International Reviews: St. Louis Cardinals
Top signing: RHP Alvaro Seijas, Venezuela, $762,500.
Total signings: 13.
The Cardinals have been a homegrown pitching factory, with several success stories from the draft and quality arms now coming up from Latin America under the watch of international director Moises Rodriguez. Dominican righthander Carlos Martinez is already in the big leagues, Alex Reyes is one of the game’s elite pitching prospects and young Dominican righthanders Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez were both Top 20 prospects in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The Cardinals have another talented young arm to add to the pipeline in 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Alvaro Seijas, who signed for $762,500 on July 2. The top-ranked pitcher in Latin America last year, Seijas appeared poised for an easy seven-figure payday that could have approached $2 million, but instead teams committed their money elsewhere and the Cardinals were able to strike for a very favorable price to sign him form Carlos Guillen’s academy.
Seijas is an athletic pitcher with quick arm speed from his lean 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. He doesn’t have a ton of physical projection, but he’s already sitting at 88-92 mph and touching 94, with enough room to add a little extra to his fastball. He complements his fastball with one of the best curveballs in the class, a swing-and-miss pitch that flashes plus and could end up grading out even better. It’s a more polished, sharper curveball than Reyes had when he signed, showing tight spin, good shape and true top-to-bottom action, though he’s still learning to be able to throw it for strikes. His changeup is his third pitch and needs the most work, but he’s already shown some feel to throw that one too.
Seijas doesn’t have the smoothest arm action, with a wrap in the back, but his athleticism helps him repeat his delivery and throw a lot of strikes. With his repertoire and feel for pitching, he projects as a starting pitcher. Seijas is advanced enough that he could start in the GCL or at least come over to the U.S. at some point this summer.
Justin Williams Eyes Big League Role
The fact that Williams, who played in Mexico this winter, bats lefthanded gives him an advantage in the Opening Day roster competition.
Dominican shortstop Raffy Ozuna signed for $600,000 on July 2 after training with Basilio Vizcaino, known as “Cachaza.” Ozuna’s father, Rafael, was the hitting coach last year for the Dodgers at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Ozuna, 17, is still growing into his gangly 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame, but he impressed the Cardinals with his athleticism and upside. He’s a switch-hitter who’s looks more natural from the right side, where he shows more bat speed, drives the ball better and recognizes pitches better than he does hitting lefthanded. He has a slight uppercut and a pull approach with gap power and the potential for more extra-base thump once he gets stronger. He’s an average runner with a chance to stick at shortstop if he doesn’t outgrow the position, with his best tool his plus arm. Ozuna is scheduled to open in the Dominican Summer League.
The Cardinals signed Dominican righthander Francis Ventura for $400,000 from Luis Mejia’s program when in August, shortly after he turned 16. Ventura isn’t as advanced as Seijas, but his efficient delivery, physical projection and ability to throw strikes with a three-pitch mix make for a promising starter profile. Ventura is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with long arms and a strong, lean frame that should be durable. His breaking ball—a true curveball at 72-74 mph—is highly projectable, as is his changeup, which he throws with good arm speed and late sink.
Dominican shortstop Moises Castillo landed a $140,000 bonus when he turned 16 on July 14. Castillo is a high-energy player with some similarities to Cardinals shortstop Edmundo Sosa. He’s 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with good bat-to-ball skills from the ride side, albeit with limited power right now with more strength one of his greatest needs. He will likely split time between shortstop and second base, possibly fitting better at second with fringy arm strength and speed.
Anthony Trompiz is an 18-year-old Venezuelan righthander who traveled to the Dominican Republic and trained there with Chiqui Mejia before signing. Trompiz was previously eligible to sign but waited until July 2 to sign for $100,000. He’s not going to pitch at all this year, however, as he had Tommy John surgery soon after signing. Before the elbow operation, Trompiz (a sturdy 6-foot-3, 215 pounds) threw 87-90 mph and his best pitch was a downer curveball with good depth that was ahead of his nascent changeup.
During the 2014-15 signing period in February, the Cardinals signed 18-year-old outfielder Sanel Rosendo for $200,000. Rosendo was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but he moved to the Dominican Republic a couple of years before he started his career and signed out of Alfredo Arias’ program in San Pedro de Macoris. Rosendo has a strong build at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and showed he has power in his righthanded bat with 19 doubles and six home runs in 63 DSL games, but he hit just .220/.333/.392 overall with 28 walks and 77 strikeouts. He will have to cut down on his swing-and-miss, though he did show progress last year, getting off to a slow start by going 9-for-80 (.113) by the end of June, then hitting .254/.356/.500 in 29 games after the all-star break. Rosendo has a strong arm in right field, where he’s still learning to get better reads and routes.