Japanese hurler, Masahiro Tanaka, the most sought after international player this off-season, was signed to a 7-yr $155M contract by the NY Yankees on January 22. It is the 5th largest deal for a pitcher. The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in Japan for the NPB champions Rakuten Eagles. The Yankees will pay $20M posting-fee to Tanaka’s former team in four installments under the new posting-system.
Tanaka’s contract details (source: Cot’s baseball contracts)
Kenta Maeda (25), RHP, Japan: the best Japanese pitcher at the last WBC (of course, better than Tanaka!), where the 6’-161 Maeda showed command of two plus pitches (plus plus 79-83 mph slider & 90-93 mph heat) & above average 69-73 mph curve. In six seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, he was dominant, posting a 71-50 record with a 2.41 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 22 CG, averaging 186 innings per season. A #2-3 starter in MLB. Hiroshima holds his rights for the next three years.
- Yasmany Tomas, (23), OF, Cuba: Tomas, 6’1’’-229, has legit power. Phenomenal bat-speed enables him to hit HR to all fields. Needs to work on his plate discipline. Can play decent defense with plus arm. The best prospect in Cuba right now.
- Alfredo Despaigne, (27), OF, Cuba: the 5-foot-8, 214 pounds Despaigne has above average power and captured three MVP titles in Cuba; in 2012/2013 set the single-season HR record in Cuba with 36. Thanks to a permission by the Cuban government, he played 33 games for Campeche of the Mexican League in 2013, hitting .338/.364/.564, with 8 HR & 24 RBI (negative note: only 4 walks in front of 27 K, to witness his all-or-nothing approach).
- Yulieski Gourriel, (29), 3B, Cuba: he’s a five-tool talent with range, arm at the hot corner. Gourriel is a pivotal player for the Cuban National Team and played for Cuba in the last two Olympics and WBCs.
- Jose Fernandez, (25), 2B, Cuba: the left-handed hitter displayed five-tool skills during the 2013 WBC. He’s an above average hitter, can hit to all fields, with above average defense and arm. Not a HR threat, but can connect in clutch situations. Listed at 5’10’’-185.
- Norge Luis Ruiz, (19), RHP, Cuba: Ruiz is just 5’10” 170, but owns a fastball that reach 94 mph, with an above average 80-83 mph slider, good curve & change. But his best tool is command as he can throw quality strikes maintaining the ball down in the zone. The best pitching prospect in Cuba, Ruiz plays for Camaguey.
- Erisbel Arruebarruena (23), SS, Cuba: an elite defender with plus foot speed, range & athleticism. Listed at 6’-198, lacks power. There are questions on how his hitting would translate into MLB, but his defense alone is worth the ticket. Draws comparisons to Jose Iglesias’ defensive skills. Left Cuba last November, he’s one of the very next international players to ink a big MLB deal.
- Vladimir Garcia, (31), RHP, Cuba: 6’2’’-254, closer stuff with easily mid-90s heat, low-80s curve.
- Tetsuya Utsumi, (31), LHP, Japan: at the 2013 WBC, the 6’1’’-198 Utsumi commanded a plus curveball in the 69-73 mph range. He can locate a 89-91 mph fastball. One of the best NPB pitchers, Utsumi registered impressive 1.70 & 1.98 ERA in 2011-12, before coming back to earth with a 13-6, 3.31 ERA last season with Yomiuri.
- Yoon Suk-Min, (27), RHP, Korea: the 6’-180 righty can command four pitches (low-90s fastball, a 83-86 mph slider, high-70s changeup and low-70s curve). He starred at the 2009 WBC and won MVP honors in the KBO in 2011, before a shoulder problem limited him to relief work, last season, with the Kia Tigers (4.00 ERA in 87.2 IP). He became a KBO free agent after the 2013 season.
- Hirozaku Sawamura, (25), RHP, Japan: listed at 6’-212, Sawamura showed a sharp 92-94 mph fastball during the last WBC. He’s under Yomiuri control for the next six seasons. In his first three campaigns in NPB, Sawamura averaged a 2.63 ERA & 1.14 WHIP.
