Cuban center fielder Yasiel Balaguer defects with eye on MLB


Yasiel Balaguer, a 17-year-old center fielder considered one of the top prospects in Cuba, has defected to Nicaragua in order to become a free agent and sign with an MLB team, according to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald.

Ebro reports that Balaguer is now being represented by the Miami Sports agency and calls him “a natural leadoff batter and an explosive baserunner” who “is an extraordinary defensive player because of his arm.”

Baseball America‘s reports on Balaguer are far less glowing, but he’s definitely viewed as a legitimate prospect.

Jose Iglesias and Noel Arguelles defected from Cuba as teenagers last year, with Iglesias joining the Red Sox for $8.25 million and Arguelles getting $7 million from the Royals.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.