When the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig a seven-year, $42 million dollar contract in the summer of 2012 and made him the highest-paid Cuban defector, expectations were high, but many -- including me -- thought that the contract was a bit of an overreaction to the forthcoming restrictions on international signing bonuses. In hindsight, Puig obviously has looked to be worth every penny of that deal and then some, becoming one of the best young right fielders in all of baseball.
This past fall, the Dodgers once again spent a hefty sum on another Cuban free agent, second baseman Alex Guerrero. His professional debut has gotten off to a solid start at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he has hit .306/.386/.565 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with three homers and 10 RBIs. Those numbers have many wondering just when he becomes a permanent member of the Dodgers and what kind of fantasy impact he can have once he's called up. The answer to the first part of the question depends on how long Dee Gordon can keep up the best season of his professional career, but the second part is still very much up in the air.
"It all kind of depends on what your expectations are," an AL East scout said. "If you think Guerrero is going to be the next Puig, you're going to be disappointed. Their talents just aren't comparable. If you're expecting a guy who can be one of the top dozen or so second basemen in baseball, however, you've got a pretty good chance of seeing that happen."
When he's hitting at his best, Guerrero will work counts into his favor and use his strong wrists and above-average bat speed to hit the ball with authority to all parts of the field, with above-average power for a middle infielder. He has shown the ability to recognize pitches and has good barrel control so he won't strike out much, but occasionally his backside will collapse, which can limit the amount of hard contact he produces. Still, you're looking at a guy who can provide above-average totals in terms of batting average, on-base percentage and homers for a second baseman, with lines of .275/.350/.440 not out of the question during his peak years in the future.
The big questions for Guerrero are on defense, and where he ends up long term will play a large factor in his defensive value. The former shortstop has quality hands and decent arm strength, but questions about his stiffness make some wonder whether his long-term position could be at third or in the corner outfield.
If Guerrero can stick at second base, he'll have a chance to be a first-division regular -- and assuming he keeps hitting, a chance to help your fantasy squad in 2014 -- but his value in keeper leagues will depend largely on whether he can stay in the middle infield.
There are plenty of changes in this week's edition of the top 10, with three new members making their debuts (and Marcus Stroman off to help the Blue Jays). One of those new faces may not be around for very long, either.