Friday, February 17, 2012

2012 Top Prospects #11: Adonys Cardona

Name: Adonys Cardona
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Acquired: Signed as free agent (2010)
Opening Day age: 18
Height/weight: 6’1/170 lbs
Best/worst tool: Fastball/consistency
Risk factor: High
ETA: 2015

Scouting Report

In the nearly two years since signing as a 16 year, Cardona’s arsenal has already improved significantly -- an excellent sign for continued improvement as he matures into his twenties. After throwing in the high 80’s to low 90’s at age 16, his fastball now comfortably sits in the 90-95 mph range. Beyond the impressive velocity, the pitch also has good life, and Cardona has excellent fastball command. A plus pitch now, the fastball has plus-plus potential if Cardona adds a few more miles per hour as he grows. His curveball has shown a lot of potential as well, but it’s far less polished than his fastball. When he’s snapping them off properly, the curveball has hard, late bite. The problem is a lack of consistency with the breaking ball, and when it’s off, he struggles to get it in the lower half of the strikezone. This leads to easy takes if it’s down, and hard swings if it’s hanging. The hammer curve has plus potential if he can throw it more consistently. Rounding out his arsenal is a changeup that is very advanced for his age. The changeup has above average potential. Like his curveball, the pitch can leave him on occasion and lead to control issues, but his arm action is good and it could be a weapon against left-handed batters. At 6’1” he’s shorter than most pitchers, but he counters that issue with an overhand arm slot that creates a downward plane on his pitches –- an excellent choice of arm slot for a repertoire that moves vertically more so than horizontally. His delivery itself is sound, with a smooth and easy arm action that makes the ball appear like it’s flying out of his hand. Cardona’s biggest obstacle moving forward is gaining some consistency with his offspeed pitches.

2011 Statistics and Analysis

10 games (7 starts), 31.2 IP, 31 H, 16 ER, 2 HR, 12 BB, 35 K
1-3, 4.55 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9.94 K/9, 2.92 K/BB, 1.86 GO/AO

There are a lot of positives to take from Cardona’s professional debut in the Gulf Coast League. First of all, he skipped the Dominican Summer League altogether, an indication that Toronto’s not going to baby their stud right-hander. Secondly, the stuff was as advertised and translated into a ton of strikeouts and an excellent groundball rate. Cardona stuck out nearly 10 batters per inning, and did so while maintaining good command overall (3.41 BB/9). His 1.86 GO/AO was the best amongst Toronto’s elite pitching prospects. Cardona pitched only 31.2 innings with the GCL Blue Jays in 2011, so it will be interesting to see if he can sustain such impressive ratios as he doubles the workload and throws ~60 innings during the 2012 season.

Expected 2012 Assignment: Low-A Vancouver

Future Outlook

As previously mentioned, it appears as though the Blue Jays are leaning towards an aggressive development path with Cardona. His pitches are easy on the arm and his arm action is smooth, so Cardona should be able to absorb an increase in workload better than most pitchers. I expect him to have a season reminiscent of Justin Nicolino in 2011 -– begin with Vancouver in the Northwest League, and finish with Lansing in the Midwest League, throwing 60 innings total across the two stops. Such an assignment would set him up for full-season ball in 2013, and a major league debut in late 2015 or early 2016. It would be very aggressive on Toronto’s part -– Cardona would be in the majors at 21 like fellow Venezuelan Henderson Alvarez -– but he appears to be the kind of pitcher who could handle it.

Perfect World Projection: Top of the rotation starter, regular Cy Young contender.

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