Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Yulieski Gourriel Is Worth The Risk

Lost in the hubbub of Major League Baseball International signing period was that Yulieski Gourriel is expected to make his decision on where he will sign soon. The Yankees did their due diligence and had a private workout with him. Not much has been said about how it went down but if the Yankees wanted to sign him the have a few things going for them. Alex Rodriguez is Gourriel's favorite player, the Yankees were his favorite team growing up, he and Aroldis Chapman are friends. Additionally, if he is looking for comfort factor New York is probably second only to Miami regarding the Cuban population.

Gourriel has long been a star of the Cuban National Series and Cuban National Baseball Team. He has been highly sought after by not only playoff caliber teams this year but also teams looking to build for the future. He profiles as a player who can play third base, second base, and the corner outfield as soon as he gets the call to the show. With some work, he could also probably play first base as well. Given his age (32) he is probably looking at a 4-5 year contract around 10-12 million a year.

Cuban players are getting harder to scout as more players defect. Gone are the days when there was only one marquee Cuban free agent (a la Orlando Hernandez or Jose Contreas) on the market. It seems like there are always a few established players as well as some projects signed every year. Signings can be anywhere from great (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman), okay (Yasiel Puig) to bad (Rusney Castillo, Hector Oliviera, Yasiel Sierra and everyone the Dodgers have signed except for Puig).

The Yankees last attempt to sign a Cuban player was Yoan Moncada who ended up signing with the rival Red Sox either because they offered more money or because Felix Lopez got involved. That is a long story, you can read about it here. Signing Gourriel would reestablish the Yankees in the Cuban market. Recently the Dodgers and Reds have been heavy players. It won't send the Yankees back to the "Evil Empire" days but players may actually see the Yankees as a legitimate destination instead of just another workout.

More important however is the fact that Gourriel seems like he can help the team now and in the future. He will likely need some time in the minors to knock off the rust but once he reaches the big leagues he could serve the Yankees as a super utility player a la Ben Zobrist. He would also bring right-handed pop to the Yankees lineup. I couldn't find projections for Gourriel so here is Ben Badler's scouting report from a couple of years ago.

Gourriel has all the attributes to be an above-average offensive player. He has plus bat speed and squares up all types of pitches with good hand-eye coordination and barrel control. He wraps his barrel behind his head, angling the bat toward the pitcher, but he gets the barrel into the hitting zone quickly and has good plate coverage. He stays within the strike zone and uses the whole field, and with plus raw power on the 20-80 scale, he offers a balance of being able to hit for average, get on base and hit for power.

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