Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Young Cuban shortstop defects to U.S.

A slick-fielding Cuban prospect has just defected to the United States, and he has one of the longest surnames in the history of baseball in Cuba.

He is Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena, a 23-year-old, right-handed hitting shortstop.

In 2008-09, at 18 years old, he was playing in Serie Nacional, Cuba's top league, for Cienfuegos, a year in which he hit .242 with an OPS of .596. He went 8-for-12 as a base stealer, but provided solid defense as the starting shortstop.

By 2009-10, he had upped his offensive game to the tune of .257 and a far better OPS of .704, and improved again the next season, hitting .280/.314/.484 with eight home runs and 57 strikeouts.

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  • In 2011-12, Arruebarruena seemed to have a firmer grasp on the offensive end, hitting .320 with an .887 OPS, eight home runs, 19 walks, and 39 strikeouts. 

    In 2013, Arruebarruena played in the World Baseball Classic for Cuba, during which Baseball America (which has a tremendous profile on him) ranked him the No. 10 prospect.

    This past July, Cuba and the U.S. played a friendly five-game series in Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Nebraska, and North Carolina, during which Arruebarruena fanned in four of seven plate appearances despite dazzling with his glove.

    His defense has drawn comparisons to the Tigers' Jose Iglesias, considered a top Red Sox prospect until a trade this season.

    The Phillies have shaken their historically dormant status when it comes to international signings, but they do have a shortstop. Jimmy Rollins is signed through 2014, making $11 million a year.

    Arruebarruena is due to turn 24 on May 25, and with at least one more year of Jimmy, the Phils could feasibly bring in a hot young shortstop if they see immense appeal in him, and let him develop as Rollins runs out the clock.

    However, with options like Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez already in the wings, and Rollins' own offensive downfall in the last few seasons, there is a wealth of glove-only (or mostly) infielders already here.

    Having signed an outfielder and secured his catcher, Ruben Amaro Jr. will likely stay the course and focus on pitching, both in the bullpen and rotation, while taking a gander at another outfielder.

    Justin Klugh Sports
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