After several strong seasons of offensive performance in Cuba's top league, 26-year-old shortstop Alexander Guerrero is now a free agent in the Dominican Republic.
Throughout the industry, Guerrero is not viewed as a premium talent, but it would not be a surprise if his contract ended up exceeding the scouting consensus on his talent level.
In his final season in Cuba, Guerrero hit .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs, 39 walks and 30 strikeouts in 328 plate appearances for Las Tunas. The Cuban league is a supercharged offensive environment, but he had strong numbers in Cuba for five straight seasons, so his performance wasn't a one-year fluke.
Scouts saw Guerrero at Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands last summer, when Guerrero went 0-for-4 with a strikeout as he and Aledmys Diaz were the backups to slick-fielding shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena. The Cubans seemed to value other shortstops like Diaz and Arruebarruena ahead of Guerrero when it came to selecting players to travel for international tournaments.
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Guerrero's best tool is his righthanded power. It's not outstanding raw power, but some scouts have given him above-average raw power and say his pop seems to have increased since he arrived in the Dominican Republic.
Several scouts have reservations about whether that power will translate against major league pitching. Guerrero takes an uppercut stroke and he loses his balance against breaking pitches. It's a pull-oriented, swing-for-the-fences approach that scouts think he will have to change to hit quality pitching. Scouts have also noted that the holes in his swing leave him susceptible to good velocity.
"He has raw power, no doubt, but I don't see there being enough hitting ability to make that raw power that usable," one scout said. "It's a real rigid swing with stiffness."
Guerrero didn't show much speed when scouts evaluated him during international competition or with his stolen base totals in Serie Nacional. In four seasons from 2008-11, Guerrero went 0-for-7 stealing bases, then last year he went 2-for-7 stealing.
Since arriving in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero has shown improved speed with above-average times in the 60-yard dash, which is highly unusual for a 26-year-old to start running faster. Even still, scouts aren't convinced that his 60-yard times will carry over to baseball speed going home to first, stealing bases or in the field.
One thing Guerrero has going for him is that some scouts think he can stay in the middle of the infield, although shortstop is probably out of the question. His hands and actions are playable but he doesn't have the first-step quickness or range to play shortstop and he can be a bit stiff in the field. Second base could be an option for him and a team that likes him a lot will probably play him there.
Once Guerrero signs, he will likely go to Double-A or Triple-A, with the hope that he can get to the major leagues quickly. Several teams aren't convinced he has the ability to either reach the majors or stick there as an everyday player, but whatever team signs him will probably see him as an offensive-oriented second baseman.
While Yoenis Cespedes showed in his first season that the scouting hype was merited and Yasiel Puig has developed faster than anticipated, several scouts believe that Guerrero's talent level is more in line with players like Leslie Anderson, Juan Carlos Linares, Jorge Padron and Adonis Garcia, four Cuban players who also performed well in Serie Nacional but have yet to reach the majors.