The Padres have been very happy with what they are getting from Odrisamer Despaigne after his first three major league starts. The best may be yet to come.
International scouting is one of the widest nets that a team can cast. Often statistics are not readily available, certainly not to the extent that many American high schools and colleges keep, and the scouting can be a little more hit and miss.
Cuba has provided an interesting talent pool, and particularly recently as more Cubans defect with experience that certainly gets them ready for MLB pitching. Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig to name a few. While Odrisamer continues to wonder clubs with his array of offspeed pitches, different arm angles, and guile, he is likely to have a bit of an awakening his second or third time around the league.
One talent however that can’t get figured out is speed. The Padres, according to the UT’s Jeff Sanders, have their sight set on 27 year old defector Rusney Castillo. Castillo is an outfielder, and would not factor against teams international bonus pools if signed. He would be considered a regular free agent. Teams get a pool of money to sign international free agents (Padres get $2.53M for 2014-2015), and often sign prospects in their early to mid-teens. For example, Sanders reports that the next four picks on the Padres free agent wish list include three 16 year olds and a 17 year old.
Finding a ready-made, major league impact player like Despaigne or Puig is the exception, not the norm, and with every Cuban baseball defector that does make it, they likely make things a little bit harder for the next defector. See this great article about Puig’s harrowing tale.
So, have the Padres cracked the Cuban code? Will they be able to eschew traditional strategies and find another major league bargain like the $1 Million they paid Despaigne and have him provide 2 wins to a team that has only won 39? Time will tell, but in Castillo the Padres just might be able to find out sooner than later.