Yasiel Balaguert, OF
Age: 22 (1/9/1993)
Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Low A (93 G, .252/.291/.366, 7 HR, 53 RBI)
Mesa Cubs, Arizona Rookie League (Rehab-3 G, .250/.308/.583, 3-for-12, 2 3B)
Prior to Cubs
Back in 2010, Balaguert was a starter for the Cuban Junior National team at the World Junior Championship in Ontario, sharing the outfield with fellow Cub Jorge Soler. He played for Cuba in World Youth Championships in Taiwan in 2009 and defected in 2010. The Cubs signed the outfielder to a reported $400,000 bonus.
After his first pro spring training, Balaguert made his pro debut for Peoria in the Midwest League in 2012. It was a tough two months, hitting .208/.232/.262 in 39 games with 49 strikeouts and only five walks. He was sent back to the Arizona Rookie League and finished the season with Mesa, playing in 32 games (.235/.289/.357). He improved his strikeout and walk rates and played both corner outfield spots with 27 putouts and three assists. In 2013, Balaguert continued his development in Mesa at spring training and broke camp with Boise. The Cuban didn’t disappoint, leading the NWL in RBI (48), earning mid-season and post-season all-star honors, and was named NWL player of the week (June 24-30). He finished the year hitting .261/.331/.433 with eight homers and 103 total bases, 4th in NWL. Balaguert settled in right field, making 59 starts with three assists and a .968 fielding average.
2014 SeasonNothing spectacular for Balaguert in 2014, his first full-season as a pro. He was a fixture in right field on the Cougars championship team, despite missing over a month (July 7-Aug. 10) with a stress fracture in his foot. In his second go-around in the MWL, Balaguert delivered in the middle of the lineup, leading the Cougars in RBI before he went on the DL, and ended the year with 53, 7th in the Cubs minors. He slugged seven homers and finished with a slash of .252/.291/.366. After coming back from the stress fracture, he played in 18 games and ended the regular season with a seven-game hitting streak that raised his average 12 points. With a solid approach at the plate, Balaguert has the ability to hit the ball to all fields despite a rather long path to the ball.
Balaguert should start 2015 in Myrtle Beach but outfield spots in Class A will be up for grabs in spring training as several Cubs prospects try to move up the depth chart. I was pleasantly surprised by Balaguert’s athleticism in the outfield as I saw him make a few nice running catches on hard hit balls. His arm is adequate to play right field and he did gun down five MWL base runners. At age 22, Balaguert either needs to show more power or do a better job hitting for average and racking up total bases if he plans to make it to the majors. He has the tools to be a big league player but needs to improve on his everyday work habits.