Top 2021 Cuban Prospects in the American League
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
From last year’s list Luis Robert, the top prospect on last year’s list graduated. Ronald Bolaños and Randy Arozarena moved from the National League to the American League. If you included Arozarena’s at bats from the playoffs he would have graduated, but he is still eligible as a rookie. Julio Pablo Martínez, Yordys Valdés and Orlando Martínez dropped from the list. Two new players who were signed by the White Sox in 2021 were added to this list.
1. Randy Arozarena OF (Rays) - No one has ever been hotter in the playoffs when Arozarena, who hit 10 homeruns in 20 playoff games. For the longest time Babe Ruth held the record for most homeruns in the post season with 15, but then during that era they only played one seven game series. Arozarena almost equaled that amount in one playoff year. Don’t expect that power to result in Ruthian numbers during the regular season. He hits the ball hard but it’ll probably settle in the 30 plus homerun range. He was signed by the Cardinals in 2016 for what was then a modest bonus of $1.25 million. He has failed to fall high on prospect lists, but myworld did rate him as the second rated Cuban prospect in the National League last year. He appears to have a good hit tool, with the ability to hit in the neighborhood of .300. His speed will allow him to play centerfield, but he is a better fit in a corner with an arm strong enough for right field. The Rays acquired him from the Cardinals for Mike Liberatore. Arozarena should start at a corner for the Rays in 2021 with possible spot starts in centerfield.
2. Roberto Campos OF (Tigers) - The Tigers paid out $2.85 million to sign Campos. Like a lot of Cubans, not a lot is known about the 17 year old. In the United States he would still be in high school. He has the big, right field frame at 6′3″ and 200 pounds. He left Cuba at 13 and trained at a facility in the Dominican Republic for three years. His batting practices are impressive, but there is no game like action to show what he can do with a mixture of different offerings. The speed is there to play center, but like Arozarena his best fit appears to be right. He will probably start the 2021 season in Low A, since there will not be any rookie leagues.
3. Yusniel Díaz OF ( Orioles) - The tools are there for him to be a major leaguer. Some question whether he has the motivation. The Dodgers wheel barreled out $15 million to sign him back in 2015. They traded him to the Orioles for a half season use of Manny Machado. He slogged around in AA for more than two years. This spring he was hoping to win a job with the Orioles, but he will probably start the season in AAA. His tools are probably just above average in all categories, but power wise and defense fall far short of Manny Machado. Because he lacks the burner speed to play center, how his power develops will determine whether his bat can fit into a corner. His highest homerun total is 11 with a career slugging average of .440. Most teams want to see higher production from a corner outfielder. He will need a good season in AAA in 2021 and a couple injuries before he fits with the Orioles.
4. Yoelquis Céspedes OF (White Sox) - He is the younger brother of Yoennis Céspedes, who had a great early career in Cuba before he signed a major league contract. Yoelquis numbers in the Cuban league pale in comparison to Yoennis, yet the White Sox were still willing to pay $2.05 million for him. Yoennis signed a four year contract with the Oakland Athletics for $36 million, when there were not as many restrictions on bonuses for international players. Yoennis hit 177 homeruns in Cuba while Yoelquis has hit 12. Yoelquis only stands 5′9″, so we hold out little hope he will be a stand out player. His arm may be his strongest tool, but it is said he has some power, despite his vanilla .415 slugging percentage in Cuba. The speed is there to play center so if his power does not develop he could survive on his defense and moderate power. He reminds me a bit too much of Adolis García. At 23, he should probably start the year in AA with a potential major league debut in 2022.
5. Alexander Vargas SS (Yankees) - The Yankees spent $2.5 million to sign Vargas in 2019. The 19 year old showed a smooth glove in his rookie league debut, but a little overmatched with the bat. His speed allowed him to steal 15 bases in 48 games and leg out 7 triples. At 5′11″ and only 150 pounds the power is a little short but should improve as he gets stronger. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at short. He needs to show a little better bat if he doesn’t want to fall into oblivion like a number of other Cuban shortstops that are short with the stick and battling for an opportunity to play in the major leagues. Alexander should start the 2021 season in Low A. The Yankees seem to be flush with shortstops so it would not surprise myworld if Vargas is not traded in a couple years for playoff pieces.
6. Norge C. Vera RHP (White Sox) - Norge is the son of Norge Luis Vera, who was a star for the Cuban National team that won an Olympic gold medal. At 6′4″ he has a good frame for a pitcher. The White Sox signed him for $1.5 million in 2021. That is over $3 million the White Sox spent for two Cubans. Nor