Over the past few seasons it’s become increasingly important to pay attention to the first year player draft and international signing periods. Stars are born and your dynasty leagues championships can be decided based on how well researched you are in this particular area. I’m not going to sit here and say you need to pick over recent draftees or international signings to win your league, but the research now can pay dividends later. With this in mind I’m starting a new feature throughout the season where we’ll discuss a handful of players each post to be aware of. At this point in the year it could be players that recently signed (Yasiel Sierra) or those than recently defected (Lazarito or Gourriel brothers). We’ll also discuss a couple of college players and a prep or two. The ultimate goal is educate the Razznation of the potential future stars at the beginning of the pipeline.
Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros, OF | Cuba – The most dynamic young talent to come out of Cuba since……well, last year when Yoan Moncada defected, but still Lazarito is the new hotness on the streets. He’s 16, is built like a brick Lifshitz-house, and has all the defected drama of 4 Yusiel Puig’s. He’s been compared to Bo Jackson and Willie Mays, that’s like me being compared to Hemmingway and Faulkner. Heady company. Either way he looks to be the top option at the moment in 2017 first year player drafts.
Lourdes Gourriel Jr., 2B/SS | Cuba – So quick story I was picking second in the “Devil’s Rejects” dynasty league run by the good folks over at Fangraphs a few weeks ago, and hadn’t heard the news that the Gourriel brothers had defected. So at pick two I took top catching prospect Willson Contreras, only to find out that hours earlier the news broke about the brothers defecting. This league’s setup is funny because you’re allowed to draft anyone. Seriously, I could draft Grey if I wanted to. Though I hear the only thing major league about his game is his mustache, but that’s another story for another time. This was a real buzzkill, as the Gourriel’s are considered the first family of Cuban baseball, and Lourdes Jr. in particular is considered one of the most talented prospects on the island. As for an actual scouting report it’s tough to pin down, but needless to say his numbers speak for themselves, as he hit .314 with 16 homers and 72 rbi’s last season in 97 games for Havana’s Industriales. At the moment he’s 22 and still subject to the international signing rules which limits his potential payday. For this reason many feel he may hold off until after his 23rd birthday in October to sign. At that point he’ll be considered a true free agent and his contract won’t be capped. The comp I’ve read most frequently is a young Ryan Zimmerman, which jaded fantasy baseballer, you’ll remember is much better than an old (juiced up?) Ryan Zimmerman.
Yulieski Gourriel, 2B/3B | Cuba – The older brother of the previously mentioned Lourdes, Yulieski has long been considered the best player on the island having taken home multiple MVP awards. He’s spent some time in Japan, as Cuban players are allowed to play in Japan and Mexico with little to no restrictions. In the NPL Yulieski hit .305 with 11 homers in 62 games and has drawn comparisons to MLB vets like Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, and that was before the two of them started to suck. If and when Yulieski signs he should immediately be jettisoned to the MLB roster of what ever club he chooses, with the anticipation of an immediate impact.
Yasiel Sierra, RHP | Cuba (signed with LAD) – This has to be the most difficult Cuban defector in recent memory to figure out. Some say he possess the nastiest stuff of any pitcher on the international market. After signing with the Dodgers later last month there has been some speculation as to whether he’s a starter or a bullpen arm, with the majority of the reports I’ve read placing him in the pen. The comps I’ve seen most frequently have been Raisel Iglesias.
A.J. Puk, LHP | Florida – A 6’7 lefty many consider to be the best pitching prospect in the 2016 MLB draft. Puk is as nasty as he wants to be like like 2 Live Crew with a triple digits fastball, a plus slide piece, and a solid change. He looks destined for high k rates and a quick ascension to the majors. If you’re the kind of guy that prefers pitchers to hitters, you might be targeting Puk with a top pick in your first year player drafts next year.
Alec Hansen, RHP | Oklahoma – A 6’7 righty, Hansen is considered only second to A.J. Puk in terms of stuff and potential. He’s another college arm with a big fastball and a couple of good breaking balls. A three quarters delivery helps him throw on a downhill plain, or it could be the height. Most evaluators prefer Puk, but Hansen’s breaking balls grade higher while still possessing a 70 grade heater.
Cory Ray, OF | Louisville – A five tool offensive prospect, Ray posses the ability to hit for both power and average with plus speed. He’s got a compact left handed swing that sprays the balls to all fields, but still needs to improve his approach at the plate. More than likely a top 5-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Buddy Reed, OF | Florida – A superb athlete, Reed is considered the top hitter on a loaded Florida Gators team. At the moment he’s more of a base stealing prospect than a potential middle of the order bat. On the plus side he’s a switch hitter with developing strength but he’s going to have to refine his swing in order to reach full potential. He’s the type of player to be described as toolsy with scouts focusing on the untapped potential in his raw tools.