The International market has been a playing ground for teams to find new talent. A new name may give the St. Louis Cardinals another opportunity to make a splash.
After the Cardinals lost out on Luis Robert to the Chicago White Sox, it seemed as though the St. Louis Cardinals search for International players was done for the year. Cardinal fans can be at least a little excited, because it appears that John Mozeliak may have his sights set on another option: a young Cuban pitcher by the name of Hector Mendoza has gotten the teams attention.
Mendoza, a Cuban defector, has spent the last two years in Japan. While there he pitched sparingly for the Yomiuri, a Japan Central League team. His stats in Japan were not overly impressive. When looked at from the point of view that he only totaled seven innings while there, the higher numbers don’t seem so scary.
Before defecting from Cuba and heading to play in Japan, Mendoza was dominant in the Cuban National Series.
In his age-18 season, Mendoza posted a 2.42 ERA, followed up the next year with a 2.36 ERA, and in his final season in Cuba he posted a 2.35 ERA. Putting up those kind of numbers at such a young age, especially considering the type of hitting talent we have seen come out of Cuba, is impressive by any standards.
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Mendoza stands at 6 foot 3 inches and 195 lbs. If he is going to be able to handle a full season’s rigorous tests he may need to bulk up a bit. Though he is a bit lanky, he is able to pitch with a bit of force. His fastball is regularly clocked in the mid-90’s. Mendoza would be a project, but considering the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals will be very limited in the International market next season; a risk may be worth it.
Mendoza is no longer part of the Yomiuri team and is considered a free agent. At this time it is expected that he will soon be in search of a major league deal, but in order to make that a reality he will have to establish residence somewhere. In the past we have seen Cuban players establish residence in a country like the Dominican Republic to get their process of signing a contract started.
In April of 2015, Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked Mendoza as one of his Top-15 available talents. This is something that St. Louis Cardinal fans should consider a good sign. While his last two seasons in Japan have been a bit confusing to the naked eye, the talent has been there. There might be a risk, but the St. Louis Cardinals are in a position to be able to take a few risks.