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Scouting Mexico, Cardinals Insider

A row of scouts, including Cardinals assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez (far left) from major-league teams train their radar guns on a young pitcher throwing a game at an academy an hour outside of Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo by Derrick Goold)

10 p.m. Tuesday update:

SEATTLE — On the first day they rejoined the ranks of teams able to spend without restrictions on international talent, the Cardinals signed a total of 23 free-agent amateurs from four different countries in Latin America. Two Venezuelan teenagers stand out from the group, most of whom will not begin their pro careers until 2020.

Shortstop Jeremy Rivas, 16, and righthanded pitcher Jose Davila, are the top talents in Tuesday’s class. Rivas has competed internationally for Venezuela and brings a high-ceiling offensive ability to a steady ability at shortstop that should keep him at the position as he advanced.

Davila, 16, is a 6-foot-3, 184-pound righthander who projects to have a starter’s build and to increase his velocity, which touches 91 mph. Davila has a snappy curve that he throws aggressively – and that pitch has the Cardinals betting he’ll remain as a starter.

The Cardinals also signed players from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and a pitcher from Mexico, Juan Salas, who officials saw in April when the big-league team played a series in Monterrey, Mexico.

The Cardinals spent the previous two seasons limited by Major League Baseball rules and their overspending. They were unable to offer a bonus greater than $300,000 to any single player and thus traded away some international spending money to acquire players like outfielder Lane Thomas. During this signing period, which opened Tuesday and continues for around 11 months, the Cardinals are eligible for the largest bonus purse, at $6,481,200.

The Cardinals were unsuccessful on a bid to sign the top talent who signed Tuesday, switch-hitting outfielder Jasson Dominguez, who received a reported $5.1-million from the Yankees. Other talents will sign throughout the coming months.

“It’s good to be able to think about players and talk to plays and now have that restriction,” said Luis Morales, the Cardinals’ director of amateur scouting, who was in the Dominican for several signings. “The market is going to require real patience, I think. Even in the penalty, we were able to get value to the organization, and I think that is still very important. We have to stick to our process.”

Derrick Goold's earlier story:

SEATTLE • For the first time since taking over the reins of the Cardinals' international scouting and signing initiatives, Luis Morales did not have to work with the confines of Major League Baseball's limitations, only the ones set by the Cardinals' approach and past experience.

Morales, the Cardinals' director of international scouting, had spent the previous two years limited by past overspending, and as the Cardinals emerged from what they call "the penalty box" they also have the highest possible spending purse for this market, at $6,481,200.

It won't all be spent immediately as the market opened Tuesday.

"It's good to be able to think about players and talk to players and not have that restrictions," Morales said from the Dominican Republic, where he was participating in the signings and presentations of new players. "The market is going to require real patience, I think. Even in the penalty, we were were able to get value to the organization, and I think that is still very important."

The Cardinals began the day by signing two teens from Venezuela, according to sources and team confirmation:

  • Jeremy Rivas, SS.
  • Jose Davila, RHP.

Rivas, 16, has international tournament experience as a member of Venezuela's U14 national team. (There's a video on YouTube of him at a baseball academy taking swings; he's 12.) The Cardinals like him for his offensive upside, and he's been described as a "secure" shortstop. He's got the arm and the feel for the position to advance there in the low minors, and the bat that should profile there if he remains consistent.

Davilas, 16, is a 6-foot-3, 180-pound righthander that has a projectible frame. He throws 88-90 mph, touching 91 mph with his fastball. That will increase as he grows, but he already has a good feel for the curveball. "He can spin it," said one official. He's got an aggressive, athletic delivery and with the strength and sharpness of his curveball he will start his pro career and advance as a starter until the team's need or his performance says otherwise.

The bonuses for each player are not advertised because they're from Venezuela, where political upheaval has engulfed the country. Major League Baseball has limited the travel that teams can take to Venezuela out of concern for safety. Some media outlets and teams have made the decision not to reveal the bonus money to avoid putting their families at risk.

The Cardinals also signed Gerardo Salas, a 16-year-old righthander from Mexico. Cardinals officials, including assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez, recently saw Salas pitch at an academy while the Cardinals played a series in Monterrey, Mexico (see photo above). The Post-Dispatch traveled along with the Cardinals officials to see Salas and other players. You can read more about that scouting trip and how the Cardinals' scouts bounced between fields to make quick plays on the teen free agents there.

The signing period opens Tuesday but continues for another 11 months. The Cardinals made a play for the market's top player, switch-hitting outfielder Jasson Dominguez, but he had an agreement with the Yankees.

Due to overspending in 2016-17 the Cardinals had two years where they could not spend more than $300,000 on a bonus to any individual player. That was, in part, why they spent time the past two summers trading away international spending money that they could not use. This summer, the Cardinals can offer a bonus of any size.

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