Once in a while I get asked about recent Cuban prospects (post Jose Abreu) and my answer has been largely, "Meh". I haven't covered much on them because frankly, the word I heard was they were a collection of 5th OF'ers, utility infielders, and relief pitchers --- maybe a fringe starter among them.
Yasmani Tomas is different.
Ben Badler reports that cthe 23 year old 6'1", 230 lbs. OF'er has left Cuba and will soon go through the process of making him eligible to play professional baseball in the United States.
As a 23 year old, he is not subject to the IFA Pool Spending Limits. So maybe the Cubs can make up for their inability to spend on the 23 and under crowd and pour it all into Tomas.
Badler also says this,
"Given his present talent level, Tomas might have a chance to go straight into a major league lineup..."
Not so fast.
Badler does go on to say that a stint in the minors is more likely. One scouting source who has seen him play says it's more than likely. It is necessary. That is not to say there isn't some serious talent here,
Here is an excerpt from the report I have,
He is a potent fast twitch player. Bat speed to hit anything thrown, but will chase the break and stretch the zone. He has everything you look for from a prospect, but he has some ironing out to do.
When asked if he as athletic enough to play the OF with that rather thick frame, the response was,
Oh yeah, he is in the mold of (Yoenis) Cespedes and (Yasiel) Puig, has similar qualities of both men.
But before you get too excited, we're talking about athleticism and raw talent. He is not Cespedes or Puig. Not yet anyway. There is a lot more risk/reward here and much like current Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, there is some development left, though perhaps not as much, as Tomas is older and has experience at the highest level of Cuban baseball.
There is the obvious issue with breaking balls and as stated above, he will chase them outside the zone. There is some swing and miss to his game. There are some holes and U.S pitchers were able to exploit them in the WBC.
But the bat speed, youth, and athleticism is enticing. And while he may not be ready for 2015, he has some upside. For me, there hasn't really been a Cuban prospect worth writing about since Abreu entered the market, but even then, Abreu was a first baseman only and the Cubs already have a pretty good, young talent there in Anthony Rizzo.
Now, with Kris Bryant looking like he can stick at 3B, Jorge Soler battling injuries, Kyle Schwarber just starting his career, and Albert Almora derailing off the fast track so far this season, there is nobody to really block Yasmani Tomas right now. But although Abreu and Cespedes jumped straight to the majors, that isn't going to happen with Tomas. He's not even yet at Puig's level where Puig just needed time to get into shape and get his timing back. Tomas will need more than token time and seasoning in the minors, so that naturally involves a little more risk.
But, unlike the most recent prospects, there is some impact potential here to go with that risk, so this one is worth tracking.