The Miami-based agent to Cuban defectors such as Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez, Jaime Torres, has yet another high-profile defector now in Dayan Viciedo, a 19-year-old outfielder who is generally regarded as Cuba’s best teen talent.
Torres said that Viciedo is in Miami with him. In fact, he asserts that Viciedo was in the U.S. before the 2008 draft, coming into the country in late May. "He was processed at the end of may. To me, he was not drafted and should be a undrafted free agent. We’ll see if the union agrees with me."
Of course, the fact that Viciedo is being declared as being in the U.S. is quite a gambit for Torres. Had Viciedo gone to Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic or some other nation not subject to the draft, he clearly would become a free agent. Now that he’s in the U.S., he’s subject to draft rules. The question will be whether he’s subject to the ’08 draft, which would go the way Torres wants it to go, or if he’ll be tied to the 2009 draft class.
One scouting director said he doubted Viciedo would be made a free agent because draft rules are clear about who’s eligible and who’s not.
"Major League Baseball sends out an eligibles list to all the clubs, and if he was not on that list, then he could not be drafted," the scout said. "It also happens with Cuban free agents. MLB informs all the clubs when a Cuban can be signed, and informs all the clubs when a player is eligible for the draft. So it seems unlikely he would be a free agent to me."
Viciedo, born in March 1989, is listed at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, but reports are that he was bigger than that last year at the World Junior Championship in Mexico. Viciedo has excellent power and hitting ability, however, with one scout comparing him to Giants prospect Angel Villalona. He slugged over .500 two of the last three seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, its top-level league, hitting 14 homers in 2005-2006—as a 16-year-old—in his best season.
"His body could go the same route as Livan Hernandez, and when I saw him in Mexico, he wasn’t very good at third base anymore," one international scouting director said. "But he can really hit; in fact, I think he’s probably a better hitter than Villalona."
Villolona received a $2.1 million bonus from the Giants in 2006 and is currently playing for low Class A Augusta.
Another scout who had seen Viciedo was less enthused about him as a player, pegging him as a first baseman-only hitter with a bad body. "You know everybody liked Kendry Morales," the scout said, referring to the Angels’ Cuban DH/first baseman, "and he had some other tools. But his body’s gone south and he’s pretty much just a DH. So I think it’s premature to get too excited about this guy."
Viciedo burst on the scene as a 15-year-old, when he was MVP of the World Junior Championships. In Serie Nacional in 2005-2006, he made the all-star team while playing for Villa Clara, and he almost made Cuba’s World Baseball Classic roster in 2006. He played in the ’06 World Juniors as well, with a confrontation with current Rangers righthander Blake Beavan chronicled here. His Villa Clara manager, former national team star Victor Mesa, told Cuba’s Granma news in 2006 that Viciedo has “a good arm and tremendous power. He’s got excellent technique, but at the same time is surprisingly calm for his young age and very secure in defense.”
According to the Miami Herald, Viciedo left Cuba on May 20 on a boat bound for Mexico with his family. After arriving in Mexico, the family made its way to Miami to meet up with the Cuban community, friends and family there.
Contributing: Ben Badler.
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