Top Cuban Prospects Available This Year
While Victor Mesa will become the top international prospect for 2018 when Major League Baseball clears him to sign, he is not the only Cuban prospect of note this year. These five Cuban prospects also will be sought after when they become eligible to sign later this year.
Victor Mesa Jr., OF
Victor Mesa didn’t leave Cuba alone. His younger brother, 16-year-old outfielder Victor Mesa Jr., also left with him in pursuit of a contract with a major league team. Mesa Jr. played in Cuba’s 15U national league in 2016, when he hit .365/.471/.522 with 19 walks and just five strikeouts in 148 plate appearances. He played in the 15U World Cup in Japan later that year, but scouts will need updated firsthand looks, since Mesa Jr. was just 14 at the time.
In the World Cup tournament, Mesa Jr. showed an unconventional swing but an accurate barrel, using his hands well to consistently put the bat to the ball with little swing-and-miss. At the time, he didn’t have the standout speed and arm strength of his older brother, though scouts will need fresh looks to better gauge his present tools.
Osiel Rodriguez, RHP
While Victor Victor will be the prize of the 2018 international class, there is a group of promising teenage Cuban prospects who will be eligible to sign on July 2. The best of that group is Rodriguez, a 16-year-old righthander with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and has reached 96 mph.
Rodriguez throws a sharp breaking ball that flashes plus and has shown feel for pitching advanced beyond his years. The Yankees are the favorites to sign Rodriguez, with a bonus likely coming in just north of $1 million.
Sandy Gaston, RHP
Gaston and Dominican righthander Starlyn Castillo (linked to the Phillies) are the two hardest-throwing 16-year-old pitchers in the 2018 class. At the MLB international showcase in the Dominican Republic in February, Gaston reached 97 mph with his fastball, though he’s more thrower than pitcher with bouts of wildness and secondary stuff that will need work. The Marlins are linked to Gaston.
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Jairo Pomares, OF
Pomares played in Cuba’s 15U national league in 2015, when he ranked sixth in the league in batting average by hitting .383/.447/.533 with 16 walks and just six strikeouts in 141 plate appearances. He’s a lefthanded outfielder who has drawn praise for his bat and is linked to the Giants, with a bonus expected to be around $1 million.
Malcom Nunez, 3B
At 17, Nunez looks like a man among boys. He’s a strong, physical third baseman with big bat speed and power. His swing can get big, but he drives the ball with impact when he connects, batting .412/.592/.578 with 46 walks and nine strikeouts in 152 plate appearances when he played in Cuba’s 15U national league in 2016. He led the league in walks while ranking third in on-base percentage and sixth in slugging.
Nunez will have to improve his footwork and agility at third base, but he has an excellent arm.