Source: Sox high on young Cuban outfielder

Source: Sox high on young Cuban outfielder
February 24, 2012, 9:20 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Over the winter, the Red Sox were conspicuous by their absence when it came to bidding on Yoenis Cespedes, the flashy Cuban outfielder who defected and became a free agent.

They don't plan the approach with Cespedes's countryman Jorge Soler.

Soler is close to achieve residency in the Dominican Republic, after which he will file a request with Major League Baseball to become a free agent.

When he's granted that right, he'll get auctioned off to the highest bidder. The Red Sox have signaled that they intend to be right in the middle of the bidding, according to an industry source.

Why the interest on Soler, but not Cespedes, who signed a four-year, 36 million deal with the Oakland A's? In a word: age.

While Cespedes is 26, Soler is just 20.

"With the other guy (Cespedes)," said an industry source, "any time spent in the minor leagues is a negative. You're paying big money for him to develop."

It isn't clear whether the Sox -- and other teams -- believe that Soler projects as a better player than Cespedes. What is clear is that, given the talent and the age, the potential is there for a bigger upside.

Said a major league executive who has watched Soler: "I see him as a high impact guy with huge power. His upside is as a right fielder; the downside is as a left fielder."

Asked for a comparable player for Soler, one talent evaluator said: "Ron Gant."

Gant played 16 seasons in the big leagues, many with the Atlanta Braves. He finished his career with 321 homers, 1,008 RBI, 243 steals and an OPS of .803.

While the market for Cespedes never materialized as projected -- Oakland didn't emerge as a factor until the very end -- it's thought that interest in Soler will be greater, chiefly because of his younger age and room for growth.

A number of big-market teams are expected to make bids, including the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.

It's likely that Soler would begin at Single A ball, but the expectation is he could leapfrog through the minors is relatively short order -- somewhere between two and three seasons.