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Cardinals Begin 2022 International Signing Period

photo: Jonathan Mejia (center)

Background

The St. Louis Cardinals’ bonus pool is $6,262,600. This is an increase from their $5,899,600 pool last season. Teams are not allowed to trade bonus pool money, nor are they allowed to exceed their bonus pool total. Signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward the bonus pool. Also exempt are any foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and played in a foreign league for at least six seasons.

2022 is the second year in which the international signing period has begun on January 15th instead of the customary July 2nd. It runs through December 15th.

Signings

This list of 12 signees was announced by the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon. Seven pitchers, two shortstops, two outfielders and one catcher are among the signees. All of the players are being signed for the 2022 minor league season.

Last, First Name Pos B/T HT WT DOB Age Hometown
Batista, Arfeni SS R/R 6-0 161 9 04 04 17 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Chirinos, Junior RHP R/R 6-3 190 11 18 04 17 Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela
Cho, Won-Bin CF L/L 6-2 200 8 20 03 18 Seoul, South Korea
Dominguez, Diego RHP R/R 6-0 178 7 02 04 17 Morelia, Mexico
Galvez, Jovi RHP R/R 6-2 223 7 05 04 17 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Herrera, Yordy LHP L/L 6-2 150 12 02 04 17 La Vega, Dominican Republic
Mejia, Jonathan SS S/R 6-0 185 4 12 05 16 La Romana, Dominican Republic
Pena, Yordarlin CF R/R 6-3 177 9 17 04 17 Haina, Dominican Republic
Rodriguez, Luis C R/R 6-1 210 10 07 04 17 Barquisimeto, Venezuela
Sequera, Leonel RHP R/R 6-0 190 8 06 05 16 San Feliz, Venezuela
Suriel, Jose RHP R/R 6-3 240 10 09 04 17 Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Ynfante, Nelfy RHP R/R 6-3 168 2 01 05 16 San Francisco de Macoris, Dom. Rep.

Analysis

The first-day class of internation signings is smaller that it has ben in recent years. The Cardinals signed 23 players on the first day in 2019 and 15 players on the first day in 2021, while the team only signed 12 players to open the international signing period this year. That is likely due in part to signing a pair of highly touted Latin American players and an in-demand Korean prospect.

The Cardinals targeted a pair of highly rated prospects in Dominican shortstop Jonathan Mejia and Venezuelan catcher Luis Rodriguez.

The Cardinals have typically preferred to spread out their bonus pool money among a large group of players as opposed to signing a few highly touted prospects. The team has taken a different approach this year, signing the 14th ranked prospect (Mejia) and the 26th ranked prospect according to mlb.com. Baseball America ranks the duo 12th and 28th, respectively. For reference, in last year’s class, Adari Grant was the highest rated prospect who signed with the Cardinals and he was ranked 47th by Baseball America.

Jonathan Mejia

Both players have also been given high marks for their hitting abilities and power. At such a young age, there is plenty of development ahead of each player, but both of them have an offense first profile with defensive skills that are a bit behind.

According to Jesse Sanchez off mlb.com, “on defense, Mejia shows plus arm potential, and he is expected to stay at shortstop as long as his abilities enable him to play the position. There’s a chance he develops into an offense-first second or third baseman.”

Luis Rodriguez

Sanchez also described Rodriguez as a defense first catcher who should have a strong enough bat to play first base if he does not develop well enough behind the plate.

Though the signing bonuses have not yet been announced, it would not be surprising to see either or both players exceed $1 million or even approach $2 million, as is rumored to be the case for Mejia. For a team that usually avoids spending large chunks of bonus pool money on a single player, this is a sign of how much the organization values these prospects.

The Cardinals have typically had a large presence in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and that continued in this signing period with 10 of the organization’s 12 first-day signings coming from the two countries.

Update

Won-Bin Cho joins Mejia and Rodriguez as the three most highly touted prospects signed by the Cardinals. Cho sparked MLB interest when he won the 2020 National Power Showcase hosted by the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. The outfielder took the top spot in the under-17 home run derby at the event with players from 27 different countries participating. Even more impressively, Cho won the showcase just two years removed from being a pitcher. After winning the National Junior High School Baseball Championship and winning the Outstanding Pitcher Award in 2018, he converted to being an outfielder.

