There seems to be ample young, high-end baseball talent coming out of Cuba, and the Cubs could find several of these potential prospects intriguing.
Baseball America recently released its top available positional Cuban players and the Dodgers already have a leg-up in that race, reportedly signing a pair of prospects on Sunday. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, 19, will reportedly get a whopping $15.5 million from the Dodgers, and second baseman Omar Estevez, 17, will get a very sizable $6 million.
[Brett: We know that the market value of Cuban players can be very difficult to peg before they sign, but holy smokes. Either these guys were viewed as incredible talents or the Cuban market is exploding among the teams who’ve blown their budget and are trying to lock down as many emerging prospects as possible. Remember, unlike in the Dominican Republic, where the top talents are signed every single year, there’s a back-log of top talents in Cuba who’ve never even had a chance to sign.]
The Dodgers will have to pay a 100 percent overage penalty for their signings – and the Cubs will, too, if and when they start adding additional IFA signings – because they have already exceeded their international bonus pool limits.
The Cubs and Giants are expected to join the Dodgers in being “heavily involved” with this crop of top Cuban players who are, or will be, subject to bonus pools. Among the headliners of this group on the positional side, as noted by Baseball America:
- OF Jorge Ona, who was Baseball America’s No. 6 prospect in April. He dominated competition at the 18-U COPABE Pan American Championships in Sept. 2014, hitting .636 and slugging 1.364. BA says Ona, 19, has “quick bat speed, ha compact stroke, plus power, a solid idea of the strike zone for his age and plus arm strength.” However, MLB has yet to make him a free agent. You can check out an Ona scouting video here.
- SS/CF Randy Arozarena, 20, is described as: “one of the most exciting young Cuban players available, with a nice blend of tools and instincts for the game.” BA notes Arozarena’s gap power and experience at second base, shortstop and center field and says he would be a first-round pick if he was in the U.S. It’s clear the Cubs value versatility from their young, high profile players and Arozarena would be an ideal fit.
- Lazaro Armenteros, or Lazarito, was profiled here in September by Michael and shows up on BA’s list. Armenteros, 16, mashed in Cuba’s 15-and-under national league with a .416/.529/.733 slash line with 26 walks (19.1 BB%) and 19 strikeouts (13.9 K%) in 136 plate appearances. Lazaretto profiles as a right-handed hitting corner outfielder and is still waiting to be named a free agent.
- Jonatan Machado is a 16-year-old left-handed hitting center fielder who is already listed as a free agent. A high-contact hitter with line drive ability hit .336 at last year’s 15-U World Cup in Mexico. BA speaks highly of his running ability (70 grade on the 20-80 scale) and says he shows good defensive instincts for his age despite a below-average arm.
- BA says 21-year-old Alfredo Rodriguez “is a surefire shortstop with a slick glove” even though there is doubt about if he can hit his way out of the bottom of the order as he “doesn’t show much patience or power” as a right-handed hitter.
It should be noted that traditional big spenders such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels, as well as a team that invests heavily in young talent like the Rays, will have to sit out this round of signings, as they blew their budgets last year, and thus cannot sign anyone for more than $300,000 through the 2016-17 signing period.