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International Free Agent Profile: Dian Toscano signs with the Braves

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The Cuban outfielder has been working out in front of various MLB teams over the past few months. How interested should the Mets be?

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Born in the Villa Clara province of Cuba twenty-five years ago, Dian Toscano Carrera has been a utility player for his local Naranjas, playing mostly left field and DH, with limited time at first base and in pinch hitting assignments. The 5-foot-11-inch, 200-pound outfielder is a five-year veteran of La Serie Nacional, getting his start in the 48th Serie Nacional (2008-2009). Over that time, the left-hander posted a .300/.391/.410 slash line in limited plate appearances. Baseball America is reporting that Toscano has signed with the Braves. Here's what Atlanta is getting.

Leading up to the 2013-2014 season (53rd Serie Nacional), Toscano was suspended and removed from the Naranjas' roster, most likely the result of an unsuccessful attempt to leave the island nation. In February 2013, Villa Clara officials released a colorfully worded statement seemingly mastered by communist regimes across the world in regard to Toscano's suspension, reading in part, "the dung would be separated from the shoe of [Villa Clara]." By the end of the year, Toscano had successfully left the island, taking refuge in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. Since then, Toscano has begun showcasing himself, making the workout rounds along with a handful of fellow Cuban defectors in September and November 2014. Specifically, we know that he worked out in front of Red Sox, Dodgers, and Giants scouting personnel at their respective Dominican Republic complexes.

Year Age G PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB K SB
2009-2010 (48th SNdB) 20 25 57 .259 .288 .259 0 3 8 0/0
2009-2010 (49th SNdB) 21 59 139 .294 .384 .513 5 17 24 1/0
2010-2011 (50th SNdB) 22 77 264 .306 .405 .446 5 36 24 1/2
2011-2012 (51st SNdB) 23 72 193 .287 .438 .380 3 35 16 5/2
2012-2013 (52nd SNdB) 24 32 86 .356 .440 .452 0 8 8 2/1

Toscano's biggest strength is his eye at the plate. Since becoming a regular starter in the 49th Serie Nacional, the 25-year-old has maintained an on-base percentage of .417 over 682 trips to the plate. With only 13 career regular-season home runs, it is evident that Toscano works for his walks and is not pitched around on account of his power. Putting his on-base percentage in context however, it must be noted that an on-base percentage above .400 is not exceptionally rare in Cuba: At no point during his career has Toscano ever ended a season among the league leaders in the statistic. In fact, he has never even led his team in the category, ranking tenth on the Naranjas in the 49th Serie Nacional and second overall in the 50th and 51st series.

Because Toscano did not play on the Cuban national team at any point in his career—which, given the high degree of talent the national team fields, is not necessarily a knock against Toscano—scouts have limited information to go on. According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, Toscano has a weak arm and, as such, he is more or less limited to playing left field.

Despite being a five-year veteran of Las Naranjas, Toscano does not have all that many career plate appearances. Toscano was regularly the odd man out at first base to Ramon Lunar, and to Andy Zamora, Yuniet Flores, Lazaro Ramirez, and Yordanis Linares in the outfield. Manager Ramon Móre supplemented the left-hander's playing time by using him as the team's DH; however, Móre had to use that position to juggle those other players' at-bats as well, limited Toscano's time there too.

Because the left-hander is 25 years old and has five years of experience playing in La Serie Nacional, Toscano is exempt from international bonus pools and can be signed as a free agent outright. It is highly unlikely that he receives a contract worth major money. While his eye at the plate is certainly a boon and a skill that many players never seem to harness, the overall package that Toscano brings to the table simply isn't highly valued in the current market. In addition, given his relatively limited playing time over the last few years compared to that of other Cuban defectors currently signed with MLB organizations, Toscano has even more question marks surrounding his projectability. In my opinion, I think it is somewhat unlikely that the left-hander receives an MLB contract at all, instead getting a minor league deal with a likely invitation to spring training.

"I know the task will be difficult," Toscano told Cronodeportes reporter Rafael Manuel Delfin, "and there are many obstacles to overcome, but nothing is impossible. How can I not to do this?" Toscano's agent, Rudy Santin of MVP Agency, is equally enthusiastic, stating confidently that his client will be a big leaguer.