Maybe Luis Sardinas is called "Bambi," as he says, because his Tiburones de la Guaira Winter Ball teammates saw his curled earlobes and just couldn't resist. Or maybe it's because Sardinas runs like a deer.
Sardinas, who spent his offseason back home in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, wakes at 5 a.m. each morning to jog two to three miles around his house. By 9 a.m., the Rangers' 150-pound shortstop -- yes, Texas has another good one behind Major Leaguer Elvis Andrus and the up-and-coming Jurickson Profar -- has already completed his agility drills and moved onto the diamond.
"They say the early bird catches the worm," Sardinas said in his native Spanish.
If it's possible for a 19-year-old pro ballplayer to be late, however, Sardinas hasn't exactly arrived on time, at least in his own eyes. Blame that on a variety of injuries to both of his shoulders requiring surgery and affecting his 2010-11 seasons.
Finally healthy last year, Sardinas showed off his hitting prowess (.291 average), fielding genius and, sure, his scampering speed (32 stolen bases). These traits netted him the 84th spot on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list entering 2013.
Read part one of our interview with Sardinas below. Part two can be found on MiLB.com's PROSPECTive Blog.
MiLB.com: Do you have a favorite highlight from your time at Class A Hickory last season?
Sardinas: When I hit my first homer [as a pro] on July 26, we were winning, 6-0, and I didn't run [hard]. When I came back, everyone gave me the silent treatment in the dugout because I'm not a power hitter and was all fired up about the bomb. After that, everyone was laughing and hugging me. The game was wide open, so I got a pretty good pitch over the heart of the plate. It did go far. I think I can develop some pop.
MiLB.com: How would you describe your switch-hitting approach at the plate? What do you like to accomplish specifically in terms of mechanics to give yourself a chance to make solid contact?
Sardinas: I always look for one pitch to hit, always have a plan at the plate, and I would like to improve my mechanics to pull the ball better from the left side.
MiLB.com: You swiped a career-high 32 bags in 2012. Do you have a goal for how many you'd like to steal in '13?
Sardinas: My goal this year is to steal 50.
MiLB.com: A lot is said about your defense as well. How did you get so good with the glove?
Sardinas: Day-to-day practice and being blessed by God, man.
MiLB.com: Were you always a shortstop growing up in Venezuela?
Sardinas: No, I played third base first, then catcher. My last three years, I have been switched to shortstop.
MiLB.com: What is it like being in an organization that already has two good shortstops in Andrus and Profar?
Sardinas: It's a privilege to share the same uniform with two guys like Elvis and Jurickson, and I love the fact that it motivates me to work harder and not stay behind.
MiLB.com: Have you had a chance to spend time with Andrus or Profar?
Sardinas: Yes, in Spring Training I spend a lot of time with them. They're great guys, and we help each other because we're all Latinos. Mostly, [I learn] the way they go about their business and how professional they are. Jurickson and I signed the same day [in 2009], so I've spent a lot of time with him. I wish I could learn one of the five languages he speaks.
MiLB.com: From your vantage point, how do Andrus and Profar compare on the field?
Sardinas: They're completely different. They're both great, but they have different styles. Elvis is more defensive-oriented, and Jurickson's bat is going to be special.
MiLB.com: Are you similar to them?
Sardinas: Not really. I try to be myself and build my own persona. We have some similarities, but at the end of the day, each one of us will have our own profile with our own special tools.
MiLB.com: Who will win the shortstop job this spring?
Sardinas: Elvis is our shortstop -- even Jurickson would tell you that. Profar could move to second base, but [Ian] Kinsler is a beast. Our organization definitely has a nice problem.
MiLB.com: Speaking of second basemen, tell us about your double-play partner and countryman at Hickory, Rougned Odor?
Sardinas: He was the youngest player [at 18] in full-season ball last year. His bat is his calling card. He will steal his share of bases too, and he's slick with the glove -- a complete package.
MiLB.com: Do you and Odor hope to play for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2013?
Sardinas: My goal is to start the year at Double-A, but if I start in Myrtle Beach, I will work very hard to move up to Frisco as fast as I can.
MiLB.com: Tell us about where you were born -- what is baseball like in Upata?
Sardinas: Upata is not a big baseball town. When I was little, my parents moved to a bigger city name Puerto Ordaz where I learned to play the game. The level [there] was pretty good.
MiLB.com: When did you know you wanted to play pro ball?
Sardinas: Since I was 5. My dad is a big baseball guy. I knew [I had a chance] probably around the age of 12, when I realized I had good tools.
MiLB.com: Now that you've made it to pro ball, what are your long-term goals as a ballplayer?
Sardinas: Having more Gold Gloves in MLB than Omar Vizquel .
MiLB.com: Have you met Vizquel? What would you want to ask him?
Sardinas: I have met him. If I could ask him something, I would ask him to come take some ground balls with me.
MiLB.com: Vizquel hails from Caracas -- what other Venezuelan ballplayers do you admire?
Sardinas: Luis Aparicio, David Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen -- I hope I'm one of them one day.