On Friday, Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros held an open showcase at the San Diego Padres facility in the Dominican Republic. Then, on Monday, it was reported that Lazarito would officially be eligible to sign a deal with a Major League team in the current signing period. It seems as though a conclusion might now come sooner rather than later – which is good for the Cubs’ chances of signing Lazarito – but there is still uncertainty on his overall value.
At least one report by Jesse Sanchez contained mixed reviews from the showcase. Some scouts were apparently “dazzled” by Lazarito’s plus bat speed, plus speed down the line and strength and agility in both center and right field. While other reviews came in split on Lazarito’s big frame (6’2″ 205 lbs); wondering if it indicated potential future power, or potential future liability:
Early returns on Lazarito's workout have been mixed at best. Multiple sources consider him too muscular & stiff, unable to play CF. 6-7 run.
— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) January 10, 2016
Should be big $ thrown at him, but I got multiple less-than-flattering reports from scouts at the Friday showcase. https://t.co/wCpqAu9fQc
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) January 11, 2016
In fact, most of the unflattering reviews came with respect Lazarito’s big frame. While it’s impressive and projectable, it also limits his flexibility and positional versatility. Having been sold as a plus center fielder, some scouts are now starting to wonder if he would be better suited for a corner outfield spot. Which isn’t to say he wouldn’t have value, it would just come in a very different package. From the corner, for one example, you’d need to be slightly more confident on his bat than you would from center.
While some of those scouts still see value in Lazarito, even in a corner spot, others seemed entirely put off by his size altogether. Lazarito’s “muscular college-football-player body” is thought to be somewhat of a burden and risk, if he doesn’t take especially good care of it as he ages and grows. It’s a tough criticism, because it’s mostly something out of his control at this point, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important consideration.
Before the showcase, Lazarito had an extremely hectic year. He spent a significant length of time away from baseball, on his journey from Cuba (Cuba-Ecuador-Cuba-Russia-Germany-Haiti-Dominican Republic) to the Dominican Republic. To impress even some of the 140 or so scouts in attendance after such an absence is nothing short of outstanding. Some of the biggest criticisms – questions about his frame and ability to play center field – are more so questions directed towards the extent of his talent, as opposed to the existence of his talent, whatsoever.
Jesse Sanchez notes that the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers and Royals are still in play for Lazarito, but it sounds as though that is at least slightly by default. If you recall, the Rays, Diamondbacks, Angels, Yankees and Red Sox are ineligible to sign Lazarito for greater than $300K because they overspent in the previous IFA period. Even from there, I’d say it’s a safe bet to eliminate the Royals, who don’t feel like a good bet to outbid both the Cubs and Dodgers, further narrowing the field (unless there is a team out there that has not already blown its pool and is willing to do so for Lazarito, specifically).
All of this is to say, if you hope the Cubs can acquire Lazarito, his express free agent eligibility was a must. Having already exceeding their IFA budget for this period, they have as much reason to continue spending as anyone. But now, we must play the waiting game. Lazarito’s defection was lengthy, his eligibility was granted, his showcase occurred, and the reviews are in. There may now be some additional private workouts, but the big news will come whenever he finally signs a deal.