Sierra, 24, has been throwing for scouts for weeks, but this was his first time facing hitters — he retired all nine batters he faced during the showcase, but it was a bunch of high school kids — and pitching in front of a very large crowd. He must still wait for MLB’s clearance before he can actually sign, but Sanchez says Sierra will begin visiting the cities of interested teams soon.
Prior to defecting, Sierra spent parts of four seasons pitching in Cuba and participated in a bunch of international tournaments as well. He’s not a total unknown to scouts but they haven’t had a ton of looks at him at him either. Here are Sierra’s stats from Cuba, via Baseball Reference:
|All Levels (4 Seasons)||3.74||95||25||238.0||211||107||99||10||135||166||1048||1.454||8.0||0.4||5.1||6.3||1.23|
Much more important than the stats is the scouting report. Teddy Cahill says Sierra sat in the mid-90s with his heater and around 87 mph with his slider during the showcase. He also threw a changeup. Here’s more from Cahill:
Thursday was Sierra’s first game action in a couple of months, but he overmatched the Chilidogs. While wearing a Cuban national team jersey, he threw three perfect innings, striking out four batters. His fastball sat in the mid 90s, peaking at 96 mph. He used his slider as his out pitch. All four of his strikeouts came on his slider, and a particularly tough 87 mph slider led to a broken bat groundout to end the second inning. He also showed one changeup.
Sierra said he is particularly pleased with the progress of his secondary pitches over the last few months.
“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.”
Ben Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Sanchez as the 13th best prospect in Cuba before he defected earlier this year. “When Sierra is at his best, he has the look of a mid-rotation starter,” wrote Badler. “Like a lot of Cuban pitchers, Sierra intentionally throws from multiple arm slots, usually throwing from a three-quarters angle but frequently dropping down to a lower slot and at times going up to high three-quarters.”
Because of his age, Sierra is not subject to the international spending restrictions and can sign a big league contract worth any amount. That means the Yankees can sign him — they are limited to bonuses of $300,000 or less for international amateurs as a result of last year’s spending spree, but Sierra is exempt from those restrictions. The $300,000 limit doesn’t apply to him.
Sanchez says scouts believe Sierra can help at the Major League level next season and says the seven-year, $27M contract the Reds gave Cuban righty Raisel Iglesias last winter is comparable to what Sierra can expect. Iglesias spent part of 2015 in the minors but was serviceable in the big leagues, pitching to a 4.15 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 95.1 innings spread across 16 starts and two relief appearances.
The Yankees seem to scout every Cuban player these days — as they should, if only for due diligence — but they haven’t signed a big money Cuban player since Jose Contreras more than a decade ago. Sierra doesn’t seem like a budding star or anything, but pitching is pitching, and the Yankees could decide he’s worth an investment.