Just a few days ago, the Cardinals signed a trio of international free agents. All three are from the Dominican Republic, all three are extremely young. One pitcher, two outfielders; one sixteen year old, two seventeen year olds.
The pitcher goes by the name of Jesus Jaquez, and I know nothing about him. I have an email in to a guy, but haven’t heard anything back. He’s seventeen, and is listed at 6’3” and 195, which is code for, “This guy looks like a pitcher, so let’s just write down the pitcher numbers.” I will try to let you know about him if and when I get some info on him.
The same goes for seventeen year old Smith Vargas, a relatively slightly built outfielder about whom I also know nothing as of yet. Again, if and when I get some info I’ll cover him. However, given that this was the Cardinals’ second year in the penalty box following their 2016 spending spree, they are unable to sign any player for more than $300K, meaning we aren’t talking about the high-profile kids, necessarily. Thus, these guys may not be the easiest to dig up info on, at least until they actually start playing this coming summer.
However, the third player of the trio, the youngster of the bunch, is sixteen year old outfielder Fernando Brazoban, and him I actually have heard a bit about. Even better, there’s a publicly-available recruiting video online, so let’s take a look at him.
via CJ Becas Tryouts:
Let’s start with the body: Brazoban is already very mature and muscular for such a young age, with a fairly compact, thick build. The legs in particular look explosive, and for now he has plus speed, at least in a relatively short sprint. He’s listed right now at six feet and almost 190 pounds, and I’d say that looks about right. Probably he adds another 20 to that and ends up 6’0” and 210 or so at maturity.
The upside of that is that it’s easy to see how much strength and power a guy carrying 210 pretty well-sculpted pounds on a six foot frame can generate; the downside is that guys built like that usually slow down quite a bit by the time they hit their mid twenties. Right now, Brazoban has the kind of speed you’d probably stick in center field, but after he fills out some more I’d say he moves to a corner. The arm is strong enough he could handle right, though it really doesn’t matter that much.
The thing I find very exciting about Brazoban at this point is his swing. He’s got very good bat speed already, which isn’t surprising given his build, but what is really impressive is the swing path itself. It’s a swing pretty much naturally built to get the ball up in the air, and isn’t all that different from what Malcom Nunez does from the right side of the plate. Now, Brazoban doesn’t drive down and through his swing as aggressively as Nunez, and his lower body mechanics aren’t as naturally powerful as the Cuban phenom, but it’s not dissimilar all the same. He’s both a bit stiff and a bit too loose when he really lets the swing go, which isn’t surprising in a player this young, as the mechanics aren’t set to the point of being second nature yet oftentimes, but the swing plane is basically what you would try to instill in a player with this kind of natural power.
It’s interesting to see the Cardinals focusing on this type of high-upside athlete internationally; in their big blowout signing period they made Jonatan Machado, who was all polish and bat control and no physicality, their top ticket item. In the two years since, however, they’ve gone big on guys like Nunez and Joerlin De Los Santos and now Fernando Brazoban. I’m not saying Brazoban will come out of the gates and have the kind of debut those other two players did; I’m simply comparing his physical upside and the shape of his game to those guys, rather than the more polished type of game it seemed like the Cards often favoured in the past.
All in all, I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this kid progresses once he gets into pro ball this year. I’m sure he’ll open the season with one of the two Dominican Summer League teams the Cardinals are fielding currently, and will almost certainly stay there the whole year. We obviously have a long time to wait before we know if he’s going to be anything, but for my money this is very much the sort of player you should be investing in on the international market.