Today the Midwest League announced that South Bend Cubs Outfielder Yasiel Balaguert was named Player of the Week. The 22 year old, who has played RF, 1B, DH, and LF for the Cubs, hit .650 with 3 HRs and 5 RBIs in 5 games. Balaguert joins fellow teammate Cael Brockmeyer, Myrtle Beach’s Kevin Brown, Tyler Skulina and Billy McKinney, and Tennessee’s Dan Vogelbach (2X) as players of the week this year.
Balaguert was one of the first signings in the Theo Epstein era after being inked as a non-drafted free agent on Dec. 7, 2011 out of Cuba. A former teammate of Jorge Soler on Cuba’s 18-and-under team, his signing was thought to have helped the Cubs land Soler the next summer.
At the time, Baseball America’s Ben Badler described a Balaguert as a player who “has modest tools, a strong, thick-bodied frame […] that he will have to keep in check and shows occasional average power with a quick bat and good extension.”
Balaguert spent 2012 at low-A Peoria first, then moved on to Arizona. He was not impressive at either affiliate, hitting .200 and .235 respectively with only 1 HR between the two places. In 2013 he did a little better, hitting .265 with 8 HRs and 48 RBIs in 63 games at short-season Boise.
Prior to the 2014 season, Sahadev Sharma of Cubs’ Vineline analyzed Balaguert’s career to that point. He wrote:
Balaguert is the type of athlete with a wide variance of possible end points. In 2014, he could explode into a top prospect or struggle mightily and get lost among the numerous other talented players in the Cubs system. If things do click for the young Cuban, it’ll be a credit to his tremendous work ethic as well as the Cubs’ scouting and player development team for identifying and molding a truly raw kid into a valuable piece of the puzzle.
At low-A Kane County, Balaguert appeared in 93 games, hit 7 HRs and drove in 53, but his .253 average and .291 OBP did not light the world on fire. You could see glimpses of power here and there, but he had not strung anything together.
Here is what I wrote about him coming into spring training when I thought he would be at Myrtle Beach:
Cuban Yasiel Balaguert will likely fill the DH role. He had an up and down year, but the 6’2” 215 pounder has a lot of potential – mainly power. He needs to much more selective at the plate. He had a great April (.317), a horrible May (.163), a so-so June (.259), a poor July (.217), and an amazing August (.333). He only walked 20 times in 369 plate appearances. He has got to change his approach at the plate and not to try and hit every pitch as hard as he can.
This April, Balaguert was assigned to low-A South Bend, where he spent the first month looking as though he was going to be thoroughly unspectacular in his second straight go-round at that level. He played 7 games in a bench and DH role and only hit .154.
But when Trey Martin was promoted to Myrtle Beach on April 27, Balaguert got his shot at playing every day. Something clicked about two weeks ago. Since May 22, the 6’2” and 215 pound 22-year-old right-handed hitter is 18 for 36 with 3 HRs and 9 RBIs. For the season, Balaguert is hitting .295 with 4 HRs and 25 RBIs.
Here is to hoping his streak continues!