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MLB free agent prediction: Yasmany Tomas

The young Cuban slugger is in high demand, even though he's still something of an enigma.

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Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

Everyone wants dingers. Everyone wants Cuban players. Everyone wants Cuban players who hit dingers. I'm not sure if that's an axiom or the start of the world's least popular children's book, but it's absolutely true. Last year at this time, we were all wondering if Jose Abreu could really hit. The year before that, we were all wondering if Yasiel Puig could really hit. The year before that, we were all wondering if Yoenis Cespedes could really hit.

Here we are, like fools, wondering if Yasmany Tomas can really hit.

Except there are a couple of things missing from that progression. For example, five years ago, we were all wondering if Dayan Viciedo could really hit. He really can't. At least, not so far. He's still just 26, so there might be a breakout season from him yet, but other than showing off some power, he's been a disappointment in most respects. The idea was that he was young and malleable, and all those tools could be molded into something special. He was molded into Delmon Young, give or take, which made the sculptors say something like, "Hey, this thing doesn't look anything like the picture on the box."

The tools-into-gold part applies to Tomas, too. He's 24, not a teenager like Viciedo was, so he should be a touch more polished and major league ready. Whichever team is going to pay him $90 million or more is going to want him starting immediately, but there will be a premium rolled into the contract that accounts for his youth and potential growth.

There will need to be a lot of growth. Here's what Abreu hit the year before he came over to the United States:

Jose Abreu, 2012 - 2013
.382/.535/.735, 37 BB, 21 SO, 136 PA

Before coming over, Yoenis Cespedes had a lot of success, too:

Yoenis Cespedes, 2010 - 2011
.333/.424/.667, 49 BB, 40 SO, 354 PA

Yasiel Puig as a 19-year-old:

Yasiel Puig, 2010 - 2011
.330/.430/.581, 49 BB, 39 SO, 327 PA

The first thing that jumps out at you might be the on-base percentages -- they're high without being average-dependent, which means these players were taking a fair amount of walks. Neither of them are known for taking a lot of walks in the majors, though. Somewhere between the Serie Nacional and the American League, a few walks leaked out. That's important, considering this is Yasmany Tomas:

Yasmany Tomas, 2013 - 2014
.290/.346/.450, 34 BB, 52 SO, 324 PA

Or is that the real Tomas? Baseball America reports that the outfielder slammed into a wall, hurting his wrist early in the season, which might have hurt his numbers. His previous season was better (.289/.364/.538), but that came with 24 unintentional walks in 324 plate appearances. If there was a tariff on walks with Abreu and Cespedes, what's going to happen to Tomas? Or is he young enough where you have to figure he'll develop a better eye with more experience and major league instruction?

There will be teams convinced they can mold Tomas into a dinger machine. Baseball America brings up a Marlon Byrd comparison:

A more middle-ground expectation would peg Tomas along the lines of what Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd produced this season.

If your team signed a 24-year-old Marlon Byrd to a seven-year, $101 million deal, what would you think? After you stopped twitching and cursing in a dead language that you weren't aware you spoke? There would have been good seasons and bad seasons mixed in, and the deal wouldn't have been a total flop. But there's a chance that Tomas's scouting report is hard to read because the shadow of Abreu and Puig are blocking the light. The run of instant Cuban-born success has been long and impressive recently. It's something of a Gambler's Fallacy to determine that it will keep going just because that's what we're used to, as if baseball is on a hot streak.

It's something of a Gambler's Fallacy to think that baseball is due for a bust, though, too.

Here we are, like fools, wondering if Yasmany Tomas can really hit ...

The Ideal

The White Sox have to be interested. Even though Viciedo hasn't been especially valuable for them, they've received excellent production from Alexei Ramirez and Abreu. Now, I'm not suggesting that just because teammates are from the same country, they should automatically be best buddies. As I've noted before you hate plenty of Americans, I'm sure, so imagine being stuck on the road with the jerks in your life, the annoying people who chew with their mouth open and forward you emails before checking Snopes.

But the White Sox have a comfort level when it comes to evaluating Cuban players. They've listened to their senior evaluators when it came to them, trusted them enough to invest substantial amounts of money, and have reaped rewards. Whereas one team might back away slowly when the bidding gets too high, wondering if they can really gamble that much on an unproven player, the White Sox can have a little more faith in their evaluation of Tomas.

Or maybe those internal evaluations are just "STAY AWAY," written in tobacco spit and blood on a clubhouse mirror. Dunno. But if the White Sox like him, they make a lot of sense.

The Likely

The Padres seem like a team that wants to make a ...

Dang it, I was just writing that. I mean, I was guessing and he has sources, but still.

The Padres have new owners and a nice TV deal. They want to excite people. Their 2014 was one of the worst offensive seasons in decades, and they would like a hitter whose raw power could escape the gravitational pull of Petco Park. They have the need on the field and off the field, and they probably have the money to do it.


Can the Yankees be a mystery team? They kind of were the mystery team last year, claiming they didn't want to spend money that would put them over the payroll tax, and then coming away with Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury. They're more omnipresent than mysterious. And Bob Nightingale says they might have some surprises left:

"We have to have some surprises.''

The surprise a year ago was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

And this year?

"We'll have to wait and see, Levine says. "I think it's a little early for any conclusions.''

Not for me! I think they're going to spend like a bunch of goofballs, and Tomas's power would allow him to put up absurd numbers in Yankee Stadium. Now, the Yankees are rumored to be out on Tomas, and they don't have a perfect place for him. Martin Prado could shift to second, Alex Rodriguez could play third, and Carlos Beltran could DH ... but I don't know if the Yankees want any of that. It would create a mess until someone got hurt.

Someone will get hurt. The Yankees are brittle, and Tomas would have a place to play, and he would be an instant youth movement. I don't trust the Yankees. You shouldn't, either. Besides, I get these things wrong when I choose the teams that everyone's expecting. It's not like I'll be extra wrong when I pick an unlikely team.

Yasmany Tomas: Yankees, seven years, $101 million