Analyzing Cuba's Roster Against The Rays
Cuba’s roster for Tuesday’s game in Havana against the Rays is the worst Cuban national team in recent memory. Players leaving the island to pursue major league contracts have decimated the country’s talent pool, leaving Cuba with a roster filled with older players of little interest to major league clubs and a severely depleted pitching staff. Cuba’s best remaining player, outfielder Alfredo Despaigne, hasn’t played in Cuba at all this season and won’t play against the Rays because he’s currently in Japan gearing up for another season in Nippon Professional Baseball. Catchers Yosvani Alarcon Frank Morejon Osvaldo Vazquez Infielders Yorbis Borroto Yurisbel Gracial Alexander Malleta Yordan Manduley Yunior Paumier Rudy Reyes William Saavedra Yordanis Samon Andy Sarduy Juan Carlos Torriente Outfielders Guillermo Aviles Stayler Hernandez Jose Adolis Garcia Denis Laza Roel Santos Yoandry Urgelles Pitchers Freddy Alvarez Vladimir Banos Danny Betancourt Yunier Cano Jose Angel Garcia Livan Moinelo Jonder Martinez Miguel Lahera Alexander Rodriguez Yosvani Torres Yoanni Yera Hitters To Watch The players of most interest to major league teams are in the outfield, though even that segment of the roster is missing some of the country’s better prospects in deference to more experienced players. Jose Adolis Garcia, the brother of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, is one of the toolsiest players in Cuba. He’s a 23-year-old with plus speed and a 70 arm who hit .315/.395/.517 with 14 home runs in 380 plate appearances, though his free-swinging approach would give him problems against better pitching. He ranked as the No. 20 player in Cuba last year in April. Guillermo Aviles is a 23-year-old lefty with a smooth swing who hit .347/.436/.490 in 365 plate appearances. Aviles has stood out to scouts for his bat since he was a teenager, though he still has a slender frame and his power would have to pick up to be able to handle a job as an everyday corner outfielder at the major league level. Aviles ranked as the No. 14 player in Cuba last year in April. Though he’s not very big, Roel Santos is one of the fastest players in Cuba. He’s a 29-year-old lefty with a slap-and-dash approach and typically shows a good eye at the plate, batting .286/.400/.375 in 411 plate appearances with 59 walks, 25 strikeouts and 29 stolen bases in 36 attempts. Santos ranked as the No. 15 player in Cuba last year in April, although his stock has declined since then. Two intriguing young players from Cuba’s pre-selection roster, Dairon Blanco and Ruben Paz, did not make the final cut of the roster. Three of the best young players in Cuba right now are a trio of teenage outfielders—Julio Pablo Martinez, Victor Mesa and Luis Robert—none of whom are on the roster against the Rays either. None of the infielders on the roster do much to excite from a major league perspective. Yurisbel Gracial, 30, would have a chance to be a utility man, with the versatility to play shortstop, third base and center field. He hit .326/.440/.562 with more walks (61) than strikeouts (37), 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases (with nine caught stealing) in 383 plate appearances. Pitchers To Watch The pitching the Rays will face is a staff full of pitchers who throw in the 84-89 mph range, mostly relying on some variation of a fastball/slider/splitter repertoire.The biggest disappointment is that righthander Vladimir Garcia, who was on the pre-selection roster, isn’t on the final roster as he's reportedly dealt with right knee soreness. Garcia’s stock dropped after he missed most of the 2014-15 season with a shoulder injury and his stuff backed up, but he was showing a strong fastball again last month at the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic. The two pitchers to watch are righthander Yunier Cano and lefthander Livan Moinelo, both relievers. Cano, 22, has a projectable frame, long arms and a low-90s fastball that can hit 93-94 mph, although his command needs improvement. Moinelo is a little lefty (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) but has excellent feel for pitching for a 20-year-old. His fastball is light, sitting at 86-89 mph and peaking at 91, but he throws a lot of strikes. He messes with hitters’ timing by throwing any pitch in any count, with a plus changeup that can be a swing-and-miss pitch catching hitters way out front.