Leonys Martin has become the latest high-profile player from Cuba to leave his family and country behind to chase a major league career. If recent history is any guide, Martin figures to garner a seven-figure signing bonus once he establishes residency and becomes a free agent.
Martin, whose age is listed as 22, left Cuba after playing for the country's national team in Taiwan during the FISU World University Championships. He batted leadoff frequently for Cuba in that tournament, which is limited to players age 27 and under. He was on the 18U junior-national team in 2006 as well, so his age appears to be quite believable. As a 21-year-old, Martin was a reserve on the 2009 World Baseball Classic team.He's a lefthanded hitter whose best tools are his speed and defense. He's a plus runner at least, being timed in 4.1 seconds to first base from the left side in Taiwan, and showed strong small-ball skills, with the ability to drag bunt for hits and handle the bat on the hit-and-run. He also played center field and showed at least average range. Martin also hit .326 with 10 home runs in the last Serie Nacional, Cuba's top-level league, while playing for Villa Clara, and has drawn plenty of walks in Cuba, posting a .311/.492/.491 line in 2008-2009, when he drew 78 bases on balls and ranked second in the league with 17 steals (in a 90-game season).
Martin was reported to be in Mexico, trying to establish residency to become a free agent. That process can take months, but it's possible Martin could give an organization a 23-year-old speedy center fielder for the 2011 season.