Slugging outfielder Yasmani Tomas Bacallao has defected from Cuba. Tomas traveled to Haiti early last week and has since made his way to the Dominican Republic. The story was first reported two days ago by Ben Badler at Baseball America, and has been confirmed by Cuban officials. Tomas is 23, right-handed, and has played in parts of five seasons with Industriales in Serie Nacional. Once cleared to sign with a major league team, his salary will not count against international spending limits. This makes him an obvious target for the Cubs, who are not allowed to spend over $250,000 on an under-23 IFA in the 2014-2015 period, and presumably are looking closely at all available international targets.
Yasmani Tomas Stats
Tomas only just clears the CBA’s new five-season requirement. He debuted in the 2008-2009 season as an 18-year old, and performed reasonably well in 102 PA. The next season he only merited 27 PA, however, and he didn’t see the field at all in 2010-2011. I haven’t found a good explanation for this, and it could well have just been based on performance. Starting in 2011-2012, he started playing more or less every day, seeing time all over the field, but mainly third base and left field. In 2012-2013, he became the primary center-fielder for Industriales. Tomas is 6’1″, 230 lbs. That he managed to play quite a bit of center speaks to his athleticism, even if he’s not expected to play anywhere but the corners in the majors. He may well have stayed in center were it not for the arrival of los hermanos Gourriel to start the ’13-14 campaign.*
*Third baseman Yulieski Gourriel might be the best player in Cuba at the moment. He and his brothers (Yunieski and Lourdes Yunielki) moved from Sancti Spiritus to the capital last summer. Officially, the reason was to provide better care for their ailing father, though many in Cuba suspect it had as much to do with caring for Industriales, which was Fidel’s favorite team. Yunieski took over as the regular in center field.
It should be noted that Tomas suffered a wrist injury at some point in the second phase of the 2014 season. As a power-hitter, any lingering effects could set back his development in the U.S.
Power is Tomas’s calling card. Although his numbers aren’t as gaudy as those of some fellow exports, they hold up well when adjusted for era. in 2011-2012, Cuba raised the pitcher’s mound and started using a less-lively baseball.* I don’t think Tomas is a sure thing, however, as his plate approach leaves much to be desired.
*I suspect this is the same dead ball that caused a ruckus after being phased out in Japan, but I haven’t been able to confirm it.
Given the length of the Cuban season, I always try to use at least three seasons worth of data in evaluating results. Shown above are the age 21-23 seasons for Tomas and other prominent Cubans. OPS+ and ISO+ are league-, but not park- adjusted. Walk and strikeout rates are percentage points above or below league-average.
A seventeen percent strikeout rate doesn’t sound particularly onerous, but it is bad by Cuban standards. Tomas has routinely been near the bottom of the league, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect him to be in the vicinity of 30% in the bigs. He hasn’t made up for it with his plate eye, either. His walk rate is below average, and nearly a third of those have been of the intentional variety. It should be noted that Jose Abreu also had a sub-optimal approach early in his career, though he took a significant step forward at age-23 and never looked back. On the other hand, Abreu’s peripherals haven’t been good thus far in the States.
There’s no arguing with Tomas’s strength. Ben Badler says his raw power rates a 70 on the 20-80 scale. And his isolated power rates stack up well with the Abreu’s and Cespedes’s of the world.
The market has been outpacing my predictions of late. I thought Daniel Carbonell would receive around a million, and he signed for $3.5 with the Giants. I pegged reliever Raicel Iglesias at around $3 million, and he is reportedly close to a deal with the Reds for $15 million. On the other hand, I thought Abreu would settle around $90 million, and he checked in well short of that. Similarly, I thought that Aledmys Diaz would easily clear the $6 million he received from the Cardinals.
I don’t think Tomas will be close to Abreu, but given his age and the recent success of Cuban sluggers, I do think he will command a premium. As such, I’ll say $35 million. Even at that level, he looks somewhat risky. Hitting coaches can’t teach 70 power, though.