April 22, 2014
The Situation: The Rangers need a warm-bodied athlete to fill a temporary void on the 25-man roster, and Sardinas’ left-side-of-the-infield skills, speed—and more importantly—existence on the current 40-man roster make the call-up a simple solution.
The Background: Considered one of the slickest gloves available in the 2009 international amateur class, the Rangers made a sizeable investment in the Venezuelan shortstop with a $1.5 million bonus. Signed in the same class as former top prospect and current disabled list darling Jurickson Profar, Sardinas struggled to carve out his own identity in the early going, logging more time on the shelf than he did on the field, and his stock slipped as a result.
After missing a considerable amount of time due to injuries to both shoulders, Sardinas finally took a step forward in 2012, hitting for average and stealing over 30 bases in his full-season debut for Low-A Hickory. Despite the strong season and positive developmental progress, Sardinas remained in the prospect shadows, dwarfed in scale and significance by fellow shortstop Profar, who emerged as a prospect deity and played his way to the major league level as a 19-year-old.
Sardinas built on the health and wealth of his 2012 season with an equally strong 2013 campaign, once again making solid contact from both sides of the plate while playing strong defense at short, finishing the season at the Double-A level. As a fan of slick fielding Venezuelan shortstops built like Tony Fernandez with easy plus speed and easy plus slack, I pushed Luis Sardinas into the Baseball Prospectus 101 (no. 72) and ranked him no. 4 in a very strong Rangers system.
Scouting Report: Sardinas’ game is built on fluid actions in the field, catalytic speed, and contact ability from both sides of the plate. On a tool-based level, Sardinas has louder and more impactful tools than the darling that is Profar, but his utility has always fallen short, and his motivation—both on the field and off—has been questioned since he entered professional baseball.
On defense, the glove grades as plus, with soft hands and a very smooth backhand pickup. The body is lean and lanky, but his movements in the field are fast-twitch and his reactions are impressive despite some deficiencies in the strength department. The arm is plus and capable of all the throws, although his accuracy is still in need of refinement. The overall profile at the premium spot is 60-grade, and will eventually keep him employed at the major league level for a very long time.
At the plate, Sardinas has plenty of bat speed, hand-eye coordination, an bat control to make consistent contact, and along with his easy plus speed, will allow for a high batting average. The approach needs some work, as he clearly likes to swing it and will make weak contact for the sake of contact instead of working himself in better hitting conditions and driving the ball with authority. The power is well below average and the over-the-fence power won’t play at the major league level, but he can use the gaps and sting the ball if he gets extension.
The overall profile could be first-division but is dependent on the plus potential hit tool actually reaching that projection. The glove and speed will play regardless of the bat, but if he wants to carve out a career as a regular instead of a utility glove, the contact will have to offer more life than he has shown so far this season. As for the slack in his game, the reports on his focus and dedication to his physical development were quite positive this winter and bode well for his development going forward. The ability to fail and adjust is paramount to sustainable major league success, and I used to be concerned about Sardinas in this regard. I saw him as a player that already achieved all the necessary success; reductively speaking, Sardinas already got paid and found enough comfort in that. But he has shown signs of life in his approach, and based on several outside sources, his motivation and will to achieve are stronger than ever.
Even though this will be a very limited trial for the 20-year-old, the taste of the majors can be viewed as a reward for his progress and a Pavlovian tease for his future development. Luis Sardinas gets to play the role of a major leaguer in the hopes that one day that role becomes permanent and not just pretend. —Jason Parks
Fantasy Impact: As exciting as out-of-nowhere call ups usually are, this one is a bit anticlimactic. There’s little chance that Sardinas gets to play on anywhere near a consistent enough basis to matter to fantasy owners and if he did, there’s less of a chance that he’s ready to succeed as his .226/.255/.264 slash line from Double-A will attest. He does have speed to offer and may see some time as a pinch runner, but those aren’t really playable in fantasy. It’ll be nice to get a high-definition look at him if he does get in a game, but the reality is that there is zero fantasy value here no matter how you slice it. —Craig Goldstein
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProfessorParks