Today, I want to talk about something that intrigues me every offseason; Cuban players. We’ve all seen the likes of Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Rusney Castillo, and Yasmany Tomas get these huge contracts from teams lately. The latest Cuban signing was the Cubs getting Eddy Julio Martinez, who projects to be a pretty good player.
There are a number of players poised to get rich via the major league teams vying for their talent, so let’s take a look at some of them and how they could work for the Cardinals and the chances of them singing with them.
If you are unfamiliar with how the Cuban system works, here is a little primer. There are two classes of free agents here. You have guys that are eligible to receive major league contracts, like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig got. Then you have guys like Yoan Moncada who need minor league contracts and have to have their contracts loaded with a high bonus, which goes against teams’ international bonus slot for all international signings. For more information on this, check out this article from Baseball America.
Scouting Report: Sierra has a good looking delivery and has a pretty good fastball that lives in the 93-97 range with a decent slider to boot. Watching him pitch you can easily see why scouts like him and why so many teams were watching him the other day in Jupiter. Sierra has a good and easily repeatable delivery and his fastball cuts into a righty and keeps them off of his sharp breaking slider. Sierra until this year had worked primarily out of the bullpen, so his rise has been pretty fast as he is not found near the top on many cuban reports before August, ranking 14th of players still in Cuba back in April.
Signing Chance: Out of all of the players I am going to be covering today. Sierra may have a better than average chance to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. The reason for this and the reason for why he has been highly coveted by so many teams is his age of 23 meaning that he does not go against the Cardinals’ or any other team’s international bonus pool, which means it would not hamper the Cardinals in other international markets like the Dominican Republic where the Cardinals are very present.
Scouting Report: Gutierrez stands in at 6’3″ 170 pounds, so as baseball america puts it, he is very lanky and will probably grow into his frame some, over the course of his american career. Watching the video on said baseball america article, you can see that he features two good pitches. He has a fastball that ranges in the 91-93 MPH range and a Adam Wainwright-esque curveball that drops off the table as slow as 74 MPH and as fast as 81 MPH. While Sierra may be the most major league ready of the Cuban pitching prospects, Gutierrez is considered the best pitching prospect from Cuba as he his only 19 years old.
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Signing Chance: Gutierrez is going to snatch a hefty price tag and is likely to price himself out of the St. Louis Cardinals plans, despite the team’s added payroll flexibility. The Cardinals really like to deal in the Dominican international market, and for good reason. Players are much cheaper there and you can control them throughout your system longer.
Gutierrez would affect the Cardinals’ bonus pool significantly and would hamper the team’s ability to sign other international players by not allowing them give any other player a signing bonus over $300,000 for two years. With the Cardinals strong presence and relationship in areas like the Dominican Republic, it is unlikely the team will go to that great of a length to sign a guy like Gutierrez.
Randy Arozarena IF/OF
Scouting Report: Arozarena reminds me of a right handed Charlie Tilson. He’s a short and compact guy at 5’11 170 pounds and he is a quick and athletic player with plus speed. While Tilson is a surefire CF, Arozarena has played all around the diamond, mostly finding a home in center or left, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Watching his highlight video, his swing reminds me of a right-handed Kolten Wong a bit, as it is short and quick and at times really violent. Arozarena would be a really good sign as he has many tools with the chance to devleop some power.
Signing Chance: This would be another player that would likely exceed the Cardinals’ bonus pool, as Arozarena is only 20 years old. However, this would be a player that I could see the Cardinals being very interested in. His ability to play all over the diamond shows to me a player who is willing to use his skills wherever he is needed. He profiles well in the OF and with his strong arm and experience at SS, he would have no problem playing anywhere on the IF.
Scouting Report: Rodriguez is not going to win any batting titles any time soon. His main skill is defense and he is pretty good at SS. He reminds me of a cuban Pete Kozma or Brendan Ryan, all glove and no bat. Ben Badler has doubt that he will even make it to the major leagues with his unimpressive hitting skills.
Signing Chance: With his defensive skill being so high, I would not be surprised to see the Cardinals to take a flyer on the guy and see what he could potentially develop into. He profiles as a guy who it won’t take much to sign, despite being subject to the international bonus pools.
Norge Ruiz SP
Scouting Report: I am going to go ahead and ignore the label of “Cuba’s best pitching prospect” here, that seems to be something that is tossed around quite frequently, I have read this for both Sierra and Gutierrez, as well as Ruiz. So, let’s just let the dust settle and see who ends up to be better once they are all slated in their respective teams’ systems.
In watching his highlight video, he seems to have a delivery similar to that of Carlos Martinez. He flashes a pretty lethal swing and miss curve that has helped him amass a 2.25 ERA in 38 starts and four relief appearances in Cuba.
Signing Chance: If the Cardinals are interested in adding a more polished pitcher to their system, I could see them giving Ruiz or Gutierrez a look. However, with Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Jake Woodford, etc. all making their way up through the organization, it is not likely that the team will sacrifice not being able to sign any of the top talent in the Dominican Republic.
This is a simple list of five cuban targets that could play a part in the Cardinals’ upcoming free agency season that is fast approaching. There could be more guys that are eligible to sign that I did not mention here, the market for players from Cuba is exploding as we move ever closer to a more diplomatic relationship with the country of Cuba.