Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:31 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 8:24 am

Cuban star Cespedes hoping to make jump to majors

By Evan Brunell

Is baseball ready for "A New Hope"?

That's what Yoenis Cespedes is hoping after releasing a bizarre promotional workout video. Cespedes, 26, defected from Cuba in the summer and is nearing approval to sign with an MLB team as a free agent, Yahoo Sports writes.

As part of that attempt, Cespedes participated in a promotional video that pays homage to his accomplishments on the field and impressive physical attributes in a glitzy way, ending with a closeup of a hog being roasted on a spit because ... well, who knows. In the video, he performs various athletic activities designed to impress -- and he succeeds. One particularly interesting moment was when Cespedes made two consecutive behind-the-back basket catches in the outfield, which takes an enormous amount of proprioception (Princeton definition: "The ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts.") and ability to track the ball.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that a source who attended an open workout on Friday in the Dominican Republic, where Cespedes is basing his new home in order to be declared an international free agent, compared the righty to top Angels prospect Mike Trout, who is currently the best five-tool prospect and made his major-league debut at age 19 for the Angels in 2011. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees have significant interest in Cespedes and are expected to pursue him heavily, but there will be no shortage of other suitors for Cespedes to pick from as many clubs could use a center fielder dripping with talent.

The Marlins, who are based in Miami, which boasts a large Cuban population, are currently considered the favorites to land Cespedes, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes.

“This may be the big one for the Miami Marlins,” a source told the paper. “He fits all their needs [on and off the field].”

Cespedes is looking for a contract similar to Aroldis Chapman's deal with the Reds, which was worth $30 million when the fireballing lefty signed in January 2010. Cespedes may even be able to outdo Chapman's contract when all is said and done, especially in a weak free-agent class that will leave many teams with money burning a hole in their pocket and no one to spend it on.

Cespedes is the owner of the home run record in Cuba, having slammed 33 in 90 games over the 2010-11 season, hitting .333/.424/.667. A deal that hands him $30 million is very possible, as a source says. Cespedes “is a legitimate center fielder with power, so I understand why they think they can get $30 million," the source told Yahoo!. "They might get more.”

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:53 am

Pepper: Moustakas on hot streak


By Evan Brunell

GETTING HOT: Mike Moustakas didn't find the major leagues much to his liking in the early going, but things have turned around thanks to a recent tear that's lifted Moose's batting average to .206.

That's an accomplishment when it was at .182 mere days ago. Over the last five games, the third baseman has collected eight hits in 16 trips to the plate, doing much of his damage against the Red Sox who just completed a four-game series with Kansas City.

“Whenever you’re going bad,” Moustakas told the Kansas City Star, “you need those little things here and there to pick you back up, and this homestand kind of helped me out.”

Also encouraging from the 22-year-old is the three doubles collected during his five-game hot streak, a display of power that hasn't been around this year. It's taken quite some time for Moustakas to get used to the majors, but the Royals have proven to be very patient. Working in Moustakas' favor is that he's struggled at every single new level he's risen, so if history is any indication, he will snap out of his slump in due time.

Moustakas credits his turnaround with working alongside hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to close up his front shoulder more when at the plate. He needed some time to get into a groove with the new stance, but results are starting to show.

“Anytime you change something, it’s gonna feel uncomfortable,” Moustakas said. “But Seitz told me just stick with it, it’s gonna work out. And it ended up working out right now. I’m hitting the ball harder, squaring a little more balls up, so it’s paying off.”

: The Brewers have started up a tradition, making hand gestures after a big play that translates to "beast mode." The inspiration came from the movie Monsters Inc. and describes what Milwaukee has been up to lately with a 22-3 record in its last 25 games.

"I don't want it getting carried away," manager Ron Roenicke said of the new trend to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Do I like it? Not particularly. But I don't think I'll say, 'Don't do it.' If I see it getting worse, I'll say no. I didn't like when the Rangers did the 'antlers' thing [last year]. If you're old school, you're not going to get along in the game these days."

BEST DRAFT: It's been a week since the deadline for drafted players to sign has passed. With a few days to digest, Jim Callis came up with the top five drafts, with the Nationals heading the list. Also ranking among the top five are the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Pirates and Rays. (Baseball America)

COMPLETE PACKAGE: The New York Times ran a profile on Miguel Cabrera, who is one of the best young players in the game. Seriously -- he doesn't seem to be considered a superstar, but maybe he should be, as this factoid suggests: "Only five players in major-league history have had 1,500 hits and 250 homers, while hitting .310 or better, through their age-28 season. They are Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols and Cabrera."

