The White Sox have recently looked to Cuba to fill in their organizational need for younger players that an underwhelming farm system has left. From Rameriz, to Viciedo and most recently Abreu, the White Sox have shown willingness to commit large amounts of money to "unproven" Cuban talent. Recently a number of defected payers from Cuba have been cleared to sign with MLB teams. While, the White Sox have not been rumored to be among the teams interested, through the Tanaka sweepstakes they have shown that there is still is money to be spent for the right types of players. Cuba is an ideal place for the White Sox to acquire young talented players, however in recent years the price of these players has increased dramatically culminating the the $68 million dollar deal the White Sox gave Abreu. Here's a look a the current Cuban Defectors still on the market.
The Position Prospects
First and most frequently rumored among White Sox commentators is Yenier Bello. Given the White Sox lack of movement in finding the catcher of the future, a major league ready catching "prospect" has a lot of appeal. However, the 28 year old catcher has not played baseball since 2011 where he slashed .276/.324/.458 over nine seasons playing for Cuba's La Serie Nacional team. Reports are that he has a strong arm, throwing out over 50% of batters. Baseball America's Ben Badler does not think much of him.
No. Non-prospect. RT @RNewsX I know Y. Bello has a big arm & some pop. How is he behind the dish? Decent backup C prospect?— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) January 25, 2014
Given the lack of catching depth the White Sox might be willing to take a flyer on Bello if the price is right. Just do not expect him to be a solution to their catching problems.
Rusney Castillo is by one of the most interesting players still rumored to be coming out of Cuba. Hitting .319/.383/.516 with 71 stolen bases and 51 home runs in 360 games, over five seasons on Ciego de Avila. Castillo stands out as a possible Major League hitter while potentially playing quality outfield defense. Castillo began his career playing 2nd/3rd, so a super utility role might serve as a floor for his apparent talent level. Baseball America rates speed as his best tool calling him one of the best base stealers in Cuba.
The White Sox most likely would not be alone in bidding for Castillo, with the Dodger's recently sending GM Ned Colletti to attend one of this workouts. The Dodger's interest is expected to be determined by his ability to play infield given the current logjam in their outfield. The White Sox outfield and infield also appear to be pretty full this season. But, Castillo could start in AAA until the Sox find a new team for De Aza and provide them with a major league ready option if Viciedo, Eaton or Garcia take a step back word in 2014 with most of their corner outfield prospects years away.
23 year old infielder Aledmys Diaz recently was suspended for falsify records in order to make himself eligible to sign with major league teams with out being subject to international spending limits. Diaz is about as young of a prospect as a team can get without being subject to spending limits, however scouts are not sure about his ability to stay at short. According to CBS Sports:
Diaz hit .315/.404/.500 with 12 home runs in 270 at-bats during the 2011-12 season in Cuba, his last before defecting. He hit .308/.401/.444 from 2008-12. Reports on his defense are mixed, which is why some teams expect him to move to the other side of the bag.
Unless Diaz can stick at shortshop he does not feel like a fit for the White Sox, who already have a number of talented middle infielders waiting for a shot at second base.
Another shortstop that falls one the opposite side of the prospect spectrum is Erisbel Arruebarruena. Despite hitting .320/.367/.520 with eight home runs, 19 walks and 39 strikeouts in 306 plate appearances in 2011-2012, scouts question Arruebarruena's bat but praise his above average defensive potential. According to a scout via mlb.com:
"He’s what you’ve been reading. He’s a very good defensive player. His glove is very close to the big leagues. The bat, you kind of think he’s one of those guys who’ll bat down in the order. He can really play shortstop, if that’s the type of player you’re interested in. He’ll be a quality defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues, but you wonder if he’s going to hit. Some of the others who have come recently – Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria — I felt more confident about the bat. We’ll have to hear what the money is. This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yeonis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop."
Baseball America's write up on Arruerbarruena also raises questions about his speed. The top prospect website site sees him starting at a Double A talent level taking time to work on his hit tool.
With questions about Tim Anderson's ability to stay at shortstop, the White Sox lack a true defense first shortstop prospect. However, given Alexi Ramirez's hold on shortstop for the next few years and the questions about Arruerbarruena's bat the White Sox might be be better off looking else where.
The Pitching Prospects
Righthander Raisel Iglesias is the one of the mentionable pitching prospects coming off the island this offseason. Iglesias projects as a reliever with a mid-90's fastball and a swing and miss "sweepy breaking ball" with variable shape and sizes.
The other pitching prospect looking for a MLB club is Odrisamer Despaigne. Amazin Avenue has a nice write up on Despaigne, who is seen as a reliever candidate for a major league club. Despaigne at 27 has a low 90's fastball with a wide variety of breaking pitches. However, a high walk rate in Cuba (3.7 per nine) with a relatively low strike out rate (6.7 per nine) lead many to believe his ability to make it as a starter in the majors is limited. Ben Balder doesn't see him as more than a fringe prospect.
Pretty fringy. Maybe a bullpen arm. RT @MattDWhitaker Is Odrisamer Despaigne a guy to keep an eye on or is he more of a flyer?— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) January 25, 2014
With the White Sox ability to develop pitching and both prospects pretty lackluster, these two are most likely a pass for the Sox.
While there are a few interesting players still on the market, none seem like a great fit for the White Sox. The White Sox and their fans might just be best off being happy with only three Cubans (or four if you count Nieto) on their roster going into 2014.