Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
This offseason, more than most, you have an influx of Cuban prospects available for teams. I found it fascinating how much are out there as opposed to other years. And of course with a budding star like Yasiel Puig, and a potential impact middle infielder in Alexander Guerrero, the Dodgers have definitely expanded their market to Cuba. So when you put two and two together, it’s only natural to expect that the Dodgers will sign more Cubans. Especially when our General Manager seems to be at every private workout any defector has. Just to give you an idea, lets look at some of the potential impact Cuban prospects out there:
Rusney Castillo: Castillo is a 26 year old Cuban defector who defected in December. As Ben Badler put it, he’s primed to “shake up the free agent market”. What I found most compelling about Rusney is the fact that he’s a versatile player. He has experience at 2B, 3B, and the OF, that could come into play because of how little depth the Dodgers have in the infield. He isn’t subject to international spending limitations because he’s played 5 seasons in the highest level of Cuba’s pro league. I think Badler’s best evaluation came here.
Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic frame at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. His best tool is his speed, as he’s an above-average runner and one of the better base stealers in Cuba. More of a doubles hitter than a big home run threat, Castillo puts a charge into the ball with a line-drive righthanded swing, though he can get long to the ball at times and some scouts think he’s prone to chasing pitches off the plate. Primarily a center fielder in Cuba, Castillo has also played some second and third base, so his versatility could be a draw for some teams. He’s an aggressive, high-energy player, though some teams see him as a fourth outfielder.
This sounds like a MLB player that exists right now. Emilio Bonifacio, anyone? If he can play 2b, 3b, and the OF with relative ease, his right handed bat could be so crucial, especially with a team that has Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and question marks like Alexander Guerrero and Juan Uribe.
Erisbel Arruebarruena: He of course has arguably the best name of the current Cuban defectors. Arruebarruena has one of the most elite tools in the world. His glove. Ben Badler is probably as high a guy you can find on his defense.
At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. He’s a below-average runner, but his quick first step and instincts give him good range. He has a quick transfer and a plus-plus arm with accuracy, which allows him to make throws from deep in the hole and turn 4-6-3 double plays with ease. His awareness in the field is advanced and he’s shown the ability to make the barehanded play look routine and make strong throws from different angles. Scouts have called Arruebarruena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove.
So gold glove, huh? Yeah, that’s eye opening. Badler loves him because of his glove, but of course the issue is whether he can hit enough to warrant a major league roster spot? I like Arruebarruena because of his glove as well, and currently you have Justin Sellers (who isn’t a gold glove caliber defender), or the rapidly deteriorating Chone Figgins (BAHAHAHA) penciled in to back up arguably the most brittle player on the roster in Hanley Ramirez.
Aledmys Diaz: Remember Aledmys Diaz? The guy who defected and was linked with Dariel Alvarez (now with the Orioles), but lied about his age and was suspended? Yeah there’s a ton of interest in him now. A team with such question marks like the Dodgers could really use him. The Dodgers are reported to be interested. He plays a premium position, is very young, and could definitely use a season in the minors to get him ready. I think that he’s one of the guys to look up on because of his upside, youth, and there isn’t a real immediate need for him, he could be a valuable guy to spend a season in the minors before coming up.
Yenier Bello: I’m secretly hoping for Bello only because he’s a catcher. He’s not under the spending limitations being 28 years of age, and I know the Dodgers are interested. In fact, one of the only teams linked to him have been the Dodgers which is fascinating to me. I think because of the limitations in the farm system right now at the catcher position, he could be a prime candidate to be in Dodger blue come the start of the season. If he’s only a backup, that’s a very valuable player to have, if he has a chance to be more he could be worth a flier.
Masahiro Tanaka may have signed, Kenta Maeda may not make his way over to the U.S. yet, but there are more than enough international guys to look for. Because of the holes still on the roster, and the amount of Cubans available, i’d wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if one of these players is a Dodger in the near future.