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Yankees use acquired international cash to sign highly-touted Cuban teen

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman, who’s in the midst of dealing with a 40-man roster crunch, made the most out of the international bonus pool money he garnered from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos.

On Sunday, New York signed Osiel Rodriguez, a 16-year-old pitching prospect from Cuba, for $600,000, according to multiple reports.  The Yankees have yet to confirm the deal.

MLBPipeline ranked Rodriguez as the No. 9 overall player on the international market, and according to scouting reports, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander has a fastball that touches the mid-to-upper 90s. 

In less than 24 hours, Cashman accumulated $2.5 million in international pool money via two trades.  On Saturday night, the Cardinals acquired Shreve and Gallegos, and on Sunday morning, the Yankees dealt left-handed pitching prospect Caleb Frare to the Chicago White Sox.  New York also acquired 28-year-old first baseman Luke Voit from St. Louis.

Here is MLBPipeline’s scouting report of Rodriguez:

One of the top pitchers on the international market this year, Rodriguez is the latest in a long line of Cuban stars chasing the big league dream.

The right-hander’s fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and the pitch usually hovers in the low to mid-90s. There is some concern about a drop in velocity at times, but evaluators attribute the decrease to normal fatigue or being overworked on the showcase circuit. A strike-thrower, Rodriguez has a good mound presence and demeanor. He changes his arm slot and throws several different pitches at different angles, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse as far as scouts are concerned.

Evaluators love his “big arm,” but the club that signs him might ask the teenager to refine his approach and focus on only three pitches. He has an unorthodox — sometimes described as a ‘violent” — delivery, but it has not impacted his pitchability.

Rodriguez, who starred on Cuba’s 15U and 18U teams, is from Ciego de Avila and trains with Fausto Mejia.

The Yankees may not be finished scouring the international market.  The club has reportedly expressed interest in right-hander Sandy Gatson, another 16-year-old Cuban native ranked No. 14 overall by MLBPipeline.  

Here’s MLBPipeline’s scouting report of Gatson:

The question isn’t if Gaston can pitch. It’s whether he will be a starter or pitch out of the bullpen one day. The most skeptical scouts wonder if he will throw enough strikes.

Here’s why: Gaston is an especially hard thrower. His fastball has been clocked as 97 mph and it’s not uncommon for him to sit at 94-95. That type of velocity is rare in any market and not surprisingly, some scouts wonder if he will be able to command the high velocity on a consistent basis. But his skill is extraordinary, and Gaston is the type of pitcher any club would like to put it in its system, though the Marlins have emerged as the favorites to sign him.

In terms of secondary pitches, the belief is that those will develop once he signs with a team and receives daily instruction in an academy.

Gaston gave up one hit, struck out a batter and walked one at MLB’s International Prospect Showcase in February. He didn’t show his best fastball or command.

The right-handed pitcher is from Matanzas, Cuba, and trains with Yuan Pino.

New York is allowed to spend a total of $4.98 million on international prospects this season.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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