For the second straight year, the player who likely would have won the rookie of the year award in Cuba has left the country to pursue a contract with a major league team.
This year it’s 21-year-old center fielder Ruben Paz, who batted .361/.411/.476 in 76 games for Las Tunas in Serie Nacional during the 2015-16 season, which ended earlier this month. Since Paz is under 23 and does not have five seasons of experience in Serie Nacional, he will be subject to the international bonus pools.
Paz isn’t the same caliber prospect as outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who signed with the Dodgers for $15.5 million and likely would have been the 2014-15 Serie Nacional rookie of the year had he not left the country soon after the season ended. While Paz doesn’t have the same tools or quick-twitch athleticism as Diaz, he has performed well in games with a short, simple swing from the right side of the plate and the ability to use the whole field, ranking fifth in the league in hitting. He didn’t show much power last season, hitting just three home runs, and he went just 3-for-10 in stolen base attempts, with 17 walks and 38 strikeouts.
When the Rays played the Cuban national team in Havana last month, Paz was on Cuba’s initial pre-selection roster, though he didn’t end up making the final cut for the game. Paz also played last summer in Cuba’s Sub-23 league, a developmental circuit for players 23 and under, batting .297/.331/.464 in 152 plate appearances and showed more power with six home runs to go with seven walks and 16 strikeouts.