Yasiel Balaguer

Scouting report on 17-year-old Cuban defector Yasiel Balaguer

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Last week 17-year-old Cuban center fielder Yasiel Balaguer defected to Nicaragua and immediately got himself an agent with eye toward becoming a free agent and signing with an MLB team.

An article about the news in the El Nuevo Herald included all sorts of glowing words about his upside, including the usual praise from his agent, but John Manuel of Baseball America has since talked to some actual scouts about Balaguer’s long-term potential and their reports aren’t quite as positive.

Here’s an excerpt from Manuel’s article on Balaguer:

According to two scouting reports obtained by Baseball America, scouts who saw Balaguer in Thunder Bay during the World Junior Championships in August weren’t blown away. Instead, they rated Balaguer as a player with average tools across the board with one important below-average tool–his bat.

Both reports characterize Balaguer, who bats and throws right-handed, as physical at about 6-foot, 190 pounds, and the descriptions hint at a lack of projection in his body. Both reports project Balaguer as a corner outfielder due to fringe-average speed, and both characterize his throwing arm as average. Neither offers praise for his hitting ability, with one citing a “long swing” and both reporting difficulty handling velocity.

Quite a bit different than the El Nuevo Herald article that called him “a natural leadoff batter and an explosive baserunner” who “is an extraordinary defensive player.”

Balaguer is legitimate prospect, but it sounds like he won’t come close to getting the $8.25 million shortstop Jose Iglesias received from the Red Sox or $7 million left-hander Noel Arguelles received from the Royals after defecting from Cuba last year.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.