Cuban Players Update

Agent Jaime Torres says major league organizations are pursuing four of his clients who have left Cuba this calendar year, with former Cuban junior national team star Dayan Viciedo at the top of the list. Scouts have confirmed that two of Torres’ clients who left the Cuban junior national team in early August, lefthander Noel Arguelles and Jose Iglesias, are definitely worth pursuing.

Two scouts with American League organizations independently arrived at the same conclusion about Iglesias, an 18-year-old middle infielder. Both compared him to Orlando Cabrera for his batting stance, infield actions and offensive potential. "He’s a stud," one of the scouts said. "He’s a plus run and plus arm Orlando Cabrera clone. He’s got a quick bat but I didn’t see much power."

Arguelles, whose name was misspelled on this blog previously, was pegged as a first-round talent were he draft-eligible by both scouts as well, as both confirmed BA’s earlier scouting report. "It’s a three-quarters slot with a clean stroke," the scout said. "He’s very intriguing." Another scout said Arguelles reminded him in some ways of Twins lefty Francisco Liriano.

Torres said both players had been working out in the Dominican Republic with trainers who normally work with Dominican major leaguers, and that Arguelles had impressed them with his work ethic. "His father is huge, he’s a former goalkeeper for the Cuban national team, but if he’d been in the U.S. he would have been a defensive end," Torres said with a laugh. "So I think Noel is going to get bigger."

Viciedo came to the U.S. in late May, and at first Torres said he intended to have Viciedo declared a free agent because he had passed through the 2008 draft without being selected. In a phone interview Tuesday, Torres said he was no longer pursuing that strategy. Instead, Torres is attempting to establish third-country residency (i.e., somewhere other than the U.S. or Cuba) for Arguelles, Iglesias, teen outfielder Felix Perez and Viciedo, and the quartet is going through the U.S. government’s "unblocking" process–a procedure aimed at preventing Cubans from funneling money back to Raoul Castro’s government.

Torres did not specify the country or which organizations were interested in his players, but he said he considered Viciedo the closest to signing, perhaps in the next two or three weeks. "I hope we can have something done by the time instructional league starts," he said of Viciedo. He set November as a more reasonable timetable for Arguelles and Iglesias possibly signing.

Perez is a raw teen talent who has spent parts of two seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, batting a light .271. Torres, who represented such big leaguers as Yoslan Herrera, Jose Contreras, Yuniesky Betancourt and most recently Alexei Ramirez, admitted Perez was raw but said he had five-tool talent.