HAVANA TIMES — The top shortstop in Cuban baseball, Erisbel Arruebarruena, has successfully fled the island and is now in the Dominican Republic hoping to make it to the US Major Leagues, reports USA Today.
Havana Times reported earlier in the month that Arruebarruena’s team, Cienfuegos, had been hard hit by the loss of its star first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu (who defected and signed a $68 million dollar contract with the Chicago White Sox) and Arruebarruena who was suspended from playing baseball in Cuba for a failed attempt to leave the island.
With his future all but ruined in Cuba, Arruebarruena, 23, was successful in his second attempt to escape. The excellent fielder and reasonably good hitter will try to establish residency in the DR, as a springboard to qualifying for free agent status and signing a MLB contract.
Cuban baseball expert and author Peter Bjarkman told US Today that while Arruebarruena has displayed great defensive skills, especially range and the ability to throw from different angles, “he tries to make too many impossible plays and is dubbed Errorbarruena in Cuba as a result.” But that could be turned around with training in the USA.
In the 2013 World Baseball Classic last March, Arruebarruena drew scouting attention by hitting .375 in Cuba’s six games besides his flashy fielding.
Another top prospect, right-handed pitcher Raciel Iglesias, 23, who played for Isla de la Juventud in the Cuban league, is reported to be training in Mexico with the same hope as Arruebarruena to make it to MLB. He had also made a failed attempt to flee the island in September.
Bjarkman rates Iglesias as a better prospect than the shortstop because of his “very live arm” and good showing at recent international tournaments.