Yasmany Tomas, Outfield/Third base, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 season : DNP
The influx of Cuban players in MLB has been much discussed, and after the wild success Jose Abreu had with the White Sox in 2014, teams will continue to scout and give big money to defectors. Yasmany Tomas is a perfect example, as the D-backs gave him a six-year, $68.5 million contract as a 24-year-old this offseason.
Given Tomas’ size (6-foot-2, 255 pounds) he was billed by some as the next Abreu, but the two are quite different. Abreu is a 27-year-old who had 10 years of experience in Cuba, and a much bigger rep with three 30-homer seasons. Tomas, meanwhile, had half the playing experience, posting 39 homers, 15 steals and a .290/.345/.504 slash line in 272 games for Industriales.
After not playing in all of 2014, the D-backs put an added burden on Tomas this spring trying to make him learn third base, a position the natural outfielder had played only a little of in Cuba. Tomas wasn’t horrible, but he wasn’t great either at third and struggled on routine plays enough where it was a concern. Along with that, Tomas had his issues at the plate, though he did show signs of the potential big-time slugger the D-backs hoped they were getting. He hit two homers, two doubles and a triple with 12 RBIs, but he struck out 16 times. It was Tomas’ first professional action in more than a year, and he did so trying to learn a new position, so things certainly weren’t coming easy.
In the final week of Spring Training, the D-backs decided to option Tomas to Triple-A, where the club said he will focus on the outfield. In Arizona, he’s blocked by A.J. Pollock in center and right by Mark Trumbo, but he could make his way onto the club in left field sooner rather than later. Even though he has mostly been a right fielder in the past, the transition from right to left is easier than a transition to third base. Once he finds his stroke in the Minors, the D-backs will find a way to make it work, though it’s become evident it won’t work in the infield for the foreseeable future.
Considering the age difference and disparity in numbers from Cuba, it was probably never reasonable to expect an Abreu-esque season in 2015 from Tomas. It’s also traditionally tough to project Cuban numbers on the big league landscape as the statistics aren’t as widely detailed or available. Many of these guys are judged by basic stats and by their athleticism. When the Oakland Athletics signed Yoenis Cespedes a few years back, many oggled his impressive training video that surfaced. Yasiel Puig spent some time in the Minors and showed off his skills in Spring Training to become a household name before making his MLB debut in ‘13.
The Red Sox made two big international signings from Cuba with Rusney Castillo last year, who got some playing time at the end of the regular season and will start this season in the Minors, and then Yoan Moncada, who is a 19-year-old who clearly needs some seasoning in the Minors.
While comparing all of these players is natural, they all have different circumstances surrounding them. Tomas is old enough and powerful enough to make an impact with the D-backs this year, it’s just a matter of time.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.