Mariners Agree To Sign Cuban Center Fielder Guillermo Heredia

Cuban center fielder Guillermo Heredia has agreed to sign with the Mariners, according to a report by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Heredia, 25, is exempt from the international bonus pools. He was the center fielder on the Cuban national team at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, standing out for his speed and defense, with his offensive game the biggest question mark. At around 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Heredia is a plus runner with an explosive first step who won multiple gold glove awards in Cuba. He reads balls off the bat well and takes direct routes in center field, even on balls over his head, giving him good range to go with a strong arm.

Heredia had been a free agent since last July, but concerns from teams about how his bat will play against major league pitchers contributed to his extended time on the market. As a 21-year-old in 2011-12, Heredia batted .343/.439/.527 in 443 plate appearances, but his more recent seasons weren’t as inspiring. He hit .265/.381/.384 in 68 games in 2012-13, then in his last full season (2013-14) in Cuba, Heredia batted .255/.376/.349 in 61 games with one home run, 27 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Up until the 2013-14 season, Heredia had been a switch-hitter, but that year he stopped hitting from the left side and became the rare lefty thrower who only bats righthanded. It’s a quick stroke, he doesn’t swing and miss excessively and he usually does stay within the strike zone. However, his swing lacks rhythm, his hips often leak open early and he tends to push the bat head, with his power mostly to the gaps, so he will have to smooth some things out at the plate to become an everyday player.

Heredia’s defense is major league ready, though given his present ability with the bat, he might start his career at Triple-A, especially since he hasn’t played in competitive games in Cuba since the summer of 2014.

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