The Angels officially announced the signing of Roberto Baldoquin to an $8-million bonus on Tuesday after the Cuban middle infielder passed a physical in mid-December.
The right-handed-hitting Baldoquin, 20, is a highly regarded 5-foot-11, 195-pounder who could eventually replace Erick Aybar at shortstop or play second base. He will attend big league spring-training camp and is expected to open the 2015 season at double-A Arkansas or Class-A Inland Empire.
“Roberto is a very well-rounded player,” said Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto, who scouted Baldoquin for three days in late October at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic. “He can play all three infield positions, he’s a gifted defender with soft hands and the arm strength to play any infield position.
“He has a very advanced feel in the batter’s box for what’s a ball, what’s a strike, and for using the middle of the field with a level line-drive stroke. He has power to lift the ball. The only tool that grades out as average is running speed.”
The Angels have been relatively quiet in the international market but have beefed up their scouting and player development efforts, especially in Latin America, in recent years.
The deal with Baldoquin represents their first major foray into the Cuban market since December 2004, when the Angels signed first baseman Kendrys Morales to a six-year, $3-million contract.
Baldoquin has reportedly played three seasons for Las Tunas in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the top league on the island, and he was a member of the country’s 16-and-under national team. He left Cuba last February and has been training in the Dominican Republic.
The signing far exceeds the Angels’ $2.4-million international bonus pool for 2014, leaving the team subject to a 100% tax on the overage. That means Baldoquin will actually cost the Angels roughly $14 million to sign. That money, however, will not be counted toward the team’s luxury-tax payroll.
Dipoto said Baldoquin physically “looks like a cross between Yuniel Escobar and Adrian Beltre” and is polished for his age. The GM is confident Baldoquin will develop into an everyday big league shortstop.
“He’s not a raw, let’s-wait-and-see-how-this-turns-out projection,” Dipoto said. “He looks like a major league player now. He needs a little time in the minor leagues to adjust to a new country, but he’s a pretty mature kid. He has a skill set that is very well-balanced.”