The Cubs have signed a pair of Cuban prospects, outfielder Yasiel Balaguert and righthander Carlos Martinez.
(Update, Jan. 11: Balaguert signed for $400,000 and Martinez signed for $250,000.)
Balaguert, who turns 19 on Jan. 9, has modest tools, a strong, thick-bodied frame (6 feet, 190 pounds) that he will have to keep in check and shows occasional average power with a quick bat and good extension. Several scouts have said he'll have to continue to make adjustments to get to his power in games because of a long, uppercut swing from the right side and an aggressive, pull-oriented approach that leaves him susceptible to secondary stuff.
Balaguert played for Cuba's junior national team in July 2010 at the World Junior Championship in Thunder Bay, Ont. before he defected later that year, playing alongside Jorge Soler and against future 2011 first-round picks Bubba Starling, Francisco Lindor and Blake Swihart. Balaguert hit .200/.300/.240, going 5-for-25 with a double, two walks, two hit by pitches and nine strikeouts in seven games, beginning the tournament as Cuba's leadoff hitter before being dropped to the bottom of the order later in the competition. He had shown better the previous year at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan, where he hit .333/.387/.519 (9-for-27) with three doubles, a triple, three walks and seven strikeouts.
At Thunder Bay, Balaguert played center field with Soler in right. He shows solid defensive instincts and route running, though his speed gets 40-45 grades from scouts on the 20-80 scale with a near average arm, so he likely fits better in left field long term.
Martinez, 20, played for the Industriales in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2009-2010, when according to Baseball America's records he had a 5.48 ERA in 23 innings with 19 strikeouts and 23 walks as a reliever. He has a thick-bodied frame at around 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with a fastball that parks in the low 90s. His breaking ball needs work, as at his best scouts have seen him flash an average curveball but it often gets slurvy, while his changeup is also a work in progress with occasional fade.
Balaguert and Martinez are both represented by Jaime Torres, who also represented outfielder Rubi Silva and catcher Yaniel Cabeza when they signed with the Cubs out of Cuba on Dec. 15, 2010.
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