Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Leandro Cedeno - 1B/OF-ish (Basically 1B)
Signed during the 2014 International Signing Period
Full Season-A Peoria
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This is the story of the prospect with the most in-game power in the organization that isn't named Nolan Gorman. I definitely believe that Cedeno possesses the most right-handed-hitting in-game power within the entire minor league system (and Tyler O'Neill doesn't apply here because he isn't a rookie. He's exhausted his eligibility. Shout out to Kevin Woodall, though). Hell, he might even have more raw power than Gorman. We are just going to have to wait and find out. I'm pretty excited to watch, that's for sure!
There are a couple of important things to address before we get too deep down the "Cedeno is amazing" rabbit hole. My main issue with him moving forward is his swing. Every time that I watch it, it reminds me of someone else's swing and I just can't place who's it is. That drives me nuts. I think I'm holding that against him, but that's something that my psychiatrist and I are just going to have to work through together. Anyway, his swing is a big uppercut-type swing that lacks a curtain amount of speed. It kind of reminds me of Albert Belle's swing, if Mr. Belle was slow and long with his hands. Tell me what you think:
It's also the kind of swing that doesn't ever seem to change paths. It's a lot like Colby Rasmus, in that regard. If you'll remember, Colby never took a different swing. It was just the same swing over and over again, and if the bat made contact with the ball in that path then good things happened. Because of this swing, he lacks the ideal plate coverage that I'd otherwise hope to see from a 20-year-old in the Apply League.
The other aspect of his game that's worth giving pause is his defense at first. He's displayed substandard abilities at first more often than he's shown the ability to be a serviceable first baseman. There is still time for him to develop, and I do expect that development to be of the average-variety as he commits fully to first, whenever that might happen. It's just that, right now, he's a terrible fielder more often than not. You'll notice that Cedeno spent quite a bit of time playing the outfield in 2018. This was more about keeping him moving and ranging than it was about anything else, but it needs to be mentioned that Cedeno is not an outfielder.
The other issue with Cedeno is how often he strikes out. I love that he raised his walk rate from 2.6% in 2017 to 8.5% in 2018, but I hate that it came with an increased strikeout rate. That rate was up to 26.7% in 2018 after an acceptable 17.9% in 2017. He's going to need to find a balance there.
Of course, this is where these concerns all come together: Because of his slower, uppercut swing with average plate coverage, you'd have to anticipate that Cedeno is always going to have a high strikeout total. Especially as he faces more advanced breaking balls from right-handers as he moves up the ladder. That means that he's always going to have to hit for substantial power. He's also going to have to keep the walk rate about 8% to have any chance at all of making the majors.
Now that I've bashed him, let me tell you why I love him: THAT POWER. I know that it probably isn't smart to put a player with one "plus" in-game tool in the top 25 of a team's prospect list, but I'm doing it anyway because Cedeno is big and strong and he has an uncanny ability to barrel everything that he makes contact with. Good luck trying to sneak an inside breaking pitch past him. Just ask this guy:
Mr. Cedeno is listed at 6'2" 195 lbs, but he's at least 220 lbs and he's built like a rock. He's the type of hitter that gets your attention with the sound off of his bat. As long as he's making contact, he'll be hitting for power with a high slugging percentage.
With Cedeno, I'm trying hard to apply the lessons that I learned from Elehuris Montero one year ago as we entered the 2018 season. You could see the raw power and the raw skills that Montero possessed. You could see his physical strength and advanced body-type. There were other players ahead of Montero on the depth chart, but nothing was going to stop the force of nature that was Montero from become a top 100 prospect in baseball. While I caution that Cedeno is not the developed hitter or fielder that Montero was one year ago before he broke out, he's definitely capable of leapfrogging others on the depth chart. This kid is a full season assignment away from catching national attention for his power. Here's some more power:
Cedeno doesn't just hit home runs, he hits BOMBS. He hits those bombs to all fields, as well. I've heard his power described as "jaw-dropping."
If you are playing along at home you'll notice that this is the second prospect in a row on our list that is under the age of 21. You'll also noticed that he has never played more than two games above rookie level ball. So, just like with the warning that I issued for our #23 prospect Ivan Herrera, I want to caution everyone that Mr. Cedeno is still so far away from even being considered for a major league role. He still has so much developing to do before he becomes a major league option. There is a high level of volatility left in his development, especially because he profiles as more of a DH right now with contact concerns. The future is extremely bright for him and he has a high-ceiling for sure, but the climb up the ladder will be a tough one.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Cedeno is a power-first hitter with questions about his ability to stick at first base. As he rises through the minors, we'll be keeping a close eye on how his approach changes because of his current penchant for striking out. With a powerful swing, a big body, and extremely rare right-handed swinging in-game power. That's pretty rare within the organization. Cedeno looks like a breakout prospect candidate to take a big step up the organizational ladder if he keeps that 2018 season as his career norm. If he can improve upon it, especially that strikeout rate, then the Cardinals will have a special prospect. I can't wait to see if this physically gifted, monster of a man gets assigned to Peoria at the start of the season. There's a bit of a logjam at the position right now, but that's where I'd start him out at. I'm really hoping that 2018 ends up being a springboard for this talented young man.
MAY 1st UPDATE
His stats are underwhelming for sure, but he's been doing fine so far for Peoria. He's had some good moments and he's had some bad moments. He's definitely been a little over-aggressive at the plate. Mellowing out and staying patient is going to be important for him moving forward. Or, he's just going to have to get used to hammering the first good pitch that he sees early in counts. Right now, he's not doing either often enough. It's OK, though. He's 20, and he's figuring it out!
Thank you to FanGraphs for supplying the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!