Cuban pitcher Raicel Iglesias has not reported for training with the national team this week, leading several to believe he has defected, reports Nelson Acosta of Reuters.
A Cuban exile website based in Miami, CaféFuerte, was first to report that the young right-hander had escaped, writing that Iglesias left by boat on Saturday from the northeast corner of the island. His whereabouts at the moment are unknown.
If/when his defection is confirmed in the coming days, it will make him the fourth national team player to do so this year. First baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne and left-hander Misael Silverio all left earlier in the summer.
Iglesias will not be able to negotiate with big-league clubs until he establishes residency in a neighboring country and is declared a free agent by MLB. The process usually takes a few months, but once that happens he will be able to sign without dealing with the regular international bonus pool restrictions.
Iglesias, 23, pitched mostly in relief in the Serie Nacional for the last three years, but did start a few games this past season. The posted a 1.68 earned-run average with 50 strikeouts in 52⅓ innings in his most recent campaign with Isla de la Juventud.
Per Baseball America, the 5 11", 165-pound right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball, which he complements with a sweeping breaking ball that sits between 76-81 miles per hour. Iglesias has had some control issues in the past, but his walk rate has declined significantly in the last year or so.