Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

2017 Top Cuban Prospects - American League

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Not included in his list are any players signed after April, which include players like Luis Robert, who may have topped this list and Hector Mendoza. They will qualify for the 2018 list. Last year myworld put together a top 20 list. Seven of our top 10 were not on a major league roster. All of those players have signed now with Yulieski Gurriel the only player on a major league roster. Aledmys Diaz is the only other player on this top 20 from last year that played in the major leagues. He was rated number 16 in this top 20 list and had a nice rookie season.

1. Yoan Moncada 2B (White Sox) - Last year he was the number one rated prospect on our top 20 list. He has all the tools. Speed, power and the ability to hit for average. With all those tools it is interesting he plays second base and not shortstop. The Red Sox paid $62 million to sign him, $31.5 million bonus and a $31.5 million penalty for going over there salary cap. They traded him a year later to the White Sox as one of the players for Chris Sale. He has had some major league opportunities but struggled, striking out 12 times in 19 at bats with a .211 average. This year he is hitting .282 showing a little bit of power (.432 slugging). Don’t be surprised if the White Sox promote him after the All Star break. Only Yolmer (ex-Carlos) Sanchez stands in his way.

2. Lourdes Gurriel LF/3B (Blue Jays) - He was the number two rated prospect last year but had yet to sign with a team. He waited until he turned 23 to sign with the Blue Jays, maximizing his financial opportunities. His seven year $22 million contract appears to be a bargain when compared to Moncada. Lourdes doesn’t really have a position. Myworld thinks he will fit best in the outfield. As a shortstop and third baseman in the Cuban League he made numerous errors. His older brother Yulieski was considered an excellent fielding third baseman but is now playing first for the Astros. Lourdes started hitting in his last season in the Cuban League. Once he develops he could be a .300 hitter with 20 plus homerun pop. The Blue Jays began his career in the Florida State League but he got injured after his first game and was placed on the disabled list. He only was activated a couple days ago and in four games is hitting .267. Only one of his four hits has gone for extra bases. Lourdes could advance quickly and be ready for the major leagues by mid 2018 once he finds a position. So far Lourdes has played four games at shortstop committing seven errors for a .611 fielding percentage. That is not going to cut it.

3. Lazaro Armentares OF (Athletics) - He created a little hype with his brash personality trying to achieve a Yoan Moncada sized contract. The Athletics signed him for a relatively modest $3 million. At 17 years of age he has a lot of development in his future. In the United States he would still be playing high school. The reports are that he will hit for power and steal bases. His speed should translate to centerfield capability. Playing in the 15 and under World Cup he dominated with a .462 average. The Athletics have started him in the Dominican Summer League. He has only played in six games there but is struggling with a .167 average and 9 whiffs in 18 at bats. He has not played since June 12 so he may be back at extended spring training or injured.

4. Yandy Diaz OF/3B (Indians) - Myworld did not have him rated in our top 20 list last year and then he went out and hit .325 in AAA with a .461 slugging, winning the International League batting title. At 26 years of age he is already pretty well developed. There will be a lot of contact in his game but his power will be soft if he doesn’t learn to elevate his hits more. His defense is excellent at third but he can also play second base and the outfield, making a utility role an ideal fit for him. This year at Columbus he is hitting .318 with 28 walks to his 22 whiffs. The power is still soft (.439 slugging). The Indians gave him a major league callup and he was a bit overmatched (.203 average and .219 slugging). His main positions this year are third base and left field.

5. Andy Ibanez 2B (Rangers) - Ibanez signed for $1.6 million in 2015. Last year he was number 15 on our list. He could end up like Carlos Baerga, with a thick lower half eliminating his range at second base, meaning his bat will have to justify his staying at the position. The power is not really there to play the hot corner. Last year he did hit 13 homeruns skipping High A to move to AA. It will be tough with his skill set to usurp Rougned Odor from the second base position. This year he missed a month in the season because of injury but now healthy he is hitting .261 with a .405 slugging. Most of his game has been at second base. The tools could be there if he could master a utility role but myworld thinks he is a bit short to make it as a starter.

6. Yanio Perez OF (Rangers) - The Rangers signed him in 2016 for $1.1 million. He played for the 18 and under World Cup team in 2015, sharing the outfield with Luis Robert. There is power in his bat but his foot speed appears to destine him for a corner spot. His minor league debut in A ball this year has seemed to justify the bonus payment. He hit nine homeruns in just 49 games at Low A resulting in a promotion to High A. In nine games in the Carolina League he has yet to get an extra base hit.

