Cuban Crossovers: Yoenis Céspedes, Jorge Soler, final notes

This post concludes my series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
Monday, Jose Abreu.  Tuesday: Yasiel Puig.  Wednesday: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.  Thursday: Aroldis Chapman.
This last post on the subject features two more 2011 defectors, Yoenis Céspedes and Jorge Soler.

Yoenis Céspedes was a household name while playing in Cuba, leading the league in all sorts of offensive categories. Jorge Soler was a promising 20-year old who had performed well in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Both defected in 2011, but Cespedes was the first to be approved as an MLB free agent.

Yoenis Céspedes

Céspedes was already proven from his numbers in Cuba, and was also in his prime. Céspedes’ famous YouTube video isn’t one of the gems of modern PR, but it worked. Well, maybe that had more to do with his raw talent. In any case, the deal he signed with the Oakland Athletics in February 2012 was a fairly lucrative one, at 4 years and $36 million.

There were a few questions about Céspedes — mostly about his defense — but his talent was widely recognized. Two years after falling short of signing Aroldis Chapman, the A’s had landed a big-name Cuban talent. The analysis (more from MLB Trade Rumors for specifics) have borne out exactly as evaluated:

Continue reading

Advertisements

Cuban Crossovers: Aroldis Chapman

This week I’m writing a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB, focusing primarily on expectation and payoff, to varying degrees.
From Monday, Jose Abreu.  Tuesday: Yasiel Puig. Yesterday: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
Today’s subject is the Reds’ high-powered closer, Aroldis Chapman.

Aroldis Chapman appeared on the scene in late 2009. At least half the league showed up to see him work out in Houston on December 15 before the Reds came out the eventual winners of the bidding. His signing came after months of interactions with MLB teams after defecting in the summer of 2009. He was called up in September of the following season, in his first year of American baseball.

Scouts saw Chapman as a unique talent. Speculation swirled about as many teams were thought to be interested in his services. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Angels were considered front-runners to get the lefty, but the Reds had been active all along under the radar and signed him, putting forward a better offer than the runner-up A’s. (Just two years later, the A’s won big in the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes. More on that tomorrow.)

When the Reds announced they had signed Chapman in 2010, they hoped he would be a starter. They gave him starter’s money, too, at $30.25 million over 6 years before incentives. The biggest question about Chapman was control. His repertoire had two plus pitches, a fastball and a slider, but his changeup was only adequate — a primary factor in his control issues. Could this Cuban starter improve his changeup and control enough to become an effective starting pitcher?

Continue reading

Cuban Crossovers: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

This week I’m writing a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB, focusing primarily on expectation and payoff, to varying degrees. There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting has been generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
Yesterday’s subject, which you can read here, was phenom Yasiel Puig. Monday’s was Jose Abreu.
Today I turn to a man who remains a big question mark: Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was more touted than Abreu and Puig, and perhaps about as much as Yoenis Cespedes. He defected from Cuba in 2013 after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012 that left him out of competitive play following the 2011 season.

Last July, reports surfaced saying the Phillies had signed him to a six-year, $60 million deal. It was never confirmed by the organization, and later the terms were released at a much lower 3 years and $12 million. The reason? Concerns over his elbow:

Continue reading

Cuban Crossovers: Yasiel Puig

This week I’m writing a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB, focusing primarily on expectation and payoff, to varying degrees. There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting has been generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
Yesterday’s subject, which you can read here, was rookie slugger Jose Abreu.
Today I turn to the biggest showman of the bunch, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

Puig took the league by storm last year after seemingly (to the casual fan) coming out of nowhere. In fact, the high level of hype surrounding Puig really only got going once he was in the majors. There wasn’t the same type of anticipation as for fellow countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Part of the equation is that Puig was 21 at the time, had not played for the Cuban national team and scouts had seen relatively little of Puig. Thus Puig was far from being considered one of the safest international signings, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reported two years ago. In fact, many scouts were confused by the news. “They must have seen something,” one international director said at the time. As Badler noted at the time, Puig’s scouting report was a mixed bag:

Continue reading

Cuban Crossovers: Jose Abreu

While a number of Central American countries have had their marked impact on baseball over the years, it seems defected Cuban players have recently attracted the most attention in the western hemisphere in terms of potential.
There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting is generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
This week I’ll write a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
We’ll start with a recent sensation, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

Abreu is just one of the latest examples of an international star whose potential scored him a large contract with a big-league club. Abreu was signed at $68 million through 2019 in a six-year deal. At 27 years old, this contract will take him right through his prime years.

Anticipated to be a middle-of-the-order first baseman, much was expected offensively in his first year. He hasn’t disappointed, establishing himself as one of the league’s biggest power threats.

Continue reading