Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, and potentially Jorge Soler have made significant splashes, and have continued to give credibility to the already booming Cuban Market, and more are coming.
Recently, two more top-tier Cuban Outfielders have left their homeland to get signed by the Major Leagues. Alfredo Despaigne and Daniel Carbonell have popped up onto the MLB radar as two potential impact bats for clubs willing to take a risk and sign them for millions.
Despaigne, 27, who is a multiple Serie-Nacional MVP Recipient, was originally loaned to the Mexican League by the Cuban Government, but Baseball America has recently discovered that he has now acquired a Dominican Passport, possibly making him eligible to be signed by a major league team willing to take a risk on an incredibly talented bat in Despaigne.
What puzzles many, however, is the fact that the Dominican Republic usually makes it very difficult for Cuban defectors to acquire new residence, and instead they go to Haiti. If he has in fact acquired a passport, he also cannot leave the Mexican League, as he is under contract, and players cannot be signed into the American professional leagues until their Mexican league contract runs through, or if the team waives their right to block a signing.
Alfredo Despaigne is very talented, and Baseball America wrote a scouting report on him during last year’s Caribbean World Series:
Despaigne has more bat speed than fellow Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, who signed with the White Sox last year, but he’s more unconventional and takes a lot of all-or-nothing hacks. He’s an aggressive hitter who, in the first two games, swung at the first pitch in seven of his eight plate appearances, with the lone exception when he flew out to right field on the second pitch of the at-bat. He has some funkiness to his stroke, takes a big cut, bails out with his front leg and can get caught off balance on swings in the zone or chasing. He does keep his front shoulder in, though, and with 80 raw power, he’s been one of the most dangerous hitters in Cuba and a player some scouts project as an above-average big leaguer.
Some teams look at Despaigne as a bad-bodied, unathletic guy who would be a defensive liability, but in the Caribbean Series he got good reads off the bat and played the position well. He showed scouts a 55 arm from right field with good accuracy on multiple throws, including against Venezuela on a one-hopper from medium-deep right field on a sacrifice fly that barely missed getting Lew Ford tagging up from third. He’s not a great runner but even with 40 speed he’s faster than he looks, which he showed by beating out an infield hit to the shortstop against Puerto Rico.
Another option would be 23-year-old outfielder Daniel Carbonell, who has recently defected as well, and has established residency in Mexico. Carbonell is known for his speed and power, and throwing arm, and projects to be a pretty solid 5-tool player.
MLB Trade Rumors has recently reported that the switch-hitting Carbonell is looking for a 4-year deal, and the Yankees and Blue Jays are now very hot for him, as well as the Twins and two other teams. If Carbonell is not signed by July 2, he then falls under the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s new rules, and subsequently will count against an MLB team’s international Free Agent Pool.
It’s important to note that the Yankees are frontrunners to sign Carbonell, and are rumored to be ignoring the limit next July and are willing to spend more than seven times their international free agent pool allotment. They intend to be in on every 16-17 year old top-ranked prospect available in the 2014 class. This will subsequently deny them from signing anyone else for more than $50,000 in 2015, but they are very high on this year’s class.
If the Mets were to make a splash, it could be for Despaigne, once he gets his contract and residency information sorted out.
For those who don’t know, 80 power is top-of-the-scale, 40 home runs or more, but the report of a tough swing and unathletic figure could deter them from running the risk of signing him.
A 4-year contract, however, would give the Mets his peak years of 27-31, and a potential cleanup hitting bat. But the Mets haven’t had the a top International signing since Kaz Matsui, and have never made any significant signings in the Cuban Market, despite the advancements. It will be interesting in the future to see who will sign these latest Cuban talents; Despaigne and Carbonell.