JC Cardenas, a slick fielding short stop from Cuba, joined Jays Journal to talk about his first year in the Blue Jays organization.
The Toronto Blue Jays selected shortstop JC Cardenas from Barry U in the 6th round of the 2015 Draft. Cardenas appeared in 42 games with the Vancouver Canadians as a 21-year-old, but experienced some struggles with the bat.
In the field, JC didn’t disappoint. Cardenas turned 33 double plays, 62 put outs, 111 assists and committed only 11 errors in 184 chances, which was good for a .940 fielding percentage.
JC Cardenas 2015 stats
Like many young men, JC considers his father to be his greatest influence “in [his] life and in baseball.” JC’s father was more of a soccer player, but always had time to nurture his the young Cardenas love for playing baseball. As it turns out, his father continues to be there for him and is “the one I practice with in my off-season and my off time.”
Like every good dad, JC’s father motivated his son to “always give 100% and the outcome will eventually be what [you] want it to be.”
The 6th round pick wasn’t born in the U.S.; he was born and raised in the baseball hotbed of Cuba. Growing up in Cuba, Cardenas played baseball at an all sport school. In December 2008 the Cardenas family were granted permission to leave Cuba and moved to America.
JC’s aunt left Cuba illegally in 1995; she became an American citizen and asked permission for her brother’s family to join her in Miami. The process took roughly 2 years, but the Cardenas family were granted an interview which allowed them a chance to ask the Cuban government a chance to move to America……they said yes.
As many Cubans do, the Cardenas family settled in Miami and have remained there ever since.
The 21-year-old Cardenas views his strength to be his defense, but feels that his self-confidence is his biggest weakness. The late Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the half is physical.” Jean Carlos couldn’t agree more, so he focuses on improving on the mental side of the game, understanding that “baseball is a game of failure and you need to accept failure in order to succeed.”
The Barry U product, like many first year players, struggled against, as he describes, more soundly and smart pitchers. JC needed to make some adjustments at the plate after struggling in June (.174BA) and July (.164BA). He started to load up earlier, allowing him to get into a better hitting position and allowed him to be on time in the zone. The adjustments helped him hit .250 with 8 walks and only 4 strike outs in August.
This off-season the young Cardenas will be focusing on improving his overall speed on the bases. He feels that with improved speed that he could steal more bases and put pressure on the pitchers and defense. This improved speed could also translate into quickness in the field, which should allow JC to get to more balls and improve his routes to the ball.
Playing for the Vancouver Canadians provided JC with his first taste of what Canada has to offer and he ranked playing for the C’s as “by far the best experience of my life.” JC also had this to say about playing for the Blue Jays short season team,
I truly believe we have some of the best fans in minor leagues. The city is unbelievable and my host family (Tom family) was outstanding.
John Schneider was his manager in Vancouver and JC has this to say about his manager, “Playing for Schneider was a ton of fun. He treated everyone the same and was very respected by the team.” Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs, the first time in many years, Cardenas felt the team got really close and were able to bond like family despite their record, which is a credit to the coaching staff.
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JC Cardenas had his ups and down in his first professional season, but he will always remember 2015 as the year that he was drafted. Cardenas is very proud of being the highest pick out of Barry University.
Looking forward to 2016, Cardenas and Gunnar Heidt should split time at SS for the Lansing Lugnuts. Baseball America isn’t confident that JC Cardenas will stay at SS (see quote below), but I think given the chance he is going to prove to be a very good middle infielder for years to come.
The switch-hitter does a good job of putting the bat on the ball and his speed plays well on the bases, making him a threat to steal bases. Cardenas has good arm strength, but made 16 errors this season and may ultimately move off shortstop.
When looking at the organizational depth at SS, there is a noticeable gap at the SS position. There are no true SS prospects in the upper minors with the exception of Richard Urena, which will allow JC the opportunity to develop at A-Ball without having to look over his shoulder.
This is not to say the system is absent of options at short stop, quit the opposite, there are high-ceiling SS prospects in the Appalachian League (Yeltsin Gudino), and two 17-year-old SS’s in the Dominican Summer League (Sterling Guzman and Kevin Vicuna).
Good luck in 2016 JC and I hope you enjoyed you trip back home this off-season.
Check out Mat Germain’s ‘Blue Jays: Three Intriguing Infield Prospects to Watch‘ for more info on JC Cardenas.