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.