Cardinals Latin Players on the Horizon

Edwin Conde

Jason Scott identifies the top St. Louis Cardinals Latin American prospects likely ticketed for their first opportunity to play in the USA in 2007.

Rated by some as the worst in the game as recently as 2005, the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league system has taken on a completely different look since. The Cardinals returned to the Dominican Republic after a two-year hiatus, opened an academy in Venezuela, and added a team in the Gulf Coast League for 2007.

 

In September, the Cardinals named Jeff Luhnow to replace Bruce Manno as the head of player development. They are changing short-season Class A affiliates in 2007, with their new affiliate the Batavia Muckdogs. Including their new Gulf Coast League team, the Cardinals are just one of four organizations with seven North American minor league affiliates, not to mention the Caribbean academies.

 

From the Cardinals' ever-expanding presence in Latin America, players are just now beginning to filter into their North American affiliates. Here are five of the organization's top prospects that have yet to make an appearance in the United States.

 

Outfielder Edgar Lara

 

The Cardinals consider Lara to be their top prospect in Latin America. Signed at the age of 16 in September, 2005, Lara received a $250,000 signing bonus. Later that month, he was invited to the Cardinals Fall Instructional League in Jupiter, Florida.

 

Lara hit just .175 for the Dominican Summer League Cardinals in 2006, but his tools are considerable. At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, he has amazing power, good swing mechanics, and an above average arm. He turns 18 in March.

 

Outfielder Jairo Martinez

 

Another one of the Cardinals' first big signings in Latin America, Martinez received a $150,000 signing bonus in March, 2005. Hurt for most of that season, the 19-year-old led the DSL Cardinals with eight home runs in 2006. To take that into perspective, the entire team hit only five in total in 2005.

 

The Cardinals believe that Martinez is a five-tool player. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is an average runner with a tremendous arm and the potential to be a plus fielder. He profiles as a corner outfielder and will most likely be with Johnson City of the Appalachian League in 2007. Think Juan Encarnacion with better plate discipline.

 

Right-handed pitcher Omar Javier

 

Signed to a 2006 contract in July, 2005, Javier is said to have the highest upside of any of the Cardinals pitchers in Latin America. They believe he has the potential to be a number two starter in the big leagues. The 6-foot-3, 165-pounder has good mechanics and is only 19-years-old.

 

Right-hander pitcher Francisco Samuel

 

Samuel is nicknamed Mosquito, just like fellow Dominican prospect Elvis Hernandez, who pitched for Johnson City in 2006. Despite a 6-foot-1, 150-pound frame, Samuel has a very strong arm, with a fastball that sits at 93-94 and touches 95. He does, however, need to harness his command of the pitch. He also has a good breaking ball and the beginnings of a changeup. The 20-year-old profiles as a short reliever.

 

Left-handed pitcher Hector Cardenas

 

The lone lefty on the Cardinals' Dominican staff, Cardenas was named the team's Pitcher of the Year by the Cardinals. 6-foot-2 and 180-pounds, Cardenas has a Tom Glavine-like profile. The 20-year-old throws a plus changeup, an 88-90 mph fastball that has the potential to be average, and a breaking ball.

 

Best of the Rest

 

In addition to those five, the following Latin American players are expected to be invited to the Cardinals' minor league spring training camp in Jupiter, Florida:

 

  • Catcher/third baseman Wilmer Alvarado
  • Catcher Ivan Castro
  • Catcher Luis De La Cruz
  • First baseman Francis Rojas
  • Second baseman Jose Garcia
  • Second baseman Braulio Hiraldo
  • Shortstop Dognnt Bolivar
  • Shortstop Guillermo Toribio
  • Outfielder Christofer Dumont
  • Outfielder Rainel Rosario
  • Outfielder Quincy Martina
  • Outfielder Edwin Conde

 

Pitchers include (all right-handers):

 

 

Jason Scott can be reached via email at jasonscott@thecardinalnation.com.

 

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

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