Maybe you’ve heard the name Yasmani Tomas, maybe you haven’t. Regardless, Tomas will not be such an unknown phoneme come spring training. During free agency, expect a big name team to make a play at the Cuban sensation with the hopes that he is able to provide the power boost Jose Abreu gave a relatively desolate Chicago White Sox lineup, and the tenacity both at the plate and in the outfield of Yasiel Puig.
Cuban talent into the majors continues to flow and continues to be heralded as a success. Names such as Yoenis Cespedes, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Rusney Castillo (recently inked a big money deal with the Boston Red Sox), and Jorge Soler, a potential franchise centerpiece for the Chicago Cubs, all are Cuban imports.
Could Tomas be next?
Several clubs, according to reports, have scouted Tomas at both a public showcase in the Dominican Republic in September and at private workouts since. The teams that seem to be in pole position to land the slugger, at this early stage, are the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres.
Tomas, a 6’1″, 240 pound specimen, is projected to be a corner outfielder in the big leagues. He has power that is described by some scouts to be similar to that of Abreu. That, as well as the fact the he is young (he turned 24 earlier this month), is what makes him so attractive.
At a time when pitching is dominant through players such as Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, or Masahiro Tanaka, power hitters and consistent RBI producers have become a scarcity in baseball. Over the course of last season, major league teams set lows in runs per game (4.07) since the 1976 season and hits per game (8.56) since the 1972 season. Change is necessary, and a new breed of power hitting imports could provide that change.
Though the fact that pitching has been at an elite level since the turn of the century, big hits, big home runs, and clutch runs batted in still captivate fans whether or not it is October. Not only could a decline in runs prove detrimental to the future of baseball, change is necessary in order to captivate new audiences and expand the game.
One thing to note about Tomas is that he does not come with baggage like many free agents offered qualifying offers. Cuban players who are at least 23 years old with five years of baseball experience in their home country are not subject to bonus pools and other draft rules when entering Major League Baseball.
One question scouts and executives alike should be asking is whether or not Tomas can make the immediate impact he is anticipated to make with his entrance into the big leagues coming at the tender, young age of 24.
The Chicago White Sox signed Abreu, 27, last October for $68 million over six years; a deal that proved to be both a steal both in the long term and short term value after seeing Abreu’s production both this season, and what he will be paid over the next five years. Abreu was the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year in 2014 after posting a .317/.383/.581 slash line with 36 home runs and 107 RBI. Abreu also finished fourth in AL MVP voting.
Tomas has been competing in Cuba’s Serie Nacional over the course of the past five seasons, as well as playing on the gold medal winning Cuban national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic where he was the fourth outfielder on the Cuban team, but progressively raised his playing time as the tournament went on due to his displayed ability. During the 2013 Serie Nacional regular season, in which he competed for the Industriales de La Habana, Tomas posted a .289/.364/.538 slash line to go along with 15 homers, 34 walks, and 52 strikeouts in 324 plate appearances over the course of 81 games.
The potential is clearly there, but can we say that the 24 year old Yasmani Tomas is ready to make a mark on the MLB and its lack of power hitters like Abreu did in his first year?