JAN. 23: Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports (via Twitter) that catcher Lorenzo Quintana defected from Cuba alongside Heredia. Quintana did not appear on any of Badler’s rankings of the top players remaining in Cuba, though McDaniel notes in a second tweet that the 25-year-old is also exempt from international spending limitations.
JAN. 21: Center fielder Guillermo Heredia has defected from Cuba in order to pursue a contract with a Major League club, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The 23-year-old Heredia is old enough and has enough professional experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional to be exempt from international spending limitations.
Badler ranked Heredia, who will 24 at the end of the month, as the 11th-best player in Cuba back in August, and while Badler notes that he’d drop Heredia on a newer list, that’s due more to the emergence of young players than anything Heredia has done to drop his stock.
Heredia runs well and is a plus defender in center field with good range and reads as well as a strong throwing arm, Badler writes. While he hit .343/.449/.527 in 443 plate appearances in the 2011-12 season, his offense has slipped since that time, with his slugging percentage checking in below .400 and an on-base percentage of roughly .380. Heredia had just one plate appearance this season — singling in his club’s first game — before he left the team and was subsequently suspended.
Previous reports have speculated that his absence and suspension were due to an attempt at defecting, and that is now indeed the case, although Heredia has a long ways to go until he can sign with a club. He’ll first need to establish residency in another country and be cleared by both Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control before signing with a club. As such, it seems unlikely that he’d be eligible to sign prior to Opening Day.
In a lengthier scouting report (subscription required and highly recommended), Badler provides more detail, ultimately likening Heredia to a right-handed-hitting version of Jackie Bradley due to his penchant for highlight-reel catches and elite glove but questionable offensive profile. In Badler’s estimation, it’s possible for Heredia to begin his career at the Major League level, or at the very least, in Triple-A.