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.

2017 Preview: The National League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.

The Giants had the best record in all of baseball at the All-Star Break and the Dodgers lost the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw for a big chunk of the season. Yet, somehow, L.A. won the NL West by four games. The biggest culprit was the Giants’ suspect bullpen, which they put some real money toward fixing this winter. Is it enough? Or is a a Dodgers team with a healthy Kershaw just too talented for San Francisco to handle?

Below them is an intriguing Rockies team, though probably not a truly good Rockies team. The Dbacks have a lot of assorted talent but are nonetheless in reshuffle mode following a miserable 2016 campaign. The Padres, meanwhile, are in full-fledged rebuilding mode, but do possess some of the best minor league talent in the game.

Here are our previews of the 2017 NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres

2017 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West

There’s not a lot of separation between the top three teams in this division. Indeed, it would not be a surprise for either the Astros, Rangers or Mariners to end the year on top. Part of that is because none of these contenders are perfect, with all three facing some big challenges in putting together a strong rotation.

Meanwhile, the best baseball player in the universe toils in Anaheim, where he’ll most likely have to content himself to playing spoiler. Up the coast in Oakland . . . um, green is pretty?

Our 2017 AL West Previews:

Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Oakland Athletics