Fleet-footed Cuban outfielder Dairon Blanco has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America (via Twitter). Badler reported back in May that Blanco had left his home country in search of a contract with a Major League club. Though he’s 23 years of age — the minimum to be exempt from international bonus pools — Blanco only has four years of pro experience in Cuba and is therefore still subject to those league-allotted pools.
Per Badler’s May writeup, Blanco has 80 speed on the 20-80 scale and has been clocked from home to first at under four seconds from the right-handed batter’s box. He’s a career .303/.369/.409 hitter in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, and he hit a career-high eight homers with a career-best 29 steals in a 2015-16 season that saw him post a .296/.352/.427 slash line. Blanco has punched out in just 12.9 percent of his professional plate appearances in Cuba and has walked at an 8.9 percent clip. Badler notes that he’s played both center and right field, writing that despite some occasional shaky defensive instincts in 2015-16 he did win a Gold Glove in 2014-15. His mechanics at the plate, however, could seemingly use some refinement.
Blanco actually participated in a showcase just yesterday, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez was in attendance. Sanchez tweeted out several photos as well as video of Blanco taking batting practice, adding that the speedster notched a 6.25 in the 60-yard dash, which would indeed be considered an 80 by most scouts. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, too, tweeted some video of Blanco’s BP and agreed that he has 80 speed but placed a below-average 40 grade on his throwing arm, which would suggest that left field is his best placement on the diamond.
While Blanco appears to be an intriguing addition to the free-agent market, it’s also worth noting that he’ll probably require some degree of minor league work before jumping directly into the mix against MLB pitching. Still, with his age and pro experience, it’s not out of the question to think that he could be an option in the Majors at some point in 2017