Cuban national team shortstop Erisel Arruebarruena has defected from the island country in hopes of signing a Major League baseball contract, Baseball America reported.
Arruebarruena, 23, has played in Cuba's top league for six seasons. Arruebarruena had been the regular shortstop of the Cuban national team, leading the team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where he was rated as the No. 10 WBC non-signed Major League prospect.
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Jesse Sanchez, of MLB.com, tweeted about Arruebarruena's availability via Twitter last week.
Arruebarruena, the top shortstop in Cuba, was a player for Cienfuegos in Cuba, the same team for which both Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu played for before joining the United States' teams.
Puig batted .319 with a .534 slugging percentage in his rookie season in the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield, helping lead the West Coast team to the National League Western Division title.
The Chicago White Sox signed Abreu, 26, a first baseman, last month to a six-year, $68 million contract after watching him in the Dominican Republic where he defected from, according to MLB.com.
Abreu became the 17th Cuban native to sign with Chicago, joining Cuban teammates Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo. Ramirez and Viciedo helped with the Abreu signing with White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
"(Arruebarruena's) awareness in the field is advanced and he’s shown the ability to make the barehanded play look routine and make strong throws from different angles," said Ben Badler of Baseball America. "Scouts have called Arruebarruena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove."
Arruebarruena's major challenge will be improving his speed and presence offensively so teams will not see him at a liability at the plate. Arruebarruena will be represented by Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management.
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