Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dodgers to sign Cuban defector Yasiel Puig to record $42 million contract

And we thought $30 million for Jorge Soler was a little shocking.

It wasn't super surprising to see the Dodgers had signed Cuban defector Yasiel Puig when I checked my timeline this morning. It was super surprising to see the reported record price: $42 million over seven years.

Wow.

Puig (pronounced pweeg) is 21 years old and from those who have seen him, hasn't been that impressive. But it is a small sample size and the Dodgers must have saw something they really liked.

Kevin Goldstein provided a brief scouting report (from scouts) via Twitter (hence the brevity):
"Scout notes on Cuban free agent OF Yasel Puig: Physical, plus runner, avg bat, avg power, decent in CF, not a lock to stay there."
Danny Knobler tweeted a line he heard from a scout:
"One scout on Puig: 'You see him on the right day, he could be Vladimir Guerrero.'"
Jesse Sanchez, the MLB.com reporter who broke the story, had this to say about him on June 19:
"Puig is not as seasoned as fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, a familiar member of Cuba's National team who signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A's in February, but he has more experience on the country's highest level than outfielder Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs last week."
Puig is a big kid at 6'3, 210 pounds. Some reports say he has raw power, despite what Goldstien tweeted. But he doesn't have as much power as Soler. Puig might be a more complete package than Soler, leading the Dodgers and their scouts to However, he might be better than Soler in a few different categories.

While both Puig and Soler have question marks about their hit tools, Puig could be a better defender. The fact that he has center field experience already gives him a leg up defensively. He also has better speed than Soler.

Here's a highlight video of him via YouTube:



My quick scouting report

Defense/Arm: He made a nice diving catch in right field and doubled-up a guy at second base. The throw as strong and accurate despite him throwing a little bit off his back foot. That's impressive.

Hitting/Power: He doesn't have much of a stride because he picks his front foot up, puts it back down and twists it to generate the bat speed (as you can see in the screen grab). His stance is quiet and he holds his hands at about chest level. He has to pull them back a touch as the pitch is delivered, so that's something to keep an eye on going forward. He reached for a couple pitches on the outer half, but he also looks to have legitimate opposite-field pop and a willingness to go that way. The beginning of his stance looks almost a little like Moises Alou.

Speed: Didn't get to see it much, but trust other reports. Made it to second base and had really good range in right field to track down the gapper. This could be his best tool.

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This move comes just four days before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kicks in. If Puig (and the Dodgers) had waited, the most he could have been signed for is $2.9 million. Instead, the Dodgers land him for $42 million. Jon Heyman tweeted and said it wasn't even the highest offer. The White Sox and Cubs were said to be interested. In situations like this, the Yankees and Red Sox probably also had interest.

After missing out on Soler, the Dodgers had to make a splash. I'd say this qualifies. At this price, he's definitely going in my midseason prospect list, but I'm just not sure where yet.

I'm purely speculating here, but I don't see Puig starting in rookie ball. He's played at the highest level in Cuba, is 21 and  signed a huge deal. I hope he starts -- at worst -- with the Loons in Great Lakes. I'm not sure starting him in crowded rookie ball is the way to go.

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