Top Cuban Shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena defects, will become a free agent

Koji Watanabe

Another elite defensive shortstop out of Cuba may be headed to America.

Highly regarded Cuban shortstop Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has defected and will go through the complicated naturalization process required to allow him to play in Major League Baseball, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Arruebarruena has received high marks for his glove work and Badler even goes as far as comparing him to defensive wizard Jose Iglesias of the Tigers.

Badler reports that Arruebarruena was ranked as the 10th best prospect in the World Baseball Classic by Baseball America this spring. The 23-year old went 6-16 with two walks and two RBIs for Cuba in the tournament. He was intstumental in their 5-2 win over Brazil, scoring a run and driving in two with this hit in the sixth-

Badler gives a glowing scouting report on his defensive abilities-

At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. He's a below-average runner, but his quick first step and instincts give him good range...[snip]... Scouts have called Arruebarruena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove.

However, like Jose Iglesias, his ability to hit at the major-league level is still a serious question mark and Badler expects him to need some minor league seasoning as a result, possibly beginning in Double-A. He did hit 317/.415/.495 in 125 plate appearances in the second half of the Cuban season, Balder reports, so he has had some success there, even if the ability to translate that is still uncertain.

Arruebarruena will need to establish residency in another country and be cleared by the U.S. government and MLB before he can enter the market. If he is able to do so, he will be an international free agent and his signing will not be limited by the restrictions placed on international amateur signings. Balder references the four-year/$26 million deal the Dodgers gave fellow Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero earlier this year in his article and that price seems like a reasonable early estimate for Arruebarruena's possible price tag, since the Cuban team preferred to him as their everyday shortstop in international tournaments.

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