In heading to Greenville, South Carolina for an early September pair to see the Hickory Crawdads (Rangers), no prospect interested me more than shortstop Luis Sardinas. A few days earlier, a contact had filled me in that Sardinas was “special” and “had tools like Jurickson Profar“. Having traveled to “The Palmetto State” just fourteen months earlier to watch the aforementioned Profar, my expectations for Sardinas were extremely high considering the Rangers organization is known for being a shortstop factory.
Video after the jump
After signing for a 1.2 million signing bonus out of Venezuela, the teenage shortstop combined for only 40 games and 179 plate appearances in 2010-2011 due to injury. In terms of health, Sardinas’ 2012 was a resounding success even though he logged less than 100 games total over the entire minor league season. His success in full season baseball has led to an aggressive assignment to the Arizona Fall League where he’ll have an opportunity to make up for a bit of lost development time. At 19 and without significant minor league experience under his belt, many were surprised Sardinas was tabbed for the Surprise Saguaros. But if my late season looks were any indication, Sardinas is unlikely to be overwhelmed by the level of competition.
On the playing field, Sardinas was the best defensive shortstop I’ve seen this season. In making a couple of extremely difficult plays to his back hand side, Sardinas displayed the combination of elite range and graceful body control rarely seen in teenage shortstops. On one such play, Sardinas was cheating up the middle on contact, reversed course, ranged into the six hole and fired a strike to second base for a force out. On another batted ball, Sardinas made the play deep in the 5/6 hole, slipped on a soft infield, but still almost pulled off a tremendous play. For me, making plays deep in the hole is the mark of a future big league shortstop. Not only did Sardinas show the ability to make those plays, he made them look routine.
At the plate, Sardinas displayed quick hands and surprising pop for his frame. And while many young switch hitters are significantly better from one side or another, the Rangers prospect showed equal strength from both sides which is reflected in his splits. What eluded Sardinas at the plate consistent balance which led to his lunging at pitches quite a bit. When he was able to stay back, he drove a long home run to left-centerfield flashing power which could blossom into double-digit home run totals with better balance at the point of contact. If his splits by half are any indication (.608 OPS vs. .802 OPS), Sardinas is a quick study and may already be starting to figure it out.
With a 78% stolen base rate, Sardinas is still growing into his in game speed. With multiple 4.05 home-to-first times pulled from video from the left side, he’s a 65 runner on the 20/80 scale. With a lean frame, Sardinas is unlikely to lose his present speed and may even become more explosive as he matures physically and adds strength.
In about a month, I’ll be posting a piece on the best prospects I saw in person this season. Without question, Sardinas will occupy a prominent ranking on that list among Jean Segura, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa. It will never happen due to name recognition, but Sardinas should be considered for the back end of top-100 rankings this off-season. By the end of 2013, he may be in Double-A with a shot at Texas sometime in 2014. Of course this hinges upon his being healthy which is obviously a question mark, but Sardinas has the combination of tools and skills to move quickly through the system.