If today’s reports involving the Dodgers signing Yasiel Puig its just another indication of the Cuban invasion occurring in Major League Baseball. This is great for Major League Baseball, mostly because it means that our country is continuing to stockpile all of the best baseball talent in the world. American scouts have been invading Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Latin American countries and mining for talent like prospectors at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848. Cuba is just the latest market to be invaded by American scouts and they are signing any escaped players like its going out of style. Let’s take a look at some of the recent outfield players to receive big league contracts in 2012:
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig was considered one of the fastest players in Cuban baseball, and it looks pretty apparent by some of his highlights below that he has a multifaceted game. Puig hit .330 with 17 homers and 78 RBI in the 2010-2011 season, but was suspended last year for attempting to flee the country. Now that he’s finally been successful, it will be interesting to see what the 21-year-old can do in the Major Leagues. His arm strength looks excellent, and his power looks to be that of a potential 20-25 homer hitter. Rumor has it that he could be Major League ready by the end of this season, potentially in time to help LA in the playoff push. Yesterday I wrote about the woeful state of their offense, and if Puig could provide any sort of contribution this season it could make a huge difference for LA’s chances. The difference in talent level between LA and San Francisco looks to be that narrow. His contract is rumored to be 7 years for $42 million, a sizable investment into a 21-year-old player with no Minor League experience.
Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A’s
Cespedes has immediately stepped into the outfield in Oakland and made an impact. He’s been a blast to watch, especially at the plate, where every swing feels like life or death. He’s hitting .267/.333/.503 with 9 homers and 32 RBI in 44 games in his very first season EVER against MLB pitching. It’s not quite Ichiro in 2001, when he pulled the MVP/Rookie of the Year double in his first American season, but it’s impressive none the less. Cespedes has a rare mix of speed and power that should allow him to produce a couple of 30/30 seasons in his career. The Cuban Crusher will make $36 million over the next 4 seasons, a sizable contract, but one he should very easily live up to.
Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs signed Soler to a 9 year, $30 million dollar deal earlier this month, making him the biggest bargain of the aforementioned players. Soler is only 19 and he is already very large, standing at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. If everything breaks right in the minor leagues for Soler he could develop into an All-Star corner outfielder with big power and a rocket arm, a la Vlad Guerrero. His speed is also considered to be excellent, making him another candidate to eventually post a 30/30 season if he develops as expected. At the very least he should eventually hit with some power and play solid defense, making him an average major leaguer at minimum.
The quest to find talented outfielders is always continuing, as scouts look to give their franchise any advantage they can. In the case of the Oakland A’s, it looks to be money well spent already. We will have to see how Soler and Puig pan out before making any judgment on their contracts. If all 3 players live up to All-Star expectations, Cuban players will become even more of a valued commodity, and could garner even larger Major League contracts.