we visited their program or had them to our academy. He has a very sound approach at the plate and generates above average bat speed. He is about an average runner right now, and he could get better as he matures, but I typically don’t like to project increases in speed because I don’t see it that often. He can pick it at short and will stay there. He has gap power and will develop over the fence power. Enrique Brito advocated strongly for this player and I have always trusted his ability to judge talent – he has signed or recommended over a dozen big league players from Venezuela.
Dennis Montero. The main thing that stuck out for me about this kid is his ability to throw strikes. We don’t see that too often in a 16 year old. His fastball is already average, and he has a swing and miss change up along with a breaking ball he can get over for strikes. We really like his pitching mechanics and believe he will get better quickly.
Grabiel Hernandez. For us, the top fielding shortstop in this year’s crop. Not a big guy, so he can get lost in the crowd, until you see him pick the ball over and over again and he is truly impressive. He has gold glove potential if his bat comes along. He is a switch hitter and should remain that way as he makes contact consistently. He’s not a power guy, but if he’s able to hit enough singles and doubles, he could be a special two way player.
Jose Weffer. A very young (just turned 16) left handed pitcher with a bright future. His fastball is below average now (as it is for many young future stars) but he has deception and command so that his 84 plays like 89. He might have a plus change up and an average to plus curveball. Exciting project who might take a few years to develop but should be good.
Thanks to Mr. Luhnow for sharing this info with us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled to see the Cardinals really open up the purse strings and sign what sounds like some very promising talent. According to the P-D, De La Cruz (or Pina) was signed for a bonus exceeding a million dollars, and both Franco and Valera were signed for over $500 K each. I am particularly excited about Pina (er…De La Cruz…I’m used to calling him Pina, sorry.) I actually was able to talk to a baseball insider in the DR, and he essentially said De La Cruz wasn’t a super high ceiling guy, but is about as sure of a thing to hit 20 homers in the big leagues as you can find there. (Which sounds like a pretty high ceiling to me). This person also noted that Franco was more of a high reward/high risk guy who’s all arms and legs right now. They felt uncertain if his coordination comes around, but at worst they felt he’d be a back-end bullpen guy because of his fastball.