The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their heavy investment in Cuban players yesterday, signing outfielder Yusniel Diaz and infielder Omar Estevez. Here is a quick take.
Yusniel Diaz, OF: The Dodgers have signed Diaz to a contract worth $15,500,000. At age 19 he is subject to the international bonus pools, which means the Dodgers will have to pay a 100% overage tax (since they are well past their spending limit for this bonus period), bringing his total price tag to $31,000,000.
Diaz is a right-handed hitting outfielder. His across-the-board tools are quite impressive, with above-average speed and above-average arm strength. He hasn't tapped into his natural power yet but his body has wiry strength and home runs could come in time. His strike zone judgment is said to be good for his age though there are questions about how his swing mechanics will work against advanced pitching.
Diaz is not likely to reach the majors as quickly as someone like Yasiel Puig, but he has the ceiling of a regular outfielder who contributes in multiple categories.
Omar Estevez, 2B: Estevez is 17 years old, a right-handed hitter and thrower who has not received the same kind of pre-signing attention as Diaz. His bonus is $6,000,000 with another $6,000,000 in overage tax for exceeding the signing period bonus limit.
His physical tools are said to be mediocre-to-average but his feel for the game is very strong, certainly highly advanced for his age. He debuted in Serie National at age 16 and was not overwhelmed by older competition, a good sign for his future. His strike zone judgment is said to be very good and he may develop some power in time, but his range, hands, and arm will limit him to second base.
Ben Badler at Baseball America has more.
ANALYSIS: The Dodgers continue their attempt to corner the market on Cuban players, willing to pay the international bonus pool overage taxes that would be a deterrent to most other organizations. The general feeling is that Diaz could be worth the money but Estevez is an overpay. It will be a few years before we know if either point is true.
If either player were eligible for the yearly amateur draft, Diaz would be a potential first round pick while Estevez would most likely project in the second round or so.