One of the premium shortstop prospects on the international market has confessed to both Major League Baseball and Baseball America that he has been misrepresenting his age and identity.
A player who had been presenting himself as 16-year-old Obispo Aybar, born Feb. 26, 1997, now says he is 19-year-old Cecilio Aybar, born Nov. 23, 1993. According to Aybar, he swapped identities with his younger brother.
Because Aybar had assumed the younger brother's identity, someone then created fake identifying papers for the younger brother and had to eliminate any records of Cecilio Aybar. Sources alleged that a school administrator helped hide school documents, while hospital records were also concealed to try to render Cecilio Aybar nonexistent.
Kim Ng, who oversees the league's international operations as MLB's senior vice president of baseball operations, said yesterday that MLB has declared Aybar ineligible to sign until April 26, 2014, "for submission of improper documents." Ng declined to provide any further details on Aybar's case. As of this morning, however, representatives of Aybar and multiple international directors said they were not aware that Aybar had received any disciplinary action.
“When I was 16 years old and eligible to sign I wasn’t eating well and possibly weighed less than 120 pounds," Aybar said in a statement through a representative. "I didn’t have the strength, nor the energy to impress scouts. My family’s situation was desperate and I was approached by family members and trainers who I thought I could trust to do what’s best for me. They suggested that I use my younger brother’s documents and try to sign.
"What I did was wrong and I can’t change the decision made years ago. I can apologize to MLB, the MLB teams and scouts, MLB department of investigations, and the U.S. government for the mistake I made.
"I want to correct what I have done and have started by fully cooperating with MLB department of investigations and have contacted the U.S. Department of Fraud Prevention, notifying it that I had traveled to the U.S. using my younger brother’s documents in October of 2012. I will be a baseball player, God willing. I want to begin my career as a professional baseball player and will keep working hard to play Organized Baseball as soon as I am allowed.”
A 6-foot, 165-pound righthanded hitter from Bani, Aybar was one of the most athletic player's in this year's international class and he was expected to be in line for a seven-figure bonus, although it seemed nearly every team had strong doubts about his age. At MLB's major international showcase in San Cristobal in January—when he was presenting himself as a 15-year-old—Aybar showed plus-plus speed in running the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds, the fastest time at the event. Aybar also has a plus arm and excellent bat speed. Some scouts questioned his baseball instincts, and said they never saw him dominate at the plate in games and often saw him play out of control in the field, concerns that will only grow now that will turn 20 in November.
Aybar chose to admit his fraud after an April 10 meeting with MLB, when the league invited him, his family and his representatives into its Santo Domingo office. In that meeting, MLB laid out the evidence it had against Aybar that suggested he was older than he claimed. Nelson Tejada, the manager of investigations at MLB, asked Aybar for his cooperation, after which Aybar's representatives spoke with his family and persuaded them to come forward with the truth.
Later that day, Aybar's parents signed a document from MLB stating that the player's real name is Cecilio Aybar and that the new birth certificate he submitted with a Nov. 23, 1993, date of birth is accurate. Teams later received a message from Aybar's agent, Tony Rodriguez, that informed them of Aybar's new information, along with an apology. Aybar's trainer, Jaime Ozuna, declined to comment.
Per major league rules, a player who presents false information about his age or identity is supposed to be declared ineligible to sign for one year, although the commissioner's office also retains the right to reduce the penalty if it feels that the situation has extraordinary circumstances.
Aybar's camp had been hoping that cooperating with MLB would lead to a reduced sentence, but MLB instead gave him the full one-year ban. The league has granted leniency before to some players who have come forward with new ages, with Dominican outfielder Eladio Moronta and Dominican catcher Erick Maria two prominent examples from the last few years.
Aybar will also have to deal with the U.S. Consulate to get a visa, which could be complicated by his October 2012 visit to Florida to work out for teams using a false identity. The U.S. Consulate, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, is aware of the fraud.
Aybar would also appear to be in violation of Dominican law as an adult in possession of fraudulent identifying documents, although other players who have been caught using false paperwork have rarely seemed to face legal ramifications from the Dominican government.