This is the group of prospects that I think have a potential to find their spot on the list if they were just a little more experienced. That I haven't seen them in-game with my own eyes other than a little footage here and there plays heavily into this decision. Since I don't have my full mind made up on each, and since my opinion feels more like the opinion of others, I can't put them on The Dirty just yet. Their time will come, hopefully.
I am not clever. I am, in fact, a rube.
Still, I think that some of these kids are worth talking about. For this exercise, I’ve selected six that I find to be eye-catching. If they aren't so much in the way of "eye-catching" then they are at least fun kids to talk about. There are more than a handful of kids that deserve more recognition than a couple of the kids that I am going to highlight here. Remember, these kids ARE FREAKING TEENAGERS. They are coming off of a lost 2020 season, as well. A lot can change for a prospect in an offseason, and that goes double for kids that are this far away. It goes triple for kids that are teens and that haven’t spent much time, if any, in the states.
OF Luis "Super Mario" Pino
18 Years Old on Opening Day
Signed out of Cuba in 2021
There are two kids on this list that were almost on The Dirty proper. Pino is one of those kids. He's my favorite of this group.
If you've been following me for some time now, you'll remember that I was very bullish on Randy Arozarena from the beginning. Pino reminds me of a younger and rawer version of Randy.
Same goes for Luis Robert.
Malcom Nunez, too.
When you watch the video on these International kids, it's usually just showcase footage that you'll find swirling around. The truth is - while it's nice to be able to see something from these kids - there is very little that you can actually take from it. A showcase is so controlled and designed. Because of this, there is very little that ever really sticks out to me when I watch them. There has to be “something else.” The best way that I can sum that is that "it's a feeling."
And I have “a feeling” about Pino.
Maybe it’s the sound off of the bat. Maybe it’s the bat speed or the "sound" swing mechanics. Maybe it's the balance and the transfer of kinetic energy in his swing. Maybe it’s the clear energy that he plays with. Hell, maybe it’s even just the fact that he has the nickname “Super Mario.” I am criminally simple, after all.
What I really love when I watch him swing is the front-foot timing and the leverage that he clearly creates with his lower half. When you have the bat-speed/lower half leverage combo that Pino possesses, there is usually something more to that player than just a run of the mill prospect. Of course, Pino is going to have to continue to work on making consistent contact instead of trying to sell out so heavily for slug, from what I understand.
Maybe what I love more than anything is this sweet little hype video that he put together to announce that he was signing with the Cardinals. This fuckin' guy has swag, mang.
The stats from his first season within the organization aren’t that impressive if you are just looking at his slash line or his strikeout rate. That doesn't matter so much to me, as I am more than encouraged by what the stats are telling me.
From a scouting perspective, all indications are that Pino will be a very good corner outfielder if that is where he settles, but that there is potential for him to play center. I’ve heard mixed reviews on his arm in the outfield. I haven’t seen it in practical application myself, so I’ll hold off on giving my thoughts on it.
All in all, there are worse ways to spend $767,000. I love this nationally decorated Cuban kids.
OF Felix Taveras
19 Years Old on Opening Day
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019
This one is even more fun!
I don’t think that I had any idea that Taveras existed until a couple of months ago. I mean, I knew that a player named "Felix Taveras" existed within the organization and that he was signed in 2019, but I didn't "know" Felix Taveras. You see, I am a "nob' that doesn’t pay as much attention to the international classes as I should because of how far way from the majors that they are. I get a bit dismissive of most teenaged players until they give me a reason to take notice.
Taveras has given me a reason to take notice.
Of all of the international position players in the organization at the lowest levels of the minors, Taveras had the best statistical season. I’m not sure that it was close, from an all-around offensive game standpoint. Good walk rate. Good K rate. A well above average ability to slug the baseball. If the stats don’t lie, then this is certainly a kid to keep an eye on.
So then I went and tried to cobble together as much video of Taveras as I possibly could. Upon watching the limited video that I could track down, it became clear that Taveras deserved a spot on this list.
He also almost made The Dirty.
I love Taveras’s size and athleticism. He’s listed at 6’0”, but I’ve been told that he is bigger than that now. He’s also added a little weight to that frame. Both are terrific and positives steps.
What I REALLY love is that swing. The lower half doesn’t appear to be as involved as I’d like, but he still uses it. He also produces an elite amount of torque in his upper body. That REALLY sticks out. There is more to Taveras than just a prospect that hit well in the unevenly talented DSL. His strikeout rate was still kinda high, but it's been hinted to me that it's still a good sign for a kid that so much more "power" over "hit" when he was signed. Sounds like a kid that is growing into himself and the sport, to me. He kind of reminds me of a left-handed swinging Alphonso Soriano, mechanically only.
Just like with Pino, I have yet to see much out of his arm, so I’ll refrain from reporting on that. From talking to a couple of people, all reports are that Taveras has a chance to be a well-above average corner outfielder, but is definitely not there yet. That’s OK. This young man has plenty of time.
OF Jeremy Ramos
19 Years Old on Opening Day
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019
It was when I started to really dig in for Taveras’s videos/reports that Jeremy Ramos began to pop at me.
That’s mostly because of his frame. Ramos is a tall kid, standing about 6’3”. He has room to add weight and a frame that will absolutely put on and hold that weight perfectly. Even the 180-ish pounds that he had on him at the time that he was signed looked good on him.
