Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas is coming to America whether we like it or not, and it's only a matter of time before he signs with an MLB club.
Seriously, it could happen any minute.
Tomas is reportedly flying to the United States today to meet with his agent, Jay Alou Jr. MLB Trade Rumors reported that "a deal appears imminent," and that the teams meeting with him are "very unlikely suitors." Given the Tigers' recent foray into the Cuban market -- they came close to signing outfielder Rusney Castillo earlier this year -- could they be in the hunt for Tomas?
Who is he?
Twenty-four years old today, Tomas is a Cuban prospect who defected to the Dominican Republic in hopes of making it to the United States for an MLB payday. He hit .289/.364/.538 with 15 home runs in 324 plate appearances in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2012 and 2013. Ben Badler of Baseball America gave a quick summary of Tomas' skill set in June.
A righthanded-hitting corner outfielder, Tomas can hit towering home runs thanks to the strength from his thickly-built 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame. Tomas has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale, and with Jose Abreu already gone, the only player still in Cuba with more raw power than him was Alfredo Despaigne. He has some experience in center field and is a decent runner for his size, but his speed is still below-average and he’s going to be a corner outfielder in pro ball.
Why should we care?
Standing six feet, one inch tall and weighing in at 230 pounds, Tomas has some of the best raw power in all of Cuba. He isn't quite the behemoth that Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is, but Tomas is still in the conversation. Scouts have slapped a 65-70 grade on his power tool, which can be roughly projected out to a 25-35 home run hitter at the major league level. Tomas' swing is unusual in that it is surprisingly short for a power hitter, giving him a quick path to the baseball. Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel did an excellent job breaking down Tomas' swing last month.
Tomas generates above average bat speed but doesn’t load his hands as far back as most sluggers. Almost all power hitters load their hands (maximum distance from contact) about as far back as possible (for a RH hitter that means stretching his left arm as far to his right as possible) or close to it, and Tomas doesn’t do this. This means he has the power and bat speed of a big-time power hitter with the short bat path of a contact hitter. This is what I mean by the tools to hit and hit for power in games, even if he hasn’t been showing it lately due to plate discipline issues.
At 24 years old, Tomas is also one of the youngest Cuban defectors that we have seen in recent years. Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes were a couple years older than Tomas when they signed, while Yasiel Puig was the youngest of the bunch at 22. Tomas still has a bit of developing to do, but the club that signs him will get him through his prime seasons. He already has experience on the international stage, playing for Cuba in the last World Baseball Classic.
Why should we stay away?
While the raw power is enticing, Tomas' ability to make contact could give him problems. McDaniel detailed more in another piece for Fangraphs in late Sepember.
The carrying tool here is raw power, which draws anywhere from 60 to 70 grades on the 20-80 scale from scouts, but the question mark is how much he will hit. Tomas has a short bat path for a power hitter and quick hands that move through the zone quickly. The tools are here for at least an average hitter, but Tomas’ plate discipline has been questioned and he can sometimes sell out for pull power in games...Some scouts think it’s more of a 40-45 bat (.240 to .250 average) that may keep Tomas from getting to all of his raw power in games, while others see a soon-to-be-24-year-old with the tools to hit and think the hot streak of Cuban hitters in the big leagues will continue with him.
Tomas' game also isn't as well rounded as fellow Cubans like Cespedes and Puig. His speed has been graded as average, if not a hair lower. McDaniel also graded his arm as such, tagging it with a 45 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has played some third base in Cuban competition, but most scouts are adamant that he will be an outfielder in the bigs.
Will he end up in Detroit?
This is anyone's guess. The Tigers have not yet been mentioned as in on the Tomas sweepstakes, but that has meant very little in recent years. The San Francisco Giants were reportedly one of the finalists to sign Rusney Castillo, yet no one knew until he had already signed with the Red Sox. The Tigers play these things as close to the vest as anyone, but it would not be surprising at all if they were in the hunt.
One potentially interesting nugget that Dave Dombrowski offered up came after the team traded for center fielder Anthony Gose. Dombrowski said that the team was "probably finished" with the outfield. Here's where the language gets interesting. If a Tomas deal is "imminent," it's possible that the Tigers already had something in place with Tomas' people before landing Gose. It's a big stretch, but given the uncertainty of everything surrounding the Cuban slugger, it's not out of the question.