ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals signed Delvin Perez, their top overall Draft pick, on Friday and laid out a plan to combat any future missteps by the Puerto Rican shortstop, who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs prior to the Draft.
The 17-year-old was viewed by many as a potential Top 10 pick before his positive test. He was ranked ninth on MLB.com's list of Top 200 Draft prospects, but was taken 23rd by the Cardinals, who signed him for $2,222,500, the slot value of that pick.
"One of things the St. Louis Cardinals have always believed in is giving people a second chance," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "One of the things we've always believed in is being opportunistic, and this Draft allowed us to do that."
Perez said he got the PEDs from a friend and claims he took them to help maintain his weight. He called it an "ignorant mistake."
"I didn't have any fear, because I didn't know I would test positive," he said. "Again, I repeat, I didn't know what I was taking."
Perez took fielding and batting practice at Busch Stadium on Friday, when he showcased warning track power. The high schooler from International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico shagged fly balls in left field, took ground balls at shortstop and met Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Perez will fly to Florida on Saturday, where he will begin his development in the Gulf Coast League. He has some work to do off the field, as well.
"We'll put him in our own program and he'll work directly with EAP (employee assistance program) personnel from South Florida, as well as be a part of our internal program for mentoring," Mozeliak said. "Clearly with what we know, we want to make sure he gets off on the right foot, and then everything else that he's doing moving forward and not looking back."
Perez also will be assigned a bilingual medical trainer so there is nothing lost in translation about what he can and cannot take. The Cardinals vetted Perez before the Draft.
"Before we made this pick, we needed to have some assurances of what exactly happened," Mozeliak said. "What I knew before the Draft and what I know today is exactly the same."
The Cardinals have now signed eight of the 12 players they selected in the first 10 rounds. They have until July 15 at 4 p.m. CT to sign players from last week's Draft.
"Our takeaway on this is that we understand he made a mistake," Mozeliak said the night of the Draft. "We understand that he realizes that this cost him a lot. But he also realizes that at 17, his future is still ahead of him. What we tried to decide basically is, 'Are we willing to forgive?'"
Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.