7. Yordan Alvarez LF/1B (Astros) - Yordan will turn 20 in a couple days. He is another new comer, not appearing on our Top 20 list last year. The Dodgers initially signed Yordan for $2 million then traded him to the Astros for Josh Fields before even playing a game in a Dodgers minor league uniform. The Astros had him play in the Dominican Summer League where he hit .341. Yordan will hit for average. As a 17 year old he hit .351 in the Cuban Nacional Series. His big challenge is to develop the power expected for the first base position. His lack of speed makes a move to the outfield a poor alternative. He dominated at Low A hitting .357 with 10 homeruns (.670 slugging) which led to a promotion to High A yesterday. With his 33 RBIs in 32 games he has shown he can be a run producer. The Astros have been using him mostly in left field this year.

8. Guillermo Heredia OF (Mariners) - With his success in the major leagues myworld should move him up on this list on general principal. He is a plus defender with the ability to cover a lot of ground in centerfield. The big concern for my world was his bat. There is no power there. To be effective he needs to hit for a higher average. During his 45 game major league debut last year he hit .250. This year he has won the starting centerfield job for the Mariners, hitting .279 and showing enough pop for five homeruns. The power will still be short but if he can keep his average above .270 he should be effective for his defensive ability. Despite pretty decent speed he is not a stolen base threat.

9. Yulieski Gurriel 1B (Astros) - The Astros went out on a limb to sign him to a five year $47.5 million contract despite his age of 33. When he was younger scouts considered him the best player in Cuba. His main position then were third and second base. The Astros have moved him to first where his power may be a bit short. The bat will provide a lot of doubles power and his international experience should provide some leadership qualities to a young team. With A.J. Reed ready to take over the position next year Yulieski could move to a utility role, a spot currently filled by Marwin Gonzalez.

10. Norge Ruiz RHP (Athletics) - The Athletics signed Norge for $2 million in 2016. Interesting he is the only pitcher to make this list, though there will be a couple to make the National League list. Norge is not overpowering, with a fastball that sits in the high 80s to low 90s. At 5′10″ he is also not a tall pitcher making his lack of velocity an impediment for a starting role. He does throw a lot of junk with a change and slider being his best pitches. He gets hitters to hit the ball on the ground resulting in a number of double play grounders. Pitching at the lower level it is not surprising that he is dominating hitters with his breaking pitches. In four starts he has only allowed one run for a 0.47 ERA, a .141 opposition average and 14 whiffs in 19 innings.

Reds Sign Cuban Jose Israel Garcia

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

The Reds have signed Cuban shortstop Jose Isreal Garcia. The 19 year old agreed to a $5 million bonus. Because the Reds are over their international salary cap they will have to pay an additional $5 million bonus. The international signing period closes June 15 so there may be a wave of Cuban signings before that date reaches.

Garcia is a mystery to myworld. He is listed at 6′3″, pretty tall for a shortstop. Baseball America reports his power is limited to the gaps.

Cardinals Ink Cuban Closer Hector Mendoza

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

As the opportunity whittles for signing international players to contracts another Cuban pitcher was signed. Hector Mendoza signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his age (23) and years in professional ball Hector was not subject to the International salary cap. His five years of pro ball in Cuba plus his two years of playing in the NBP exempted him from the salary cap.

Hector was the closer for a couple years with the Cuban National team. Myworld saw him pitch in Puerto Rico and was impressed with his height (6′2″) and velocity. The Yomiuri Giants also liked him and worked with Cuba to sign him to a contract. He pitched mostly in the minor leagues with the Giants, getting in only five games with the major league team in his two years in Japan.

Command has always been a challenge for Mendoza. He is one of the few Cubans that had good velocity on his fastball, sitting in the mid-90s, but he had trouble finding the plate. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals keep him in the pen, where he has always pitched or move him into the starting rotation. He does have three pitches to fit in a rotation, but he has always pitched in the bullpen so converting him to a starter would create durability issues and delay his arrival to the major league team.

Terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

Astros Sign Cuban Elian Rodriguez

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

They paid $2 million to sign the righthander who according to Baseball America has a fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s with two breaking pitches. Myworld is not familiar with him. Elian has never appeared on our radar but the Astros must have seen something in him. Because the Astros are over their international salary cap they will pay an extra $2 million in penalties for him, bringing the total cost to acquire him up to $4 million.

It would not surprise myworld he spends a few years in the minors before appearing in a major league game. At 20 years of age the Astros can be patient with him. Whether he sees the major leagues will be dependent on his performance in the minors.

Another Cuban lottery winner.

Guerrero Homer Streak in NPB Ends at Six

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Alex Guerrero ended his consecutive homer streak at six games. The record for most consecutive games with a homerun is seven, held by two legends Sadaharu Oh and Randy Bass. The seven homeruns during the streak gave him 16 for the season, tying him with fellow Cuban Alfredo Despaigne for most in the NPB.

