2008 Ranking: Not applicable
School: Panama City, Panama
Became a Cardinal: Signed as an international free agent on March 3, 2007.
Selected 2008 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parens)
Dustin Mattison (Not ranked): The 19-year-old had a fabulous American debut in the New York Penn League. Nieto finished in the top 10 in wins and would have finished the same in ERA if he had qualified.
The Panama native brings an above average changeup to go along with a maturity level beyond his years. The rest of his arsenal is average at best with his curveball showing potential. Several people that saw him pitch this season were really impressed at how he keeps his composure no matter the situation.
It will be interesting to see how Nieto responds to the advanced competition at Quad Cities in 2009. With only 42 strikeouts in 58 innings in short season ball and a 1.25-to-1 groundball to fly ball ratio, he will surely experience some growing pains. Even though I believe Nieto will more than likely have some trouble in the Midwest League, he does seem to have the right kind of temperament to handle any adversity and being that he will be only 20, he still has enough time to make the adjustments he needs to succeed.
Ray Mileur (30): The 19-year-old right hander helped lead the Batavia Muckdogs to their first league championship season since 1963. Nieto went 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA, in 15 games, including nine starts. His 5-0 record, with a 1.28 ERA prior to the All-Star break, paved the way for him to pitch a scoreless frame in the NYPL All-Star game.
Nieto turns 20 next April and he should continue to progress through the system quickly. I expect him to be playing at Quad Cities at some point during the 2009 season.
Message board community (35): The question will always linger with Nieto - is he popular because of his baseball abilities or because people think he has a cool name? This past year the 6-foot Panamanian let his baseball abilities grab people's attention by posting a 2.95 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP as one of the youngest pitchers in the NY-Penn league. His ranking would have undoubtedly been significantly higher had he not given up 12 earned runs (half his yearly total) in his last two starts and raised his ERA by nearly a full run a game. One of Nieto's fortes is the ability to keep the ball in the park as he gave up only one HR for every 18 innings pitched.
Nieto essentially came out of nowhere this year, jumping from the DSL in 2007 where he put up good but not great numbers all the way to a college player-dominated short season league in 2008. He undoubtedly will get a shot at a full season league next year where he should be tested further. Nieto will still be just 19 at the start of the 2009 season so the Cards can afford to be patient with his development. - CariocaCardinal
Brian Walton (Not ranked): Nieto didn't make my top 40, though he was clearly among the 60 considered. His smooth progression from the DSL to the New York-Penn League was hard to miss.
Despite that, I am having a problem forecasting Nieto as a full-season league starter to open 2009. That is less of a comment on his capabilities than it is an acknowledgement that he happens to compete in one of the most stacked positions from top to bottom in the Cardinals' system, right-handed starting pitcher.
His Batavia teammate Hector Cardenas may be more interesting to me because of his left-handedness. He is a couple of years older (21), but did deliver comparable stats as Nieto with a 3:1 ground-to-fly ratio vs. Nieto's 1.25:1. Maybe not fair to focus on LH pitchers, but that's where the shortage exists in the system.
We'll see if Nieto can elbow his way into the picture up the line in 2009 through continued strong performances.
To see our entire list of 40 prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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