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International Free Agent Profile: Yasmani Tomas

Recently defected, Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomás will eventually become a free agent that MLB teams can bid on. Would he be a boon to the 2015 Mets and beyond?

Yasmani Tomás
Yasmani Tomás
Koji Watanabe

Yasmani (sometimes written as Yasmany) Tomas Bacallao was born on November 14, 1990 in San Miguel del Padró, a municipality in the capital city of Havana, Cuba. The young man was talented enough to win a roster spot on the vaunted Industriales, the premier team in Cuban baseball. Though a ‘blue lion,' as the Industriales are known, since 2008, Tomas did not become a regular starter until 2011. In 2008 and 2009, he received only token playing time, and in 2010, he didn't play at all.

Baseball America ranked Tomas the sixth best non-MLB player in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The outfielder began the competition as the backup for long-time Cuban National Team right fielder Alexei Bell. By the time Cuba was out of the tournament, Tomas was getting playing time over Bell, thanks to a .375/.412/.813 batting line. After the WBC, skipper Victor Mesa called the right-hander "the best talent in the world." Wilber de Armas, one of Tomas's coaches, compared him to Armando Capiró, whose 298/.384/.492 career batting line made him one of the best hitters in revolutionary baseball in the 1960s and 1970s. Armas called Tomas "a born scorer."

2008-2009 (48th SNdB) 18 35 91 .297 .350 .385 1 8 19 4/7
2009-2010 (49th SNdB) 19 24 27 .185 .179 .370 1 0 8 0/1
2010-2011 (50th SNdB) 20 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
2011-2012 (51st SNdB) 21 83 272 .298 .340 .581 20 16 57 4/6
2012-2013 (52nd SNdB) 22 81 277 .289 .364 .538 15 34 52 1/4
2013-2014 (53rd SNdB) 23 65 230 .291 .348 .452 6 21 46 6/12

Owing to his thick 6'1", 230-pound frame, scouts say Tomas possesses more raw power than anyone else on the island not named Alfredo Despaigne—the preeminent slugger in Cuban baseball over the last decade. While Tomas obviously demonstrates power when pulling the ball, he also has power when driving the ball up the middle or to right-center. His swing is somewhat uppercutty, and as a result it opens holes in his swing, particularly on pitches inside that he can't catch up to.

In international competitions against players from the United States (MLB players, MLB prospects, and college players), Japan (Nippon Professional Baseball), and Korea (Korean Baseball Organization), he has exhibited weaknesses against good velocity on the inner half, and against quality breaking pitches to all quadrants of the plate. This isn't a fatal flaw, as Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu showed similar weaknesses, and his MLB career is off to a fine start. Tomas is not as advanced hitter as Abreu was, though, and scouts see his bat speed as being far inferior to that of the White Sox star.

Looking at his defense, Tomas is primarily a corner fielder, but he has spent time in center field, at third base, and at first base during his career with the Industriales. In the outfield he runs well enough and has a solid enough arm that he can likely stick in either corner position, but his defense is nothing particularly special. As long as he maintains his current weight, he should be neither a boon nor a liability. At roughly 230 pounds, with the almost certain prospect of adding additional mass, his ability to stay in the outfield is a very important question. Were he unable to, he would likely be shifted to first base. There, he should be an adequate fielder, with his biggest flaw his right-handedness—not that right-handed first basemen have not existed or excelled in MLB.

Cuban authorities have confirmed that Tomas has left the island, smuggled out of the country by human traffickers. His current whereabouts are unknown, but once he establishes himself outside of Cuba, the 23-year-old slugger still has numerous roadblocks ahead of him before he can play baseball in the United States. After securing permanent residency in his country of choice, he must be granted his unblocking license by U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, and then be granted his official free agent status by MLB. All in all, the length of the process can vary based on numerous factors, making it more likely that he reach proper free agency in 2015, rather than in 2014.

Does He Make Sense For The Mets?

Primarily a right fielder, Tomas has also played first and third base in competitive games. While the Mets are more or less covered for the foreseeable future at third base, first and one of the two corner outfield spots are both areas at which the team could stand to improve. Would the Cuban slugger represent an upgrade at either position?

Manning one of the two corner outfield positions, Tomas would seem to be an upgrade over what Terry Collins has regularly been writing on lineup cards. With the first half of the season almost finished, excluding Curtis Granderson, the Mets have used seven corner fielders: Eric Young, Eric Campbell, Matt den Dekker, Bobby Abreu, Andrew Brown, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Chris Young. Of that group, Bobby Abreu and Chris Young are unlikely to be on the team next season, which means that Yasmani Tomas would have to outperform Young, Campbell, den Dekker, Brown, and Nieuwenhuis, in addition to outfield prospect Cesar Puello, who will likely get some kind of audition for the Mets' outfield in 2015.

While Tomas's ability to hit MLB pitching is no sure thing, none of these other players have been able to demonstrate the sustained ability to hit it, either. Most have secondary tools that could warrant playing time—Eric Young has his speed, and Matt den Dekker has his defense, for example—but the Cuban slugger does as well. All in all, his raw power stands to be more valuable than the secondary abilities these other players bring to the table.

At first base, I am not so sure. With the trade of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda has become the de facto starting first baseman, and while he isn't among the league leaders at the position, he is not among the worst in the league, either. Duda is hitting .239/.335/.441 this season, good for a 119 wRC+, and is a career .245/.341/427 hitter, good for a 116 wRC+. With the questions about the Cuban slugger's bat speed and his ability to hit MLB pitchers, I think their respective offensive outputs will be very similar. All in all, both will likely hit for low averages, with Duda getting on base more but Tomas hitting for more power

All told, Tomas would be an improvement somewhere for the Mets, most likely in left field. But can they afford him? Statistically and in profile, the former Industriale compares similarly to former Camagüey outfielder Dariel Alvarez. In their final three years in Cuba, they hit a similar number of home runs (Tomas 41, Alvarez 39), hit for similar batting averages (Tomas .293, Alvarez .303), and got on base at a similar rate (Tomas .351, Alvarez .356). Tomas is seen as a more advanced hitter needing less time (if any) in the minor leagues, and has a lot more power, so his contract will likely not be as small as Alvarez's $800,000 pact with the Baltimore Orioles. Still, he is not considered a superb athlete, like Yoenis Cespedes, Jorge Soler, and Yasiel Puig were, and is not likely to garner contracts like those players did.

Something around $5 million dollars per year is reasonable, and because of his relatively young age, Tomas is likely to be locked up at least well into his prime years.