- Joan Moncada, (17), IF, Cuba: the switch-hitter can play second, third, SS, has plus speed and solid hitting skills. Only 17 but already one of the most impressive players in the Serie Nacional where he plays for Cienfuegos (the same team as Puig).
- Yoshio Itoi, (31), OF, Japan: scouts like his plate discipline. The 6’2’’-194 worked the counts high during the 2013 WBC, showing very good hitting skills; he went .286/.500/.524 in 7 games, with team high 6 BB and 7 RBI. The left-handed showed above average hitting, good speed, range. Last season, Itoi hit .300 with 17 HR, 61 RBI & 33 stolen bases for Orix.
- Frederich Cepeda, (33), OF, Cuba: a switch-hitter with above average hitting and power. A star for Team Cuba, Cepeda has passed his prime, but remains a dangerous hitter.
- Freddy Alvarez, (20), RHP, Cuba: listed at 5’10’’-203, Alvarez runs his fastball at 91-94 mph, with a good low-80s slider and a curve. Pitching for Villa Clara, he broke the Cuban record for consecutive scoreless innings in a post-season with 40.2, in 2013.
- Seung-Hwan Oh, (30), RHP, Korea: he owns the KBO single-season Sv record (47, in 2006 & 2011). A perennial All-Star in Korea, Oh won five championships with the Samsung Lions. The 5’10”-203 closer saved 28 games, posting a 1.74 ERA in 51.2 IP (9.4 K/9, 1.7 BB/9) in 2013, his ninth season in the KBO. Oh’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, topping at 97. He complements it with a good mid-to-high 80s slider, a 71-79 mph curve and an occasional change. He has an above average control. Oh became free agent after the 2013 season and signed a 2-yr $8.9M deal with the Hanshin Tigers of the NPB.
- Odrisamer Despaigne, (26), RHP, Cuba: listed 6’-200, Despaigne left the team during a layover at Charles de Gaulle international airport in Paris, France last July. He was in the Cuba roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and had an ERA of 3.25 in 143 IP (6.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9) in the 2012/1013 season of the Cuban National League, playing with the Industriales Habana. Despaigne owns a low-90s heat that tops at 94 with a good control of a 12-6 curveball, a slider, and a change-up which was rated as major league ready.
- Raciel Iglesias, (23), RHP, Cuba: defected last November. The 5’11”-163 righty pitched mainly as a reliever in the Serie Nacional for Isla de la Juventud and represented Team Cuba in the 2013 WBC (4.2IP, 6K, 3BB, 3 hits, 3.86 ERA). Iglesias fastball is in the 90-95 mph range with the complement of a 76-81 mph sweeping slider. Control needs refinement, so some time in the minors is likely for him to start his US career. He profiles as a solid reliever, probably a closer, at the MLB level.
- Aledmys Diaz, (23), SS, Cuba: listed at 6’1’’-185, Diaz hit .308/.401/.444 from 2008-12 for Villa Clara, before defecting in 2012. He was a member of the Cuban National Team. The right-handed has showed above average hitting skills and plate discipline that could translate into MLB average hitting and power. On the defensive side, Diaz has an above average arm but not the range and glove to stick at shortstop. Many scouts expect a shift to the keystone for him. He is eligible to sign starting on Feb. 19, 2014, after being suspended a year by MLB for falsifying his age.
- Rusney Castillo, (26), OF, Cuba: Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic body at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. He stepped in as Cuba’s national team center fielder at the World Cup in October 2011 in Panama. Castillo was named in the tournament’s all-star team hitting .512/.524/.854 in 10 games, going 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples, four doubles, one walk and two strikeouts, leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging. In 2011-12, Castillo hit .332/.395/.545 in Cuba Serie Nacional, hitting 16 HR with 22 stolen bases in 29 attempts. Last season was a down year for Castillo, however, as he hit just .250/.352/.342 in 43 games. His best tool is his speed. He can play CF but also second and third base. A fourth outfielder in MLB.