While Major League Baseball teams line up to negotiate with 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, we're already looking down the road to the next potential Cuban star likely headed to MLB. His name is Yadier Alvarez. He's an 18-year-old right-hander. And he's currently blowing away scouts in the Dominican Republic after recently defecting from his native land.
As Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs notes, if you're not familiar with Alvarez's name, it's because his rise on the prospect map has come almost out of nowhere. In fact, he was never really on the map in Cuba prior to his defection, and has no experience pitching in an established professional league. However, he made the most of his opportunity at a recent international showcase, lighting up the gun with a high 90s fastball and keeping scouts heads turning with a plus slider and quality change up.
Experienced or not, that's the type of stuff that will leave scouts buzzing and front office executives checking under the couch for loose change.
Alvarez looks the part as well. At 18, he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs around 175 pounds, which makes for a solid foundation. With so many years ahead of him, he also presents an opportunity to be molded and developed within a team's system. All things scouts and teams looking to stash talent will love.
Of course, with so little real data on Alvarez, it's almost like filling out a scouting report from scratch. That means there are some questions as well, beginning with his command. In early workouts, that has stood out as a concern. Will he be able to harness and trust his excellent stuff as he moves up in competition?
Another question is whether or not he'll have the consistency, stamina or durability to be a starter. His value would shoot through the roof if he could prove capable of handing that role. However, that's something that can't honestly be learned for months if not years. For now, limited to 2-4 innings in workouts, and it's unlikely he'll tax his arm much beyond that before signing.
On that front, McDaniel says that Alvarez’s camp expects his paperwork to be done within 4-8 weeks, which should allow him to sign before July 2. That's notable because the Cubs and Rangers will not be able to sign him after exceeding their international bonus pools by more than 15 percent in 2013-14. On the flip side, the Diamondbacks, Angels, Red Sox and Yankees would still have a chance to sign him before their two-year penalty begins.
Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan hears at least one of those teams has interest.
Scout buzz: The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Phillies among the teams expected to be in heavy on 18-year-old Cuban flamethrower Yadier Alvarez.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 12, 2015
Though it's too early to tell what the market will be, whoever does sign him will be taking a high-risk, high-reward gamble. McDaniel explains why.
Again, as I’ve already said, it’s super early to peg what Alvarez’s talent and his market are, but he’s clearly better than RHP Yoan Lopez, the 21-year-old Cuban who signed with the Diamondbacks earlier this year for an $8.25 million bonus. This means Alvarez should go for $10 million or more, with his further workouts dictating what the ceiling may be.
The $8.25 million was a record signing bonus for an international amateur, so McDaniel expects Alvarez to best that if not shatter it when he finally signs. Indeed, that would be a hefty investment to make, but sometimes you have to count on your eyes telling you the truth before you can figure out the math.
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