Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Welcome to the Blue, Yaisel Sierra!

The Dodgers have definitely flipped the script.  Instead of spending handsomely on glitzy and established free agent stars during the winter, they have decided the spend their bushels of cash on prospects to fill their already burgeoning minor league system.  Case in point, the Dodgers have apparently landed another Cuban.

Per numerous reports online (here, here and here), the Dodgers have signed 25-year old Cuban right-handed pitcher Yasiel Sierra.  It is thought to be from six to seven years at about $30 million to $33 million in total.  Of course, this is all unconfirmed, so anything can happen to change this.  Considering the Dodgers recent past you should probably be a bit cautious.  Heck, I understand the deal is still pending a physical (so you know you should hold your breadth).

As for what Sierra can bring to the table, he is said to have a lively arm, but has grappled with control issues in the recent past.  Via Ben Badler at Baseball America:
Sierra is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with easy arm action and two plus pitches at times. He throws a lively fastball up to 96 mph and flashes of a swing-and-miss slider, delivering all of his pitches from multiple arm angles.

The key for Sierra will be improving his control and general feel for pitching. After beginning his career in the bullpen for Holguin, he mostly worked as a starter during the 2013-14 season. Instead of staying there, Sierra moved back to the bullpen this past season in 2014-15 and pitched well early but came unraveled in the second half, finishing with a 6.10 ERA in 62 innings with 55 strikeouts and 31 walks (including nine intentional walks). Between his stuff, pitching style and history of control problems in Cuba, Sierra has a lot of similarities to Reds righthander Raisel Iglesias, with Sierra having more size but Iglesias better performance in his final year in Cuba.
There is a big logjam in the starting rotation, so I suspect he'll continue working out of the bullpen for the Dodgers.  Whether he becomes a starter will depend on how he does there.  I suspect, though, that he'll start his professional career in the minors in order to acclimate himself to his new surroundings.  Unless, of course, he wows everybody this Spring.  BTW, Dylan Hernandez notes on twitter that the Dodgers plan to groom him as a starter, so he might be minor league bound regardless of his Spring.  On a side note, it's good to have a bunch of arms, eh?  After all, as we saw last year, you can never be deep enough.  Below are more links worth checking out:
Sierra, like Maeda and Olivera, is more or less MLB ready, though he’s probably more likely to see big league action out of a pen in the near term. The Dodgers’ rotation is already arguably somewhat overloaded, though, so Sierra could factor as a 2016 relief piece while looking to tap into his starting upside down the line.
“I worked 24/7 for my slider and changeup,” he said through translator and former big leaguer Alex Sanchez. “I was very excited to throw my slider and changeup because they don’t throw that kind of pitch in Cuba.”

In celebration of his signing I made the above three fantasy cards of him.  On the top left, the photograph is from a screen grab from a CBS Sports story and I used the 1961 Topps Baseball card design.  On the top right, the photograph was from a SNY Mets Blog post (likely a screen grab from a video) and I used the 1974 Topps Baseball card design.  Directly at top is a photograph via Ricardo L√≥pez Hevia at On Cuba Magazine and I used the 2015 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are his career statistics as a player in Cuba, via Baseball-Reference:

Take a look at him pitching below from his recent showcase event.

Video Link:

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