Here’s the latest player news from abroad…
- A recent goodwill trip to Cuba from several Major League stars was “the greatest experience of my life,” Lourdes Gurriel Jr. tells MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Gurriel, possibly the top Cuban prospect still in the country and the latest member of Cuban baseball’s most iconic family, was honored to meet such stars as Miguel Cabrera (“my hero,” Gurriel said) and Clayton Kershaw. He also received an informative pep talk from Jon Jay about what’s expected to play in the big leagues, and “hearing those words from a Major League player is something that will stay with me forever,” Gurriel said. The youngest Gurriel and his older brother Yuliesky — considered by many as the best player in the Serie Nacional — have both drawn lots of attention from MLB scouts but Lourdes Jr. insists that they will only leave Cuba with the government’s permission. (Note: the brothers are reportedly now going by ’Gurriel’ rather than the more commonly-known ’Gourriel’ spelling that the family has used for decades.)
- The Cardinals’ signing of Seung-hwan Oh marks what the club hopes is the beginning of a strong pipeline of Asian talent, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes. In a three-part series (all links here), Langosch details how the Cards have developed their process for scouting Asian players essentially from scratch over the last decade. The piece also includes the news that St. Louis had interest in Nobuhiro Matsuda as a utility infielder earlier this winter before the team instead traded for Jedd Gyorko.
- The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are holding their spring camp in Arizona at the Padres’ Spring Training facility, giving North American scouts a first-hand look at right-hander Shohei Otani, Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell writes. Otani is only 21 but he was attracting interest from MLB scouts even out of high school before deciding to begin his pro career in Japan. Otani owns a 101-mph fastball and has a 2.72 ERA and 421 strikeouts (against 136 walks) over his first 377 2/3 career innings, and he also has a .729 OPS in 557 PA as a part-time outfielder.