Cuban OF Yasiel Puig Declared Free Agent

Cuban outfielders have been a hot commodity over the past year, and another young Cuban defector was declared a free agent on Tuesday evening and is now able to sign with any major league team, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

Twenty-one-year-old Yasiel Puig has long attempted to make his way to the United States. In fact, he was suspended from playing in the Cuban Serie Nacional this past season due to attempting to defect. He successfully did so this summer, establishing temporary residency in Mexico, and is expected to agree to terms rather quickly in hopes of signing prior to July 2, when the new CBA regulations  will severely limit international spending.

The vast majority of the attention amongst Cuban outfielders centered around Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, and it should have. Puig possesses raw power — and actually showed game-power back in the 2010-2011 season with 17 home runs — but Ben Badler of Baseball America recently noted that the most recent scouting reports on the young outfielder have been extremely underwhelming.

Despite those disappointing reports and the fact that Puig has not played organized baseball in a year, teams will absolutely be lining up to ink him to a minor-league deal. Badler writes that the Texas Rangers have shown interest, and Jesse Sanchez hears from industry sources that five teams have expressed “serious interest” in the young outfielder.

Now, statistics from the Cuban Serie Nacional should obviously be taken with a grain of salt. The level of competition is perhaps not even comparable to what Puig would potentially see in Triple-A, but legitimate similarities exist between the numbers Yoenis Cespedes compiled in 2010-2011 and what Puig racked up in the same year.

Player 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG BB SO
Yasiel Puig 19 6 17 .330 .430 .581 49 39
Yoenis Cespedes 17 1 33 .333 .424 .667 49 40

The obvious difference is the significantly higher home run total from Cespedes. It’s that level of power that has allowed Cespedes to transition directly to the major leagues and post a .222 ISO as a 26-year-old without any experience in the United States.

The remainder of the numbers — the on-base percentage, strikeout-to-walk ratio, etc. — are comparable. Even the doubles are comparable. Puig reportedly has above-average speed and was once considered the “fastest player in Cuban baseball” before defecting, so it’s not overly surprising that Puig would collect more triples than Cespedes.

The issue is that no one can ever confidently project how a Cuban baseball player will transition to professional baseball in the states. The statistics have little correlation due to the level of competition, and the players have to adjust to more than just the players in the United States. They also have to transition to the lifestyle, the culture, and the language. That can be extremely overwhelming for anyone, much less a 21-year-old with ambition and plenty of cash, thanks to a hefty signing bonus.

The ultimate question in the next week will surround potential suitors and whether or not Puig can agree to a deal prior to July 2 and circumvent the new CBA regulations that would assuredly erode his potential payday. If he can agree to a deal prior to July 2, it will be intriguing to see what his signing bonus will be. He represents the final opportunity to purchase international talent outside the new rules, and in a world that saw the New York Yankees sign left-hander Omar Luis Rodriguez — who did not even see time in the Serie Nacional — for $4 million, Yasiel Puig will almost surely sign for more than his talent suggests he should.

After all, open your wallets now. The option to do so will no longer be available in less than a week.




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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


13 Responses to “Cuban OF Yasiel Puig Declared Free Agent”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    Hoping the White Sox jump on this

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    • Chris K says:

      Ditto. Still salty that they didn’t go after Soler, though I can’t complain about KW after this past week.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Word on the street (not sure if it was confirmed) was that the Sox put in a very competitive bid of something like $25m on Soler. I’m hoping that means they might throw some of that at Puig. If for no other reason than a Puig shirsey would be fun to have.

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  2. jimm6 says:

    Why on earth wouldn’t people be excited by a guy who puts up numbers fairly comparable to Cespedes and he’s 5 years younger?

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    • Preston says:

      Because the HR power is the elite tool that has allowed Cespedes to transfer to the bigs, and their HR totals aren’t close. Plus he’s a year removed from paying competitively. Still you’d have to think he’d be ready for high A, and would move fast once he gets his timing back.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I wouldn’t call Cespedes’ power elite. His 26, this is as good as he’ll likely get. His power is very good, but I think elite is a strong word. If Cespedes were 22, then his power is elite, at 26 though, it’s not. Plus I’m guessing Cespedes is older than 26 and the possibility of him using PEDs in Cuba are fairly high given how easy I hear it is to get them. Even if Cespedes isn’t 30 with inflated Cuban numbers due to PEDs, he’s still already at least 26, peaking with above average power.

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      • Preston says:

        I just meant as a raw tool, the guy has big time power. Most scouts had him around a 70. His other tools as impressive. Quite frankly I think the BA and OBP numbers are inflated by the power. So it’s not like we can say Puig would be Cespedes without the power. Obviously because of the age Puig could be the better player as he develops, but Cespedes got the money he did because the A’s thought he could play right now. I don’t get the sense anyone thinks that about Puig, so he will probably get something around what Soler got. Which will still make the boat trip more than worthwhile;

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      • Preston says:

        I just meant as a raw tool, the guy has big time power. Most scouts had him around a 70. His other tools aren’t as impressive. Quite frankly I think the BA and OBP numbers are inflated by the power. So it’s not like we can say Puig would be Cespedes without the power. Obviously because of the age Puig could be the better player as he develops, but Cespedes got the money he did because the A’s thought he could play right now. I don’t get the sense anyone thinks that about Puig, so he will probably get something around what Soler got. Which will still make the boat trip more than worthwhile;

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  3. Anders says:

    Cespedes was wicked overrated and if this guy can only get half the homeruns he should just be ignored. Unless you’re the red sox and just throw money at people

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  4. joe says:

    i think it might be a little too early to label cespedes as “overrated,”… were not even to the break yet… and dude has hit some absolute seeds just in this past series against the dodgers. i can’t see him regressing, only improving. thoughts?

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  5. ryan says:

    Dodgers just paid $40 mil? Seriously?!

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  6. train says:

    Kasten..and seriously. LAD is desperate, and 40 mil for 7 yrs is nothing if he’s even average next season in the show..

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  7. Jacob says:

    I like this signing by the dodgers, it shows there willing to spend big money to get high potential guys who could be future stars in the majors. You have to remember that these stats are only over around 320 plate appearances, so projected over a full season, pug would have hit about 30 home runs. Puig also had much better strike out and walk totals at a much younger age and is known to be extremely fast. Id say if he produces anywhere near that in the majors it’s worth about $6 million a year.

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