This past Monday was July 2, marking the start of MLB’s international signing period. International players are allowed to sign with an organization between July 2 and June 15 of the following year if they are 17, or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of their contract (per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez).
Luis Morales is a name few might know, but one with substantial impact on the Cardinals 2018-2019 class of international signees. Morales was promoted to Director of International Operations and Administration after holding various titles in the Cardinals organization, his most recent being the team’s Coordinator of International Scouting.
Limiting Morales’ power to makes waves for the Cardinals internationally are rules preventing the Cardinals from offering a single player more than $300,000. This is a consequence of the organization’s overspending during the 2016-2017 period where they landed Jose Adolis Garcia, Jonathan Machado, Johan Oviedo, and Victor Garcia.
That limit was touched Monday as the Cardinals landed Cuban third baseman, Malcom Nunez. Baseball America ranked Nunez 26th in their top 50 of international signees, lauding the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder slugger as a standout bat.
The flashy stat tied to Nunez’s 15U Cuba League performance is his 46 walks to only nine strikeouts in 152 plate appearances before heading to Japan for the 15-U World Cup, where he continued to show his strengths offensively.
At the plate, Nunez features a slight movement of his hands away from his body as he loads that has been mentioned in nearly every scouting report available on the Cuban talent.
The quirk is most noticeable from this angle, which gives you a better look at the extension of his hands towards first base before his hands drive through the zone. From your standard, open-face angle, things seem slightly more explosive and it’s harder to notice the knock mentioned above.
In searching for some more recent video and encouraging thoughts on how to iron out this motion, Baseball America gives us even better video of Nunez in a non-game situation with an identical, open-face perspective to the one shown above.
We can’t say for certain there is substantial difference in Nunez’s hands, but on initial impression, it looks like the entire aesthetic of his swing might be quieter. This could mean his hands aren’t coming as far away from his body as the first video of Nunez above shows.
As with any raw prospect, especially one at such a young age, adjustment is inevitable and necessary. It will be interesting to see if his production down the road rivals that of Elehuris Montero, the current Peoria Chiefs third baseman who was signed also because his bat stood out among others in his class.
The Cardinals also landed three other players on top of Nunez according to Baseball America’s tracker of international signees: Diego Velasquez, C, Venezuela; Jesus Rojas, RHP, Venezuela; and Victor Villanueva, RHP, Dominican Republic.
Back on June 21, Baseball America connected the Cardinals to Nunez as well as Velasquez and Rojas. These signings should come with little surprise to those with ears to the ground in the international prospect world (most notably, Ben Badler).
Some speculate the lack of hyper-aggressive spending by the Cardinals to max out their allotted $5 million with multiple $300,000 prospects could be tied to the team’s intentions of trading international slot money as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. While there is no limit to the amount of international money the Cardinals can trade away, acquiring teams are limited to acquiring 75 percent of their initial pool. As the end of July nears, if the Cardinals choose to trade away this money rather than spend it in $300,000 increments, they will have to pick their suitors wisely.