Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez will headline a showcase of four Cuban prospects at the University of Miami today, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). Also working out for teams will be left-hander Ariel Miranda, outfielder Gelkis Jimenez and catcher Lednier Ricardo.
Ibanez, 22, has garnered the most attention of this quartet by a long shot. He was first reported to have defected from Cuba last October, with later reports indicating that he had made his way to the Dominican Republic. Last August, Baseball America ranked Ibanez eighth on a list of the top players still in Cuba, noting that he didn’t have premium tools or superstar upside but was a solid across-the-board contributor at second base.
Because he is under 23 years of age and has less than five years of professional experience in Cuba, Ibanez is subject to international spending limitations. As such, the Cubs and Rangers are ineligible to sign him for more than $250K after vastly exceeding their 2013-14 bonus pools. That effectively crosses them off the list of suitors, unless Ibanez elects to sign after July 2, which would move him into the 2015-16 signing period and clear Chicago and Texas to make aggressive bids. Of course, waiting until July 2 would remove the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels and D-Backs from the equation, as each has handily exceeded their bonus pools in this signing period and would be unable to offer Ibanez more than $300K were he to wait that long.
In January, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that Ibanez could very well be the next prospect to bust a team’s international bonus pool. While Ibanez’s signing bonus isn’t expected to approach the jaw-dropping record of countryman Yoan Moncada, Badler did note that Ibanez is a better prospect than Angels farmhand Roberto Baldoquin, who commanded an $8MM signing bonus this past offseason. In parts of three seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the 5’11”, 185-pound Ibanez is a .283/.348/.419 hitter. Those numbers are a bit skewed by a rather mediocre age-18 rookie campaign, however, when Ibanez mustered just a .692 OPS. His OPS over the two subsequent seasons was north of .800.
Ibanez is said to have drawn interest from the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Padres, D-Backs, Mariners and Brewers, with Sanchez listing the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres as the likeliest landing spots back in February. Clearly, much could have changed since that time. Sanchez also noted that he’s heard Ibanez compared to the likes of Omar Infante, Howie Kendrick, Placido Polanco and, perhaps less favorably, Miguel Cairo.
As for the others, less is known about their upside than that of Ibanez. However, Baseball-Reference’s recent addition of Cuban statistics to its offerings at least allows us to view their track records of performance in Cuba’s top league. The 25-year-old Miranda should be eligible to sign a contract of any amount based on his age and experience. He owns a lifetime 3.78 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 386 innings in Cuba. His best work came in his final season, the 2013-14 campaign, in which he posted a 3.24 ERA with an 80-to-28 K/BB ratio in 77 2/3 innings of work.
Jimenez, 23, lacks the necessary experience to be declared a professional under the international signing rules and is thereby subject to bonus pools. He’s a .270/.329/.326 hitter in parts of three seasons with little power or speed to speak of, based on his stats.
The 27-year-old Ricardo is exempt from spending limitations but comes with a fairly limited track record himself, it would seem. He’s batted .256/.320/.371 in parts of six Cuban seasons, averaging a homer every 52 plate appearances or so throughout his pro career. He held a showcase last July, and as MLBTR reported, about a dozen teams were present, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds.