Cuban ballplayers Vladimir Gutierrez and Dainer Moreira have defected, according to Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today. The pair was playing for the Cuban entrant in the Caribbean Series, currently being held in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Both players will need to establish residency in another country to establish their eligibility to sign with major league teams. Gutierrez will be subject to international bonus pool limits, while the more senior Moreira will be exempt.
As Ben Badler of Baseball America writes, the right-handed Gutierrez is one of the island’s best-regarded pitching prospects. Just 19 years old, his frame allows for a projection of velocity growth and he already features what might be the best curveball in Cuba, in Badler’s estimation. Gutierrez has trended upwards since placing twelfth on BA’s list of Cuba’s best prospects, Badler writes. Working from the pen in the island’s top-level Serie Nacional, Gutierrez tossed 51 1/3 strong innings in the just-concluded season (2.45 ERA, 49 strikeouts versus 19 walks).
Badler says that Moreira, a middle infielder, is “more on par with a minor league free agent than a real prospect.” That assessment derives both from his age — at least 28 and as old as 30, depending upon what roster is referenced — and his limitations on the field. Though he posted an interesting .332/.397/.368 line last year, striking out just eleven times in 277 trips to the plate, Moreira is said to have “awkward hitting mechanics,” no pop, and a fringe arm at shortstop.