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.

Jones, Maddux, Morris consider Bonds, Clemens for Hall

USA TODAY Sports
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and Ryne Sandberg are among 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee that will meet to consider the Cooperstown fate of an eight-man ballot that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro.

Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also are on the panel, which will meet in San Diego ahead of the winter meetings.

They will be joined by former Toronto CEO Paul Beeston, former Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno, Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter and Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams.

Three media members/historians are on the committee: longtime statistical analyst Steve Hirdt of Stats Perform, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Neal and Slusser are past presidents of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark will be the committee’s non-voting chair.

The ballot also includes Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling. The committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A candidate needs 75% to be elected and anyone who does will be inducted on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the BBWAA vote, announced on Jan. 24.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their 10th and final appearances on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program, just over two weeks after getting his 3,000th hit.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) in 2021. Support dropped after hateful remarks he made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2019. Murphy was on the BBWAA ballot 15 times and received a high of 116 votes (23.2%) in 2000. Mattingly received a high of 145 votes (28.2%) in the first of 15 appearances on the BBWAA ballot in 2001, and Belle appeared on two BBWAA ballots, receiving 40 votes (7.7%) in 2006 and 19 (3.5%) in 2007.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.

This year’s BBWAA ballot includes Carlos Beltran, John Lackey and Jered Weaver among 14 newcomers and Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner among holdovers.