BEST BALLPARK: Four teenagers went on a trip, taking in games at all 30 stadiums in 54 days. The best stadium according to the four? Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark -- a quality park, but not one you usually hear as the best. It may have helped that they witnessed a walkoff in the Reds game. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

LOSING CUBA: A wave of defections across Cuban sports have recently left a void in Cuba, where sports is not a lucrative field. That's caused many athletes to defect in the aim to compete against higher competition and make more money. To help address the problem, Cuba is finally considering allowing its athletes to play abroad. (Associated Press, via The Globe and Mail)

LOOKING BACK: A year ago this week, Cody Ross was claimed off waivers by the Giants. The Padres were also interested in Ross, but the division leaders at that point declined to put in a claim while San Francisco won his rights. Of course, Ross ended up a postseason hero, while the Padres were frozen out -- but to hear GM Jed Hoyer say it, he would make the same move again. (Tom Krasovic, Inside the Padres)

MAKING FUN OF WERTH: Phillies fans have a new favorite pastime, which is making fun of Jayson Werth. Still roundly booed for taking a lucrative deal to play for the Nationals, the ex-Phillie felt the "love" during a homestand in which Phillies fans virtually took over Nationals Park. A Philadelphia car dealer got in on the fun, running an anti-Werth ad on Philadelphia sites. (Washington Post)

: Jesse Litsch challenged fans to find him in Wonderland, an amusement park near Toronto. The winner received two tickets to Tuesday's game, but it took until Litsch winning a gigantic Spongebob prize and tweeting about it for him to be spotted. (Toronto Star)

MOST HANDSOME SOPHOMORE: SI.com has photos from high school of 28 athletes, and Nolan Ryan and Barry Bonds are among the stars. One one came away with the designation of most handsome sophomore, though -- that being Ryan, who was among the 1965 class.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 10, 2011 5:43 pm

Futures Game: Yonder Alonso on LF, Cuba and more

By C. Trent Rosecrans

PHOENIX --Reds prospect Yonder Alonso is in his second Futures Game this weekend at Chase Field in Phoenix and is off to good start at Triple-A Louisville, but because he's primarily a first baseman, the Reds aren't in any need to bring him up to the big leagues because they're set at first base with reigning National League MVP Joey Votto playing first.

Alonso has started playing left field in an attempt to be more versatile and as a way to get his bat into the Reds' lineup. It's a good strategy, as he's hitting .298/.372/.490 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI for Triple-A Louisville. His manager, Rick Sweet, said he's making strides in left and is doing well in the field. Alonso said he's enjoying his time in the outfield as well. He's stating at first base for the World team on Sunday for the Futures Game, but said he had to take some extra infield because it's the first time he's play first in the last three weeks.

Born in Cuba, Alonso's family left the island when he was young and he grew up in Miami. He talks about the difficult feelings wearing the Cuban flag on his chest for the game brings up, among other topics.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 5:42 pm

Rays release Cuban first baseman Ruiz

The Rays have released Cuban first baseman Jose Ruiz, turning down his four-year, $4 million option.

Ruiz hit .272/.358/.348 with one home run and 11 RBI in 106 plate appearances for Double-A Montgomery. The 25-year old also played for the Peoria  Sanguaros of the Arizona Fall League, hitting .323/.356/375 with 11 RBI in 96 at-bats.

Ruiz is now a free agent.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Category: MLB
Tags: Cuba, Jose Ruiz, Rays
Posted on: November 15, 2010 6:23 pm

Latest baseball defector from Cuba is 17-year-old

For Cubans to chase their dream of playing in the major leagues, it requires the major step of defecting from the country, leaving behind friends and family.

Most defectors tend to be older -- think Jose Contreras or Orlando Hernandez -- but younger players have been streaming across the border recently. You can now add 17-year-old Yasiel Balaguer to that list, who recently defected to Nicaragua.

"The number of young players who decide to come and try out for the Majors seems to keep growing by the day,'' agent Carlos Pérez said. "They realize that the age factor is of major importance.''

At such an early age, Balaguer could be coveted especially if the Miami Herald is correct in what its heard of Balaguer's talent.

The center fielder is a "natural leadoff batter and an explosive baserunner, is an extraordinary defensive player because of his arm, and displays offensive power," Jorge Ebro writes.

However, John Manuel of Baseball America says that BA's own reports on Balaguer "are modest."

Balaguer played on the Cuban team that played in the World Junior Baseball Championship in Canada this past summer. One of his teammates was supposed to be Marcos Barrios, but he skipped the tournament in order to defect. He is currently working through the process to declare international free agency.

The two are following in the footsteps of other players who defected from Cuba while in Canada in 2008 -- Jose Iglesias and Noel Argüelles. The 20- and 19-year-old, respectively, signed multimillion deals with baseball teams.

"All these cases are very similar,'' Pérez said. "The bottom line is that when it comes to the Major Leagues, for Cuban baseball players time is golden.''

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Category: MLB
Posted on: November 15, 2010 10:40 am

Cuban CF eyeing MLB

One of Cuba's best young players, 17-year old center fielder Yasiel Balaguer, is now in Nicaragua and looking toward the United States and the big leagues, Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald reports .

Balaguer played on Cuba's World Junior Baseball Championship this summer.

"No doubt about it, this kid is a prospect that could make an impact on the best baseball int eh world in a not-too-distant future," his agent, Carlos Perez told the newspaper. "He has enough talent to make it. The most important thing is his youth."

Ebro describes Balaguer as "a natural leadoff batter and an explosive baserunner" as well as having a good arm and power.

Perez also represents Marcos Barrios, a 17-year old pitcher who is also in the process of becoming a free agent and playing in the United States.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com