Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena has reportedly agreed to terms with the Dodgers for five years and $25 million. Arruebarruena, who is in desperate need of a nickname (Babar? Belarus?), was reported to have defected in November, but may have escaped in late October. He has yet to be approved by the government. This could be an issue, as he established residency in Haiti, and paperwork from there is notoriously shoddy. The Dodgers care not for such trivial concerns of international affairs, however, meaning I have to write him up sooner than I had hoped. Arruebarruena played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional for six seasons. Even if his approval is delayed, he will be a free agent when he does eventually make it over, unlike some others. Erisbel will turn 24 shortly, and was a teammate of Jose Dariel Abreu with the Cienfuegos Elephants.
Barbaro Erisbel Arruebarruena Escalante is known for his glove; he has manned shortstop for the Cuban National Team for long enough that scouts have had a good look. And everyone seems to think that he’s one of the best defenders in the world… and that his bat is not very good. Here’s Ben Badler:
Arruebarruena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. … Scouts have called Arruebarruena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove.
The bat, however, is a major source of concern with Arruebarruena, even more so than with Jose Iglesias and more along the lines of Marlins Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria… Arruebarruena has a long swing, struggles with pitch recognition, swings through breaking balls in the strike zone and is prone to chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. He has a pull-oriented approach and minimal power.
Erisbel Arruebarruena Stats
Despite the panning, there may be some potential. The power picked up in 2011, and stuck around somewhat through 2012-2013 in spite of the changes made to tamp down run scoring. From ages 21-23, he was above league average in terms of OPS. Dodgers GM Ned Coletti is thinking positively, at least:
We signed Alexander (Guerrero) and we’re trying to sign another player because it’s tough in the Draft to find those players,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said at the second annual Cactus League Media Day on Tuesday. “You are pretty limited in the Draft as far as good hitters that can play in the middle of the infield. The way we look at it, we have the need for it in our organization and we’ve gone after them the way we have.
As was the case with Daniel Carbonell, Arruebarruena has a spring birthday (3/25), meaning that age convention I’m using to align with MLB’s season is selling him a bit short. He was 22 for most of the 2013 season, and 17 throughout his debut.
Cuban Shortstop Comps
Hechevarria only played in Cuba through his age-20 season. Through that age, he and Arruebarruena were pretty comparable. I don’t feel comfortable putting much stock in stats when players are that young, however, and Arruebarruena took a pretty significant step forward at age 21. I hope to have more on Erisbel’s defense in the coming days, but the success of this deal will likely depend on how well he can hit. Even excellent defenders have been known to float around the league if the bat is bad enough. And plate discipline does seem to be an issue.
Aledmys* Diaz Update
Aledmys Diaz is now eligible to sign, and he reportedly in negotiations with eight teams. Given that some of those teams are pretty smart (A’s, Cardinals, Yankees, Braves), I’m a little disappointed that the Cubs are not involved (even if it would mean Myles winning the FA contest). He’s young with some power and plate discipline. Are the Cubs really holding second base open until Arismendy Alcantara arrives?
*OK, I’ll concede to popular consensus in the Aledmys vs Aledmis controversy. For the record, it’s very common for Cubans to sport multiple spelling variants in the press. Sometimes Yoenis Cespedes gets an extra “n” or an “h” slipped in, sometimes he doesn’t. As far as I can tell, though, “Aledmys” was consistently “Aledmis” during his time in Cuba. So when he pulls a Kendrys Morales a few years from now, rest assured that I’ll be gloating.
For more cuban defector profiles, go here.