Top Cuban Prospects

We will give a break to the top 100 prospect breakdown and list our top ten Cuban prospects.  We actually use a different laptop on the weekend which does not include our Top 100 spread sheet.  There seem to be more and more Cubans that are defecting to try their skills against major league pitching.  Since only one unsigned Cuban player would make this list we will include him.  Interesting that the players with the most potential were born in Cuba but left as youths and played their high school ball in the United States.

1. Yoenis Cespedes OF (Athletics) - We don’t know if Yoenis will be a better hitter than Alonso, but he is definitely a better defensive player, which allows him to rank at the top of this list.  Myworld is a little concerned that he may not have seen the quality of breaking pitches that are thrown in the major leagues that he saw in Cuba so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts.  He struggled in his few at bats in the Winer League, but he was also batling rust.  I also don’t see him settling in centerfield.  He has the arm, range and bat to be a quality right fielder.  He was the second best player on his Cuban team, but that player, Alfredo Despaign is the best player in Cuba and younger than Yoenis.  Myworld would hate to see what he would command on the free agent market.

2. Yonder Alonso 1B (Padres) - The good news is that he got traded by the Reds and will no longer have to play left field.  Like Yoenis with the Granma Stallions, Yonder was the second best first baseman on their team, with Joey Votto in the forefront.  The bad news is that he got traded to the Padres, so his bat will be quieted a bit by the large park.  He is not a strong defensive player, even at first base, but with the Reds he has already shown he can hit major league pitching (.330 with five homeruns).  If he can be content with 40 plus doubles and 100 plus RBIs by spraying balls through the gap he will be a solid offensive player.

3. Yasmani Grandal C (Padres) - Yasmani seems to be taking a similar path as Yonder.  His family left Cuba when he was a child and like Yonder he went to the University of Miami.  Both were first round draft picks of the Reds, Yonder in 2008 and Yasmani in 2010.  Finally, they are both included in the same trade for Matt Latos.  Yasmani was going to be stuck behind Devin Mesoraco with the Reds so for him the trade opens up a position.  Now, instead of looking up at Devin he has to look in the rearview mirror for Austin Hedges.  Yasmani will be noted more for his bat rather than his defensive play behind the plate.  His gap type swing in which he uses the whole field should be a good fit in Petco.

4. Jorge Soler OF (Free agent) - He hasn’t signed with anyone yet, still trying to estblish residency in the Dominican Republic, but it is just a matter of time.  Eventually he may become a better outfielder than Yoenis.  He played on Cuba’s Junior National team.  Like Yoenis he doesn’t quite have the speed to play centerfield and as he gets older the body will fill out giving him less speed.  He does have a strong arm and a power bat that will fit in right field.  At twenty years old he will probably start his minor league career in Low A and it will take a couple years before he is ready to play in the major leagues.  He will at least have the opportunity to develop in the minor leagues.

5. Jose Fernandez RHP (Marlins) - The Marlins were unsuccessful in signing Cespedes, but they still have a Cuban that they can parade before their fan base.  He was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft after coming over from Cuba as a child and then developing his baseball skills in a United States high school.  He can already heave his fastball in the mid-90s.  He got two starts last year in the lower minor leagues, one a good one and the other not so good.  He should begin the 2012 season in Low A.  He may have to decide between a slider or curve ball as his breaking pitch.  He also throws a change plus a 2 and 4 seam fastball.

6. Leonys Martin OF (Rangers) - Leonys was a fourth outfielder for the Cuban national team.  In one international tournament he did replace Yoenis Cespedes as the starter after Cespedes struggled.  He consistently made All Star teams in the Cuban professional league.  He has a bit more speed that Yoenis that allows him to cover more ground in center.  To be effective he needs to show 40 plus stolen base speed and a .300 plus average.  He is not going to hit for any great power, though every few years he could reach double digits in homeruns.  The centerfield job for the Rangers is his to take.  He hit .375 in an eight at bat trial with the Rangers.  At Frisco he rocked with a .348 average but stole only ten bases in 18 attempts.  When promoted to Round Rock he only hit .263 but was successful on nine of his 11 attempts.

7. Jose Iglesias SS (Red Sox) - The Red Sox signed him to a four year $8.25 million contract back in 2009.  There was some expectation that he would be ready for the major leagues by 2011.  His defense is major league caliber but his bat is anemic.  In AAA he only hit .235 with a microscopic .554 OPS.  When promoted to the Red Sox after injuries took their toll on the 2011 team Jose hit .333, but that was only in six at bats.  Myworld feels that the Red Sox will give him every opportunity to show them that he is ready to play shortstop in the major leagues.  We just don’t see Nick Punto and Mike Aviles as long range alternatives, especially if a team wants to make the playoffs.

8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS (Blue Jays) - Adeiny was also a member of Cuba’s junior national team, but fled a year after Jose.  Iglesias set the market and Adeiny signed a four year $10 million contract with a $4 million bonus.  Despite defecting a year after Jose, Adeiny is also a year older.  He has been a bit of a disappointment, hitting only .235 last year in AA, but catching on fire in AAA (.389) but with 350 less at bats.  Defense and speed define him, though he must improve on his 20 for 35 success rate last year in stolen bases.  The Blue Jays have fellow Cuban Yunel Escobar holding down the position, but he certainly does not have his roots planted at the position.

9. Noel Arguelles LHP (Royals) - He and Jose defected together at the same Edmonton Junior National tournament.  Noel has been a bit of a disappointment, injured his first year because of surgery on his labrum.  Last year was his first opportunity to pitch in the United States and he pitched well.  His fastball only hit the high 80s, which is tolerable for a lefthander.  He mixes in a change which makes his fastball seem to have that much more velocity.  His secondary pitches still need a lot of work.  Now that he has gotten one year of work under his belt the Royals are hoping that his velocity can return to its original low 90s speed prior to the surgery.

10. Gerardo Concepcion LHP (Cubs) - He won the Cuban rookie of the year award when the Industriales won the championship in Cuba, but there was so much dissent in the locker room on that team that a number of players left.  Besides Gerardo there was left handed pitcher Joan Socarras and right handed pitcher Armando Rivero that fled Cuba.  Gerardo can throw hard with a fastball that can peak in the mid-90s, but it mostly resides in the high 80s to low 90s.  His secondary pitches (curve and change) need a lot of work before he is ready to challenge major league hitters.  Expect him to start his major league season in Low A and depending on his success he could rise quickly.

Back in early January we broke down some of the Cuban free agents who had yet to sign contracts.  You can go to that here: http://myworldofbaseball.com/wordpress/?p=301

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