Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena had his showcase this weekend in the Dominican Republic and Jonathan Mayo of MiLB.com spoke to one scout who was on hand and told him this:
“He’s what you’ve been reading. He’s a very good defensive player. His glove is very close to the big leagues. The bat, you kind of think he’s one of those guys who’ll bat down in the order.”
“He’ll be a quality defensive shortstop in the majors, but you wonder if he’s going to hit. We’ll have to hear what the money is. This isn’t like Aroldis Chapman or Yeonis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams.”
I’m not convinced he’s someone the Mets will be considering.
Putting Erisbel Arruebarruena In Context
The only thing more difficult than pronouncing his name is projecting Erisbel Arruebarruena on the field.The Mets scouts will be present this weekend when the 23-year-old Cuban shortstop showcases his skills. Arruebarruena is a mystery to MLB fans with the extent of his compatible experience coming from his performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. In 16 at-bats, Arruebarruena posted six hits and a .375/.444/.375 line.
The Mets will be sending scouts to the Yankee complex in the Dominican Republic this weekend to watch Arruebarruena’s showcase according to Andy Martino of the Daily News.
Arruebarruena has drawn comparisons to Jose Iglesias due to his sterling defense and suspect offensive abilities. Due to a lack of quantifiable stats from Arruebarruena, it may be best to compare him to a few players that posses a similar and skill-set and/or are relevant to the discussion.
Plus bat speed accented by quick wrists. Low maintenance, compact swing. Little lower body in swing mechanics. Pulls ball hard, but struggles driving the ball the other way. Minimal power projection. Can evolve into a solid-average hitter for batting average and show doubles power as he matures. Small frame with not much more room to pack on muscle.
Extremely impatient approach. Making strides and improving with understanding of his strike zone. Neglects to cover outer third of plate with eyes. Struggles staying back against breaking balls. Must improve with handling of off-speed stuff to hit consistently at big-league level.
Above-average speed. Projects as #9 hitter in first division team’s lineup, with ceiling of #2 hitter as he approaches his late-20s.
Scouts still aren’t sold on his offensive ability. He is never going to hit — but replacement level at short right now is low enough that he could be a 2-win player.
Hechavarria has very poor plate discipline – he swings at pitches well out of the zone and offers at the first pitch far too often. He has no patience, no feel for the strike zone and no power.
He’s fast enough that he’ll beat out some infield hits, lay down bunt singles and do some damage on the base paths, but it is unlikely that his offensive output will ever warrant any sort of praise.
Strikes out too much for a hitter with his line drive approach. Has fringy strike zone and pitch recognition. Struggles to hit off-speed pitches still but is improving. Has a line drive swing that doesn’t generate much loft because he chokes up on the bat. Handles the bat well and gets on-base enough to warrant a top of the order spot, although his strikeouts hurt his case. Should hit between .275-.300 annually going forward.
Well below average power, almost strictly a doubles hitter. Lucky if he hits any homeruns, not a threat to go yard more than once or twice a year.
Slightly above average speed. Still learning how to read pitchers and get good jumps when stealing bases, and because of this struggles with stolen base percentage and overall confidence to run.
The bat is a major source of concern with Arruebarruena, even more so than with Iglesias and more along the lines of Marlins Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. A righthanded hitter, Arruebarruena has a long swing, struggles with pitch recognition, swings through breaking balls in the strike zone and is prone to chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. He has a pull-oriented approach and minimal power, so several scouts are skeptical he could hit better than .220 or hit a .300 on-base percentage against major league pitching.
His lack of foot speed would also limit his appeal as a potential defensive-oriented backup, since he wouldn’t have as much value as a pinch-runner.
Elite defensive skills highlighted by extremely fluid hands and soft glove. Excellent instincts and anticipation produces his well above-average range. Will get to balls within range, if not all.
Plus, accurate arm. Adept at throwing on the move and has outstanding body control. Future perennial Gold Glove shortstop. Grades as an “80” defensively. Can also play second and third base more than adequately. Major-league ready in the field.
He has plus range, hands and arm strength, though he’s prone to throwing errors because he tends to flip the ball to first base. Hechavarria is a “70” defender at shortstop (on the 20-80 scouting scale).
His skills at short are undeniable, especially his split second reactions. He has great reactions, combined with above average speed give him terrific range. He has soft hands and an above average arm.
Great side to side and going back range, average range charging the ball. Strong footwork and soft hands. Slightly above average arm strength with plus accuracy. Very athletic defender, who is capable of making difficult plays.
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.
Due to advanced defensive skills, he will most likely learn to hit at the major-league level and slowly ramp into becoming more proficient at the plate over the course of a big-league career.
Hechavarria’s glove will get him to the majors because he plays a premium defensive position very well. He’s not a future All Star and won’t provide the value you’d expect from someone who signed as big of an amateur contract as he did, but he’ll be a big league shortstop for a decade or so.
Slightly above average shortstop, capable of holding down a starting job on non-playoff teams. He is best used as a backup infielder who can play multiple positions. Needs to do a better job of using his speed to steal bases, and cut down on his strikeouts.
He’s a premium defender at a premium position with questions on the bat. If you’re built well offensively around the field other than shortstop, you can live with that if you get outstanding defense. But the bat is still the question mark.
If Arruebarruena turns in a respectable performance in front of scouts, there is a likelihood that a handful of teams will be competing for his services. It will certainly be a rough transition for him at the plate but with proper coaching and experience, I could see him turning into a worthwhile investment.
The footage of Arruebarruena at shortstop gives me confidence that he will be a top-five player defensively at the position. However there is a significant chance that he will never become a better hitter than what Ruben Tejada already offers. With Tejada already on the team, the question will be whether or not the demand pushes his price tag beyond a justifiable cost for the Mets.
Arruebarruena figured to be a masterful shortstop while Tejada is a slightly above-average fielder. If Tejada projects as a .265/.330/.340 hitter, how good would Arruebarruena need to be at the dish to justify the expense?
(Photo Credit: Cuban-Play.com)