Cardinals agree with 8 undrafted free agents

June 16th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- In a market unique to 2020, Sunday was the first day teams could sign undrafted free agents for up to a $20,000 bonus. Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the MLB Draft was reduced to five rounds, leaving a large group of athletes who may have been drafted in previous years now fielding recruiting pitch calls from teams to join their organization.

The Cardinals have reached agreements with eight prospects, the club announced officially Tuesday. As one of the more aggressive teams in this market, the Cardinals have more than doubled their Draft class from the seven picks they made last week.

Here is a look at the eight players added in the wake of the Draft:

Gianluca Dalatri, RHP, North Carolina
Dalatri was drafted in the 40th round by the Rockies out of Christian Brothers Academy (N.J.) in 2016, but he stayed true to his commitment to UNC. He spent the bulk of his freshman season as the Saturday starter, going 7-3 with a 3.34 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 97 innings, good enough for recognition as a first-team Freshman All-America. Injuries hit the next two years; a stress reaction in his elbow sidelined him for three months in '18, and a hip injury ended his season in May '19. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 40th round last summer but elected to stay in school. In February, he had surgery to place a screw in his right elbow and mend a fracture. He’s been able to pitch only 59 innings since his breakout freshman season.

But the 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-hander has the makings of a top-10 round pick. He has great command, shows good movement on his fastball, features an advanced changeup and has a feel for the curveball and slider. If he’s able to stay healthy, he’ll be able to focus on improving his pitches rather than dealing with injuries in his offseason.

Mac Lardner, LHP, Gonzaga
After splitting time between the bullpen and rotation his freshman year, Lardner took a leap forward as a sophomore in 2018, when he became a full-time starter and posted a 2.95 ERA in 100 2/3 innings with 73 strikeouts and 28 walks. As a junior, he jumped to a 5.06 ERA, but his strikeouts-to-walk ratio continued to improve. Lardner drew eyes in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he was named an All-Star with a 2.25 ERA and 31 strikeouts next to three walks in six starts.

Scouts like Lardner’s 6-foot-4 frame, which is projected to add more strength, and his ability to get ground balls. The lefty has a smooth delivery that allows him to command the ball well and the potential for three plus pitches, including an advanced changeup.

Matt Chamberlain, OF, New Haven
An impact player from the moment he arrived at New Haven, Chamberlain’s approach at the plate was a draw for scouts. The left-handed hitter walked more than he struck out in each collegiate season, and those skills translated to his two summers playing for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks in the Futures League (2018) and the New England Collegiate Baseball League ('19). Chamberlain didn’t show a lot of power in college, with just 11 home runs over four years, but he hits for average -- he batted .298 with the Sharks in ’19 and hit .297 in his career for New Haven -- and consistently makes contact. He primarily played center field in college, and his combination of speed and arm strength could see him stay there.

Matt Koperniak, OF Trinity College
Another center fielder who played college baseball in Connecticut, Koperniak hit .373/.464/.587 in a little over three years with Trinity. He played just three games in the coronavirus-shortened season but went 7-for-13 with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs. The left-handed hitter struck out just 34 times in 407 collegiate at-bats, and he stole 48 bases while getting caught stealing just six times. In the NECBL in 2019, Koperniak hit .376 with 37 RBIs. Koperniak had recently transferred to Kansas State to use his final season of eligibility in ’21, but his path ultimately leads to St. Louis instead.

Omar Sanchez, LHP, B-You Prospects Academy (Caguas, Puerto Rico)
Sanchez just turned 18 and decided to forgo his commitment to Florida Southwestern State College to start his career with the Cardinals. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, he has the smaller frame to go with his age. His fastball sits in the 87-91 mph range, and he features a curveball/slider pitch that shows potential with better command, as well as a changeup that shows potential with better movement.

Jacob Buchberger, RHP, Davenport University
Buchberger did a little bit of everything for Davenport, a Division II school in Grand Rapids, Mich. In his last game before the season was cancelled, he pitched six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. As the designated hitter in the same game, he went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, a triple and the last run scored on sacrifice fly for a walk-off victory in the 10th. Over four years with the Panthers, Buchberger, an infielder, hit .415/.491/.702, including 32-for-61 in 15 games in 2020. He struck out just 40 times across 376 at-bats. On the mound, the right-hander pitched 29 2/3 innings with a 2.12 ERA.

Nick Raposo, C, Wheaton College
Raposo, a senior, hit .366/.440/.505 with a .945 OPS over 131 games in his career for Wheaton, a Division III school in Massachusetts. He was off to a .406 start (13-for-32) in the first eight games before the season was cancelled this year. A right-handed hitting catcher, Raposo also had a .985 fielding percentage on 344 chances for the Lyons.

"It is difficult to find the words to explain how I am feeling after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals,” Raposo said in a statement on Wheaton baseball’s website. “I'm just extremely grateful and excited to continue my baseball career at the next level.”

Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, RHP, Gonzaga
The second Gonzaga pitcher to agree to a deal with the Cardinals this week, Trogrlic-Iverson was selected in the 15th round of the 2018 Draft by the Brewers. He opted instead to pitch two seasons for the Bulldogs after transferring from Central Arizona Community College. An Ontario, Canada, native, Trogrlic-Iverson appeared in 30 games (11 starts) and posted a 4.75 ERA in 89 innings over his Gonzaga career. He struck out 61 and walked 25 while holding hitters to a .271 average. In the shortened 2020 season, the 6-foot-1 righty allowed nine runs in 21 1/3 innings across four starts, striking out 20 and walking three. In the Cape Cod League in 2019, Trogrlic-Iverson had a 4.42 ERA over 12 games (one start and one save).