Won-Bin Cho

The 18-year-old recorded a career .362 batting average and 1.073 OPS in high school with five home runs and 30 stolen bases. This made him one of the most sought after players in the KBO draft, which he applied for but then eventually backed out of in order to seek opportunities stateside. His blend of power and speed make him an intriguing prospect, but he also has a strong arm, due in part to his pitching days, and overall, some consider him to be a potential five tool player.

The Cardinals have a history of signing Korean players, as the team previously signed Seung-Hwan Oh and Kwang-Hyun Kim out of the KBO. However, Cho is the first player that the Cardinals have signed from Korea without any professional experience. In that sense, this is a landmark signing for the Cardinals and their scouting staff as they have made inroads in a new territory.

The posted video is a bit long, but the 18-year-old Korean starts hitting bombs around the four minute mark. It can be difficult to scout a player at a home run derby event because oftentimes he is selling out for power instead of taking a game-like swing. That is likely the reason why Cho lost his balance so many times at this event. Still, he hit quite a few tape measure home runs and he generates a lot of torque which helps his lower body explode forward in his swing. One of his most impressive home runs from this event in just past the ten minute mark when he lost his balance on an outside pitch and hit a straight line drive that still had enough to clear the fence.

Cho has plenty of potential and it is impressive that he is such a strong hitter despite only focusing of offense full time since the 2019 season. He will likely command a somewhat large signing bonus as well, rumored to be in the half-million range.

Agent Han Lee, Won-Bin Cho, StL special assistant Matt Slater (St. Louis Cardinals)

The Cardinals had a balance of seven pitchers and five hitters with their initial signings, although their three highest profile additions are hitters. The organization also added a Mexican prospect, RHP Diego Dominguez, which it did not do in its last international class. Additionally, of the seven pitchers that have signed, only one is a southpaw.

It is also interesting to note is that none of the players signed today are below six feet tall. This is not super surprising on the pitching side since pitchers tend to be above six feet, but each of the position players signed by the Cardinals currently play up the middle and have plenty of size.


Historical perspective


For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

All 12 of these new Cardinals are temporarily listed under the team designated as “DSL Players Signed”. They will remain there until their initial professional teams are assigned, likely not until after spring training.


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© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Select Four in the Minor League Rule 5 Draft

photo: Jonah Davis (BucsDugout.com)

Because of the current lockout, the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely. However, the minor league phase is still taking place. The minor league phase of the draft is a good way for teams to acquire organizational depth or take a shot on an intriguing young player that has not shown much in his professional career.

There are examples of minor league Rule 5 selections who have reached the big leagues and even had some success. One such example is Tyler Gilbert of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who threw a no-hitter in 2021 after being taken in the minor league phase of the draft last offseason. Four other minor league selections reached the majors in 2021 – Shea Spitzbarth (PIT), Kaleb Ort (PIT), Seth Martinez (HOU), and Yohel Pozo (TEX). Of these five only Pozo is not a pitcher, and only Tyler Gilbert had any prolonged experience in the majors.

The Cardinals have also had some success in this phase of the draft, as the team selected John Brebbia in December of 2015. He went on to throw nearly 175 quality relief innings for St. Louis between 2017 and 2019.

In 2020, the Cardinals selected one player in the minor league portion – Garrett Williams – who split the year between Double-A and Triple-A. Two years ago, the team selected three players, including Jacob Bosiokovic who showed strong strikeout stuff and reached Triple-A after a solid year in the minors.

The cost of selecting a player in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft is $24,500. After being selected, a player can be assigned to any level of the minors without risk of being returned to his original team.

The Cardinals have the 21st selection of each round.

Round 1 – OF Ben DeLuzio (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Ben DeLuzio was originally drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 3rd round (80th overall) in 2013. He was a two sport star in high school as he played football and baseball. However, he chose to focus on baseball at the next level. His athleticism made him an intriguing target, leading to the early selection in 2013. However, he decided not to sign with the Marlins and to honor his commitment to Florida State instead.

When he re-entered the draft in 2016, DeLuzio he went undrafted as he struggled to hit in his college career. His freshman year was his best season as he posted a .769 OPS, but he never cleared .700 again.

Ben DeLuzio

DeLuzio has been in the minor leagues for five seasons (not counting the lost 2020 season), and he has shown decent hitting ability. He was an above average hitter at every level of the minor leagues until he reached Double-A for the first time in 2018 and posted a 99 wRC+ (about league average).

He improved the following year and earned a promotion to Triple-A where his strong season (139 wRC+) was buoyed by an unsustainable .483 BABIP. DeLuzio has been able to sustain high BABIPs throughout his career, though, as he has never finished with below a .355 BABIP in any season.

In 2021, DeLuzio repeated Double-A and Triple-A, but he was not as successful at Triple-A in his second time around, finishing with a 93 wRC+ in 170 plate appearances.

DeLuzio is an athlete who steals plenty of bases and plays centerfield, though he has seen time in the corners as well. Scouts questioned his feel for hitting when he left college, but DeLuzio has a hit over power profile. He supplements this with typically high walk rates, although he took fewer walks than normal in 2021. DeLuzio walked in 9.8% of his plate appearances in 2019, but his walk rate at the same levels in 2021 was just 6.4%.

He has also shown an uptick in power in Triple-A, but that is not a part of his game. The 27-year-old has hit just nine home runs in five minor league seasons.

His value comes from getting on-base and providing value on the basepaths and in the outfield. DeLuzio’s .329 OBP in Triple-A in 2021 was his career low at any level and his 16 stolen bases were his fewest in a season since rookie ball. His career high was 37 swiped bags in 2018.

There is not much upside with this pick for the Cardinals considering that the team has a strong outfield depth chart at the major league level. Still, this pick will provide quality upper level to a minor league system that just lost Nick Plummer and will need someone who can play all three outfield positions. DeLuzio is a strong defender and a strong runner with some contact skills, and that should make him a dependable outfield option with Triple-A Memphis in 2022.

Round 2 – RHP Carlos Guarate (San Diego Padres)

While the Cardinals were looking for upper level depth with the selection of DeLuzio, the team found a younger prospect in Carlos Guarate. The right-hander is still just 20 years old and has been developed as a starter, though with all the competition for rotation spots in the Cardinals system, it is possible that Gaurate moves to the bullpen.

The Venezuelan signed for $300,000 on July 2, 2017 before making his professional debut in 2018.

Guarate dominated the Dominican Summer League in 2018, and then he dominated rookie ball in 2019 and earned his first taste of full season ball at the end of the season. The lost 2020 minor league season hurt Guarate as he was unable to build on his early year success. In 2021, he began the year in Single-A and compiled a 4.94 ERA and 4.59 FIP. Despite struggling at the level and being just 20 years old, the Padres aggressively moved him to High-A midway through the season.

Carlos Guarate

This may have been due to his Rule 5 eligibility, but it certainly did not help the Venezuelan. In 40 ⅔ innings, he earned a 7.30 ERA.

Guarate has never been a pitcher who strikes out a lot of hitters. Rather he keeps the ball in the zone and limits walks. He has walked just 2.27 hitters per nine innings in his career, while fanning just 7.21 hitters per nine innings.

According to Matt Thompson of Prospects Live, the 20-year-old’s arsenal consists of a low-90s fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball, and a changeup. The curveball is his best secondary pitch right now while his fastball velocity may tick up if he adds weight to his 6’2” frame. He is listed at just 178 pounds, so that is certainly a possibility.

It appears that Guarate may also throw a slider which has plenty of horizontal break and differs significantly from his curveball, which dives toward the ground. The slider-looking pitch and the curveball both had a lot of movement while Guarate’s changeup gets a decent amount of arm side run.

Guarate is still a work in progress. He has at least three viable pitches (maybe a fourth), and good control. With some more refinement and a stronger frame, Guarate may be able to increase his fastball velocity and rack up more strikeouts. This would give him a higher ceiling, but this is still an upside pick from the Cardinals.