Right now, it seems like the big question with Ramos is his defensive abilities. He’s played center in the past, but he had a lot of trouble moving to a corner. When I asked, I was told that he doesn’t seem to read the ball the same in a corner just yet, with a lot of balls carrying further towards the pole than he realizes off of the bat. Again, this is why I hate to rank these kids until I see them. I don’t want to be reliant on what other’s are seeing. He had a really solid season and I personally like his build and toolset more than Jeremy Rivas, so this is the direction that I went in.
And with that, I pretty much have to wrap this one up. There really is very little to go on with Ramos. I can’t wait to learn more about him! Fun, right?!?!
Catcher Jake Burns
19 Years Old On Opening Day
Signed out of Australia in 2019
Florida Complex League
First, Mr. Rob Rains has been incredible kind to me over the years. Mr. Rains has also been on the forefront of the Jake Burns train since it took off in 2019. You should follow Mr. Rains, and you should read this piece from Mr. Rains about Burns.
Jake Burns is a lot of fun, and he’s from Australia. So, there you go. That's cool, I think.
It was kind of a big deal when the Cardinals signed Burns. Not only because Burns is from Australia and cost them $400,000, but because Burns was a bit of a Little League World Series icon for the Australian team.
Here’s a gif of Burns flipping his bat after hitting a big homer. ENJOY!
Burns also pitched, and that’s evident in the way that he throws the ball from behind the plate. His arm is very strong. I’ve also heard some mixed reports about his defense behind the plate, but I’m not worried about that at all, just yet. If you’ll please always remember, developing catchers is the toughest thing that an organization can do. The Cardinals do it better than nearly anyone, really. Developing catchers also takes a little longer, so keep that in mind. Even though Burns is more hit before defense right now, there's plenty of reason to believe that he can become the best version of him both behind at at the plate.
What I know for sure is that Burns is an athletic kid who will be able to handle the grueling ask that is a catcher's workload. I also know that Burns’s work ethic is off of the charts, so there is no reason to think that he isn’t up for the challenge.
While his 2021 stats weren’t very pretty in the Complex League for a hit-first prospect, I’m willing to wager that his 2022 season will be infinitely better. Dammit, do I love a left-handed swinging catcher.
OF Keshawn Rombley
18 Years Old
Signed out of Aruba in 2019
If part of the reason I’m highlighting Burns is because he’s from Australia, then part of the reason that I’m highlighting Rombley is because he’s from Aruba. I just love stories like this. I just love that the Cardinals are scouring all ends of the Earth to find talent.
If I'm doing it right, Rombley would be only the 7th Aruban to make the majors if he can makes some huge gains over the next couple of years. That group is lead by Sydney Ponson and Xander Boegarts, and it'd be pretty cool to see Rombley join that list.
I saved Rombley as the last hitter because I don't know what to think of him. In the little bit of video that I was able to track down, I saw a kid that was more of a slap-hitter than anything else. His hands have too much motion in them, and he really needs to continue to clean that up. There were a lot of moving parts in that swing prior to entering the organization, but my hope is that the Cardinals have worked to help Rombley clean that up. When I asked about that, I wasn't given much of an answer. So, once again, this is why I like to actually watch these kids. You can see the athleticism, but I don’t think that he knows how to tap into it just yet. Which is fine, of course!! He has time!
There were also some questions about his speed. Not necessarily about his natural speed, but in how he applies it around the bases. I’ve been told that he is starting to run the bases with more purpose. He is also getting better jumps on flyballs in the outfield more consistently than he has in the past. Who would have thought that gaging the tools of a then 16-year-old kid would prove to be inaccurate!! Oh, wait. I did. That’s who. Man, it’s gotta be tough to oversee the international scouting side of baseball operations.
There is a very talented and raw player here in Rombley. Just like with Burns, not the most impressive statistical season, but a lot to get excited about, nonetheless. Word is that Rombley is a high baseball IQ player, as well, and that bodes well for his long-term outlook.
RHP Jose Davila
Basically 19 Years Old
Signed out of Venezuela in 2019
Palm Beach and FCL
Davila is a late addition to this list because I'm dumb. That's it. That's the reason. I had every intention of including him, then the list got way out of hand and I just completely forgot to include him.
The "tell" when it comes to the organization's outlook on Davila is that he ended the season at Palm Beach. Not many Caribbean kids get the late-season promotion to a full season level unless they are impressing the brass.
While some of the peripherals suggest that there is some cause for concern, I'm not all that worried about it. Davila is a highly regarded prospect and one of the better pitching prospects that the Cardinals have acquired in the International market over the last couple of years. I love that Davila only allowed one home run in 53.2 innings pitched. He needs to continue to refine his command because we all know that a 14.2% walk rate is rough. I don't necessarily have the same concerns with Davila as I have with someone like Edwin Nunez, however.
Of all of the Caribbean kids that I haven't seen, Davila is the pitcher that I am most anxious to gaze upon with my own eyes. Way back in 2019 when he was signed, it was his fastball and curve - along with his 6'3" frame - that the Cardinals were banking on, quite literally. Two years later and Davila's fastball has more RPMs and his curveball is more refined. Both pitches still need work, but not as much as the changeup, it appears.
There are a lot of things that are working towards a 2022 bust-out for Davila.
One final shoutout in this post to 18-year-old RHP Ettore Giulianelli from Italy who I almost wrote about, as well. I think that it's pretty cool that the Cardinals have worked their way into Italy to sign players. I also think that it's cool that Giulianelli had a really great season. But I don't really know shit about him, and even less than the six guys that I just went over. So, I have no authority to talk about him. Thus, I am only going this far in discussing him.
As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!