The MLB commissioner’s office has declared Cuban hurlers Norge Ruiz and Cionel Perez free agents, leaving them free to sign with any team, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Both will remain subject to international bonus pool restrictions.
As Badler notes, both players required long waits to obtain their clearance to sign. Both Ruiz and Perez left their home island way back in May of 2015 (see here and here), but only just reached eligibility. Clearly, there is still a long ways to go smooth the transition for players seeking to jump from Cuban ball to affiliated organizations.
The right-handed Ruiz, now 22, is seen as one of the top recent pitching prospects from Cuba. Badler has suggested that he’s ready for the Double-A level, with an advanced mix of pitches that he generally mixes and commands well. With mid-rotation upside, he’s a highly intriguing target.
And Perez, a 20-year-old southpaw, has also shown promise during his work in the Serie Nacional. His stuff isn’t as polished, per Badler, but he is working on refining secondary offerings to go with a low-nineties heater. Perez isn’t considered prepared for an aggressive assignment in the upper minors, but seems to be a rather intriguing young pitcher in his own right.
Both players are slated to pitch in the Dominican winter league in a few months’ time, rather than relying simply upon showcases. That figures to afford major league organizations a long and valuable look at how they stack up against high-quality competition.