Round 3 – OF Jonah Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jonah Davis is the second outfielder that the Cardinals have taken in the minor league Rule Five draft, and he is the exact opposite of Ben DeLuzio. Davis hits left-handed while DeLuzio hits right-handed. Davis is a power guy while DeLuzio is more of a contact and speed guy. Davis strikes out a lot, while DeLuzio has an average strikeout rate. The one thing the pair has in common is position – they both play center field.

Davis was the Pirates 15th round selection in 2018 and he signed for $125,000. His best tool is his plus raw power despite his 5’10”, 181-pound frame. He has hit double digit home runs in each of his professional seasons. The outfielder hit 15 in 2021 between High-A and Double-A, hit 19 in Single-A in 2019, and hit 12 in rookie ball in 2018. The problem with him is astronomically high strikeout rates.

The 24-year-old struck out in over 36% of his plate appearances in Single-A, and he struck out in over 43% of his plate appearances in High-A and Double-A this past season. He has an enticing profile as a power hitter who can play center field, but he will need to cut down on the swing and miss in his game if he wants to continue progressing through the minors.

Jonah Davis

Davis is someone who can provide depth at High-A or Double-A next season while also providing upside if he ever figures out how to make more consistent contact. Despite his high strikeout rates, he has been an above league average hitter at every level that he has reached. This is largely due to his prodigious power and ability to draw walks (12.7% walk rate in 2021).

Like Guarate, he is also someone who was promoted aggressively due to his eligibility for the Rule Five Draft. He would benefit from  a more patient approach from the Cardinals.

This season, he was promoted from High-A despite batting below .200 (with a crazy .196/.348/.439/.787 slash line) with a 43.9% strikeout rate. It would not be surprising to see the Cardinals return him to the level and see if he can iron out his contact issues.

As a side note, Davis was invited to Spring Training in 2019 and he hit two home runs in five at-bats.

Round 4 – LHP Nelfri Contreras (Los Angeles Dodgers)

The Cardinals were one of just four teams to select at least four players, and only the Marlins selected five. Unlike Guarate, Contreras has been a reliever in his entire professional career, though he is also inexperienced.

The 22-year-old reached Single-A this season and tallied a 3.80 ERA, but his 5.88 FIP paints a bleaker picture. In rookie ball in 2019, Contreras found his strikeout stuff as his K/9 ballooned to 10.09. This number dropped down to a still decent 8.94 in 2021, but his BB/9 was still high at 4.75.

Nelfri Contreras

Contreras did improve as the season progressed. In the final three months of the season, the southpaw earned a 3.20 ERA in 33 ⅔ innings. However, nearly all of the runs that he allowed were surrendered in three appearances. Without those appearances, he posted a 1.23 ERA in 29 ⅓ innings.

This is likely something that attracted him to the Cardinals. He will need to improve his control, and there is a little projection left in his 6’0”, 177-pound frame. Ultimately, it seems likely that he will spend the 2022 season in the Single-A or High-A bullpen.

Players Lost

Round 1, Pick 25 – SS Moises Castillo, Chicago White Sox

Moises Castillo is the only player leaving the Cardinals system after the minor league Rule Five Draft. He reached Double-A at the end of the 2021 season, but he has not been an above average hitter in any level since rookie ball in 2017.

Moises Castillo

Castillo signed with the Cardinals in July of 2015 and made his professional debut in 2016. He first reached full season ball in 2019.

The 22-year-old is a strong defensive player with positional versatility that can fill a variety of roles in an organization. This is a common type of pick in the minor league portion of the draft.

Castillo is more of a slap hitter with a limited walk rate. He was young for his level this year, so there may be improvements ahead for Castillo. Still, the Cardinals clearly did not think enough of him to protect him on the Memphis roster ahead of other players, and the organization clearly feels confident in its depth at shortstop after not selecting a shortstop later in the draft.


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2020 St. Louis Cardinals Draft Prospects Review

The St. Louis Cardinals selected seven players in the five-round 2020 MLB Draft. The team selected three high school players with its first four picks. Two of those players earned promotions in 2021, with top selection Jordan Walker establishing himself as TCN’s 3rd ranked prospect. The first college player selected – Alec Burleson – tore through the system, reaching Triple-A in his first professional season.

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