White Sox Sign Luis Robert

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

They had international salary cap available, i.e. were willing to pay the penalty for going over the cap (other teams were prohibited from pursuing Luis Robert because they were restricted to $300,000 maximum to sign a player). They had two Cubans on their team or in the minor leagues in Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada. They had a Spanish speaking manager in Rick Rentaria. Those were enough to convince Luis Robert to sign with the White Sox.

Plus a bonus that almost equaled that given out to Yoan Moncada that shot between $25 - 30 million. Since the White Sox exceeded their international salary cap space they will have to pay a penalty of close to $25 million, or just short of one on one. They did ease the burden a bit by making a trade with the Orioles to increase slightly their international salary cap, trading Alex Katz for two international slots totaling $750 thousand. The Orioles are always willing trade partners for international signing slots since they rarely sign foreign players. The White Sox international pool limit was $2.9 million.

Robert will begin the season in extended spring training to get some reps in. How he progresses will dictate where he begins his season. The rookie leagues are not that far off, beginning June 19. Robert has the talent to begin his career in Low A.

Roel Santos to Play for Marines

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Cuban outfielder Roel Santos has signed a contract to play for the Chibba Lotte Marines in the NPB. The contract according to YakyuDB is estimated at $200,000. He will begin the season once he gets a work visa.

Santos does not have any power. He could hit for average which would allow him to use his speed to steal bases. His defense fits the mold of a centerfielder. The Marines currently have the worst record in the NPB. They have not been getting a lot of production from their foreign bats Matt Duffy (.213) and Jimmy Paredes (.174).

Softbank Hawks Sign Cubans Moinelo and Colas

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

The Softbank Hawks have signed two Cubans to minor league contracts. Livan Moinelo is a slight lefthander who pitches out of the bullpen in the Cuban Nacional Series. He is considered one of the better pitchers left in Cuba and is still young at 21. He has pitched in Cuba in the Nacional Series since 2013. He made the Cuban National team as a 19 year old to pitch in the Pan Am games. He also pitched for the 2017 Cuban team in the World Baseball Classic and has appeared in a couple Series del Caribes, pitching for the Cuban team in Puerto Rico in 2015 that won their first Series del Caribe after joining the series. He is not overpowering but his fastball did light up the radars in the low 90s in Puerto Rico. His success is geared more towards his secondary pitches, which has allowed him to strike out close to a hitter per inning.

Myworld does not know a lot about Oscar Colas, who is just 18 years old. He did play with the Cuban 18 and under team in 2015 both pitching and hitting. Cuban phenom Luis Robert also played for that team. Colas pitched a shutout against South Africa but as a hitter drove in three runs against Canada in one game.

Livan should make an immediate impact for Softbank pitching out of the pen. The Hawks already have one Cuban on their roster in Alfredo Despaigne. The also have starter Rick Van den Hurk and two bullpen pitchers closer Dennis Sarfarte and Robert Suarez. Kyle Jensen is also on the roster. In Japan only four foreigners are allowed to be placed on the roster for Japan, no more than three being pitchers. Suarez was injured during the World Baseball Classic and will miss the remainder of the season after Tommy John surgery. Jensen has yet to appear in an NPB game. Livan could replace Suarez out of the bullpen after pitching in some minor league games.

Colas is destined to be developed playing in the minors.

Luis Robert Declared a Free Agent

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Potential Cuban super star Luis Robert has been declared a free agent. As a 19 year old he dominated the Nacional Series in the first half of the 2016 season before departing Cuba (.401, 12, 40 in 53 games). Major league scouts have drooled over his talent potential. In the 18 and under World Cup in 2015 he was voted to the All Tournament team with a .406 average with two homeruns and four stolen bases. Other players who made that tournament team were Josh Naylor, Jose Adolis Garcia (recently signed by the Cardinals), and Blake Rutherford.

There are a number of teams over their international salary cap who would like to sign Roberts. Those are the teams favored to sign him. Those teams who are not over their salary cap are restricted from going over their salary cap because of contracts they signed with international free agents who they will sign July 2.

Japan Retains Number One World Ranking

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Despite the United States first place finish in the World Baseball Classic tournament this month Japan has retained the number one ranking thanks to their third place finish. Over the course of the voting the United States has won four tournaments to one for Japan in tournaments both teams have competed in. Where Japan jumps ahead of the United States is their two championships that the United States chose not to enter.

Below is the top 12 teams and their points accumulated in parenthesis.

1. Japan (5699)
2. United States (5378)
3. South Korea (4789)
4. Taiwan (3901)
5. Cuba (3737)
6. Mexico (2961)
7. Venezuela (2804)
8. Australia (2433)
9. Netherlands (2071)
10. Canada (2020)
11. Puerto Rico (1759)
12. Italy 1708

You can see the complete list by going to World rankings