Yasmany Tomas, LF
Hit: 40/45+, Game Power: 55/65, Raw Power: 70/70, Speed: 45/45+, Field: 45/50, Arm: 45/45+
Upside: .275/.350/.480 with 25-30 homers, fringy defense & baserunning value in left field
Note: The “upside” line is basically a 75 percentile projection as explained here, while the tool grades are a 50 percentile projection. See the scale here to convert the hit/power tool grades into production.
Tomas is the latest Cuban defector to hit the market: he should be declared a free agent shortly and is holding private workouts in the Dominican this week after a big open workout for over 100 scouts from all 30 clubs on Sunday at the Giants Dominican complex. The above video is from last summer when the Cuban national team faced college Team USA in Durham, North Carolina. The Cuban team had a lot of trouble making contact against a loaded USA pitching staff (five pitchers from the staff went in the first round last June) and Tomas in particular struggled, going 3-for-19 with 3 singles, 1 walk and 8 punch outs over the 5 game set. Tomas was in bad shape and looked lost at the plate at times when I saw him, but he has shown big league ability in other international tournaments and as a professional in Cuba.
The carrying tool here is raw power, which draws anywhere from 60 to 70 grades on the 20-80 scale from scouts, but the question mark is how much he will hit. Tomas has a short bat path for a power hitter and quick hands that move through the zone quickly. The tools are here for at least an average hitter, but Tomas’ plate discipline has been questioned and he can sometimes sell out for pull power in games (here’s video of a particularly long homer in the WBC). Some scouts think it’s more of a 40-45 bat (.240 to .250 average) that may keep Tomas from getting to all of his raw power in games, while others see a soon-to-be-24-year-old with the tools to hit and think the hot streak of Cuban hitters in the big leagues will continue with him.
Some recent Cuban defectors, like recently signed Red Sox CF Rusney Castillo, have completely changed their body between defecting from Cuba and being declared a free agent. Tomas has lost some weight but is still a big kid, at about 6’1/230. He turned in an average run time in the 60 yard dash at his workout Sunday, but his speed plays more fringy to below average in games and his fringy to below average arm makes him a left field fit. Some scouts said they’ve seen Tomas’ arm be solid-average at times in the past, so there’s a chance he could work in right field as well.
The consensus is that as a prospect Tomas ranks behind White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, who got six years and $68 million before the season, as Tomas is a riskier bat with less of a track record and a little less raw power. Many scouts prefer Castillo, who got seven years and $72.5 million last month, as Castillo is a plus-plus runner that can play an up-the-middle position and is a little better bet to hit for some scouts, as well. That said, Abreu and Castillo were both signed for their age-27 seasons while Tomas will be 24 next year and should be big league ready at some point in 2015. Scouts on the low-end for Tomas mention Dayan Viciedo as a comparable while more scouts think Yoenis Cespedes is a better offensive comparison, though Cespedes is quicker-twitch athlete with more speed and defense value.
With that scouting report and comparables, the rumors that Tomas may get $100 million or more seem crazy, but there are some market conditions to keep in mind:
1. Each successive Cuban hitter that signs a big deal keeps meeting or beating expectations: Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler, Cespedes and Abreu
2. Tomas is offering his peak years in a 6-7 year deal (to cover his 6 control seasons and possibly some minor league time)
3. Power is always in demand on the free agent market.
4. Draft pick compensation is not involved.
Taking those points into consideration, we’re looking at age 24 through 29 or 30 for a hitter that carries some risk but generally projects as a solid 2-win player with upside to become a 3-win player. With wins being valued at $6 million or more, discounts for performance risk and a long-term deal with premiums for no draft pick compensation and age means that $10-15 million per year is a reasonable expectation for a winning bid. I specify winning bid because a number of clubs, due to payroll constraints or differing evaluations (very common for Cuban players), have Tomas as a roughly $50 million value for the expected 6-7 year deal.
With Tomas’ age and the recent Cuban hitter hot streak pushing some teams to be a little more aggressive than usual, I could definitely see the price ending up around $100 million. There were rumors circulating at the workout on Sunday in the Dominican that Tomas already has a $90 million offer in hand and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that were true.
There’s a number of clubs that have been mentioned in the mix for Tomas and I would expect the winning bid to be a 7-year deal for $10-15 million per season, which would give a range of $70 million to $105 million. The list of interested clubs is still muddled, but the Giants and Phillies are seen as the favorites with the Rangers, Yankees, Tigers and Mets all expected to be in the mix.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.