The Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a deal with 23-year-old Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on Friday. The deal was first reported by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez and the terms of the contract — seven years, $22 million — was first reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
The reports I’ve gotten from international scouts regarding Gurriel are solid, if unspectacular. Scouts see the physical talent to play at second, third, or the corner outfield and one source with whom I spoke thought he’d have a chance of playing center field with reps. His arm is plus and he’s an average runner (above-average underway) with passable defensive actions on the infield.
Offensively, it’s been a while since scouts have seen Gurriel in an in-game setting and his timing against live pitching has come into question. Timing is going to be especially important for Gurriel, whose swing can get long due to lever length and features more of a ground-ball plane than it does the sort of loft typically associated with corner-worthy power. He has above-average raw pop but scouts are concerned that he might not tap into it due to contact issues and the bat path. Gurriel’s measurables indicate that the body has more to give and that he might grow into more power as he ages, but he’s already 23 and his older brother Yulieski has remained lean into his 30s, so most scouts think the cement on the body is dry.
The tool profile here is well rounded but not spectacular, fringe to average hit and game power. If that kind of bat can play all over the field then that would be quite valuable — and Gurriel did indeed play second, third, short, and left field in 2015, his final year of pro ball in Cuba. Of the 56 games he played that year, 40 of them came in left. Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Toronto currently expects him to start 2017 in Double-A, where he’ll play shortstop to start. Passan implied the corner outfield was a realistic destination but it was unclear whether or not that assessment was independent of the team’s thinking. Either way, I agree.
Gurriel waited until after he turned 23 last month to sign with an MLB club, as doing so made him exempt from international amateur bonus pools. The market for his services was entirely open for all teams and and he got just over $3 million in average annual value over seven years. Yasmany Tomas, by comparison, got $68.5 million over six years as a 24-year-old in 2014. I think the deal reinforces the corner-first utility-man scouting reports and one executive mentioned Sean Rodriguez as a comp for the tools and skills, if not the body. Potential 23-year-old stars don’t get $22 mil on the open market.
I saw a few other Cuban prospects this week. Notes on them are below:
Dairon Blanco, CF (BP Video) – An 80 runner (ran sub-6.3 in the 60-yd dash for every watch in attendance) with a 40 arm and max-effort 45 raw power. Fringe bat speed during BP, potential fourth outfielder/pinch-runner. Blanco is 23.
Raidel Chacon, OF (BP Video) – An 80 name, 55 raw power and a great body at 22 years old. Stiff, below-average athlete, 30 arm, had extreme difficulty with his footwork during outfield drills.
Yorlis Rodriguez, SS (BP Video) – Only 17 years old. Future plus arm, fringe athleticism and body control. Defensive footwork is good, hands are not. Had a plus run time in the 60 but took a bit of a running start and was average down the line to first in hitting drills. Has 40 present raw power, comfortable and conservative but not explosive during BP. Generally lacks twitch in all facets but that might come with regular games. Was the only infielder in the workout and was clearly exhausted taking one grounder after another during drills.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.