Dodgers In On Cuban Phenom Lazarito
By Alex Campos
Another Cuban phenom could reportedly sign tomorrow, and the Dodgers are in on him.
The Dodgers are hoping to continue their Cuban pipeline, as 16-year-old Cuban sensation Lazaro Armenteros could make a decision on his major league future tomorrow, according to MLB’s Jesse Sanchez.
“Lazarito” is a 6-foot-2, 205 pound Cuban beast that could pay huge dividends in the future for the Dodgers. He’s the eight-best international prospects on MLB.com’s top-30 list and is one of two on that list yet to sign. The other, 20-year-old pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez, is the second highest-rated international prospect.
According to Sanchez’s sources, the Dodgers are one of nine teams showing strong interest in Armenteros. He also named the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Phillies as teams with interest.
Of those named teams, only two have surpassed their international spending limit for this signing period, the Dodgers and the Cubs. The Braves, Padres and Phillies are shut out of this signing period, but would be able to officially sign Armenteros on July 2nd, when the new signing period begins, if he chooses not to sign until then.
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Since the Dodgers and Cubs have already passed their limit, they will be shut out of the next two international signing periods. They’ll be able to make small signings, but won’t be allowed to offer more than $300,000 to any pool-eligible international prospects. They will also be taxed 100 percent on every signing above the initial limit for the remainder of this signing period, meaning that whatever they sign a player for, it will essentially cost double.
On the 20-80 scale, Armenteros received a 55 hit grade, 65 run grade, and 60 grades in power, arm and fielding from MLB.com.
The Dodgers have already been very busy in the international market, with four of the top-30 prospects having already signed with LA. Three of them are in the top-10, including the number one international prospect, Yadier Alvarez.
The Dodgers may or may not have done some recruiting on Armenteros, as Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig spoke with him at a Caribbean Series game last Friday. Here’s Sanchez on their meeting.
"Armenteros, 16, who is scheduled for a private workout for the Braves on Saturday, and is expected to make a decision on his future sometime next week, was overjoyed to meet one of his baseball heroes. Puig is in town to visit friends and do charity work.“It was a real honor to have a conversation with a Major Leaguer,” Armenteros said in Spanish. “It’s my first time to see a famous player like him and more than that, a Cuban like me. He just told me to work hard and it’s up to me.”"
There have been many complaints about the international spending rules, and it will most likely be a subject of debate moving forward. Big money teams, like the Dodgers, tend to do well in the international market. Some believe an international draft may soon be implemented.
In other international news, the Gurriel brothers have reportedly defected from Cuba in search of major league contracts. Third baseman Yuleiski Gurriel is 31, but triple slashed .494/.586/.861 in 215 Serie Nacional plate appearances before joining team Cuba in the Caribbean Series. His brother, Lourdes Jr, will be 23 in October and isn’t quite as highly rated, but his age could make him a more enticing prospect. Lourdes “only” slashed .340/.400/.561 in 237 plate appearances in Serie Nacional. He had played infield and outfield and supposedly played solid defense everywhere, so the Dodgers have to be interested in that versatility.
Due to his age, Yuleiski is not subject to the international signing rules, but Lourdes is. It’ll take some time for them to be declared free agents, which could eliminate the Dodgers from pursuing Lourdes. After his birthday in October, Lourdes will be back on the market for everyone, including the Dodgers. However, they won’t be able to sign him between July 2 and October 19 (h/t Dodgers Digest).