Next up on our list is an extremely talented right-handed pitcher who carries a tonne of raw ability but has yet to realize the potential that made him the third ranked international prospect in 2010.
Name: Adonys Cardona
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Date of Birth: 01/16/1994 (La Sabana, Venezuela)
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in July 2010 ($2,800,000 USD)
Height/Weight: 6’4”/185 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked 16th on Baseball America’s 2013 League Top 20 Prospects (Appalachian League)
- Ranked 16th on 2013 Top Prospects List (Jays Journal)
- Ranked 11th on 2013 Blue Jays Top Prospects List (MLB.com)
Stats and Analysis:
After he was held back for an extra year in the Gulf Coast League as an eighteen year old, last season was Cardona’s first taste of the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League. He dealt with arm soreness in 2012 and struggled with control in limited work. The young pitcher was hoping to take a big step forward with Bluefield in 2013 after he showed an elite ability to miss bats his first two years in the GCL.
However, Cardona had a rude introduction to the Appy League and was shelled for five earned runs on six hits over just one inning of work in his very first game. Seven of the eight batters he faced put the ball on the ground but his defense was only able to turn one into an out. A parade of singles and stolen bases followed. The results weren’t much prettier his next appearance when he allowed another four earned runs.
It wasn’t the start that Cardona was obviously looking for. However opponents had a .688 BABIP off him in those 3.2 innings but he still averaged more than a strikeout per inning, if you like your glass half-full. He struggled with spotty command the rest of the season before he was shut down as a precautionary measure in August after eight appearances and 25.1 innings. It was an elbow issues that isn’t perceived as serious but the missed time won’t help his secondary pitches, which still need work.
While active Cardona was able to curb his walk rate slightly (13.7% to 10.8%) and you can take some solace that his 1.895 WHIP was partially inflated by his opponents’.430 BABIP, which made for an unsightly 12.4 H/9. He also did a nice job keeping the ball on the ground with a 3.09 ground out to air out ratio, which was a nice complement to his 22.5% strikeout rate. Some BABIP regression should be expected but it doesn’t mask the fact the batters hit him hard at times and I wouldn’t put too much stock in his 3.12 FIP.
Video Credit: MLB Prospect Portal
Cardona has an over-the-top delivery with a high release point that creates downward plane towards batters. He keeps his elbow below shoulder level and makes a short stride before the ball explodes out of his hand.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
Cardona’s four seam fastball is his best pitch and seen as a potential plus by scouts. He reportedly threw 99 MPH in spring training but worked in the low-to-mid 90’s for the most part in 2013. Jay Blue at Blue Jays From Away noticed that Cardona’s fastball velocity started to fade during a late July appearance but also said he found that he was more effective when he worked in the 90-92 MPH range. It’s tough to gauge how much his elbow issues had to do him not being able to hold velocity into starts but has led to some speculation that he may be better suited as a reliever. His fastball has good life but a lack of control has hindered it’s effectiveness to date.
He also throws a 12-6 curveball that is a nice complement to his over-the-top delivery. The pitch has tremendous vertical movement and late bite but Cardona hasn’t even slightly learned how to locate the offering. It clocks in the low 80’s and is still very raw but projects to be an average pitch (or maybe potentially plus if you are optimistic). His other secondary offering is a change-up he throws in the mid-80’s, which makes it about 10 MPH slower than his usual four seamer. Scouts say that he has a good feel for the pitch but it doesn’t have the same devastating potential as his fastball or curve.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Cardona never really got on track this season in Bluefield and the missed time to finish the year means his development has likely been pushed back even further. He could repeat in Bluefield next season since he missed out on the usual promotion to Vancouver before Lansing but there’s also a chance the Blue Jays try to speed up his development by transitioning him to a reliever for the Low-A Lugnuts. He will be 20 by the time the season begins so there’s still time but you would have to think he can ill afford any further setbacks.
After two consecutive poor seasons Cardona’s stock as an elite pitching prospect is starting to drop. He still has a sky-high ceiling and big league velocity but there’s a risk he may be reduced to a bullpen role going forward. A high-leverage reliever isn’t the worse of projections but it’s probably not what the Blue Jays had in mind when they signed him to a $2.8 million signing bonus in July 2010.
That being said, we should probably remain patient when it comes to Cardona. He remains projectable and there’s still a chance that everything will eventually click. If it does he could be looking at a late 2017 or 2018 ETA. The move to the bullpen could speed up the process but I’m thinking at this point 2018 seems more likely. There’s the risk that his command and control could lead to him flaring out in the minors but based on the quality of his stuff alone he will likely receive opportunities aplenty to eventually put on a big league uniform.