Dodgers Agree To Sign Cuban Shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena

The Dodgers will reunite Yasiel Puig with one of his former teammates in Cuba and one of the premier defensive shortstops in the world.

Barbaro Arruebarruena

Barbaro Erisbel Arruebarruena (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

The team has agreed to sign 23-year-old Cuban shortstop Barbaro Erisbel Arruebarruena, according to a tweet from Major League Baseball and first reported by ESPN Deportes.

Arruebarruena, 23, was the shortstop on the Cuban national team and earned rave reviews from scouts for his defense, though there are serious reservations about whether he will hit enough to be an everyday player. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena is smooth hands, clean actions and terrific defensive instincts, with good range despite being a below-average runner. He has a 70 arm on the 20-80 scale, gets rid of the ball quickly and makes accurate throws from anywhere on the field, leading some scouts to project him as a potential Gold Glove winner.

At the same time, Arruebarruena might never hit higher than eighth in a National League lineup. His righthanded swing is long, he swings through pitches in the strike zone and is prone to chasing pitches off the plate with a pull approach, limited pitch recognition and isn’t a major power threat. Last summer in the United States against the U.S. college national team, his final time playing outside of Cuba before defecting, Arruebarruena went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and was often removed late in the game for offensive reasons.

What makes Arruabarruena attractive is his glove, and given that 13 teams last year got less than a .300 OBP from the shortstop position, his defense makes some scouts believe he can develop into a regular shortstop who hits at the bottom of the lineup. It’s not clear yet where Arruebarruena will begin his career, though given his present hitting ability and age, he could use time in the minors to improve at the plate.

Arruebarruena played for Cienfuegos in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, where he was teammates with Puig and first baseman Jose Abreu, who signed with the White Sox last year. Alexander Guerrero, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Dodgers last year, also played with Arruebarruena briefly on the national team as Arruebarruena’s backup. Arruabarruena has played for Cuba at several international tournaments, including the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where he ranked as the WBC’s No. 10 prospect.