4 Cubans on the Market

Even though the Gourriel defection was a hoax, it looks like a few Cubans will sign this offseason.

Re-posted from my blog,

Today I went to a tryout of 4 Cuban defectors at the Arizona Diamondbacks´ academy. The scene there was wild. The players´agent told me that at least 26 major-league teams had their scouts in attendance. No idea about the identity of the few teams who weren´t interested, but I was able to pick out reps from the Devil Rays, Yankees, Mets, Giants, Cubs, Mariners, Braves, Indians, Diamondbacks, Reds, Twins, Brewers, and Nationals.

The scouts who came were a bit disappointed to find out that the most interesting player, 23-year-old pitcher Sergei Linares, was suffering from food poisoning. Linares is reported to throw in the high 90s, but he was held out of the simulated game and limited to a side-throwing session, during which I didn´t see him throw anything over 91.

The other three players are 22 y/o shortstop Yohannis Perez, 23 y/o catcher Alexis Fonesca, and 25 y/o RHP Yoslan Herrera.

Perez, who was also suffering from foid poisoning, is a line-drive hitting shortstop who drew wide praise for his footwork and glove. His bat wasn´t on display too much today, as the raw DSL pitchers he faced nearly hit him five times. He ended up taking a couple of walks on pitches nowhere near the zone and hitting a double in the simulated game.

Fonesca displayed solid gap power, going 4-for-4 in the at-bats I witnessed, with 2 doubles and 2 triples. Against better defenders, those triples would have been a double and a single, but his bat definitely drew some interest.

Herrera was nowhere near as hyped as Linares, but seemed to handle himself just fine in the tryout. His fastball was sitting between 90-92, and the DSL Devil Rays, who served as the whipping boys for this exhibition, were helpless against his breaking ball.

The prevailing opinion of the people I spoke with was that Linares and Perez were the legitimate prospects of the group, and their agent expects them to get bonuses north of $1 million.

In terms of market value, nobody´s really sure how to treat Cuban players yet. In the wake of the Contreras signing, the prevailing wisdom was that the Cuban mystique caused teams to overrate - and overpay - defectors. The Yuniesky Betancourt signing, which turned out to be a huge bargain, changed all that. There hasn´t been a significant Cuban signing since Betancourt came over, and none of the scouts I talked to today had any idea what these players´ price range would be.

I should have pictures of the 4 Cuban players in the next couple of days.

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