The next Cuban phenom might be ready to sign with a major league team and Andy Ibanez is his name. Ibanez was at the University of Miami with other Cuban players in hopes of showcasing their skills. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors brings us the story. Ibanez is under the age of 23 and has less than five years of professional experience in Cuba, so he is subject to international spending limitations. Ibanez happens to be a second baseman, but would the San Diego Padres really be interested?
Andy Ibanez was a star for Cuba's 16-and-under and 18-and-under national teams. As a 16-year-old he led the 16-and-under league with a .458 batting average and .703 slugging percentage. In the 18-and-under league in 2011 he hit .378 with three home runs, 23 walks and nine strikeouts in 138 at-bats. He has shown excellent plate discipline, even at his young age.
Other young talents who attended the showcase were left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda, outfielder Gelkis Jimenez and catcher Lednier Ricardo. Miranda is 25 and should have no problem finding work. He owns a career ERA in Cuba of 3.78. The 23-year old Jimenez is viewed as a fringe prospect and Ricardo, 27, is a journeyman catcher. He owns a career .256 batting average, but is noted for his defensive abilities. The other three prospects are just not coveted like the second baseman Ibanez.
Andy Ibanez spent three seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional or Cuban baseball league. In 2012, at the age of 18 he won the leagues Gold Glove for a second baseman. He hit .278 that year with three homers and 36 runs batted in (295 at bats). Last season was his best performance offensively as he hit .267 with a .377 on base percentage. Only 28 strike outs in 280 at bats shows the plate discipline necessary to play in the majors. He was named to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, as Cuba’s youngest player on the roster. Another great accomplishment and a spectacular sign to his true baseball worth.
Andy Ibanez doesn't really do anything spectacular. His speed is below average, his defense and arm average at best. Though reports indicate he just needs some proper conditioning. Ibanez does not have much power and the batting average is decent but not spectacular (so far at least). He is, however, very young and reports are that his baseball IQ is off the charts. That right there speaks volumes to what he can bring to a respected franchise.
A player like that with minimal tools, but has all the desire in the world, generally succeed at the pro level. He has been compared to names such as Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante and Placido Polanco. All very solid major league second baseman, but not the household names like Robinson Cano or Chase Utley. So don’t expect monumental numbers from this young kid once he arrives in the pros. Though at his young age all tools can surely be cultivated with Major League coaching.
Ibanez is considered almost major league ready, mostly due to his high baseball knowledge. In reality, he is probably a season or two away from contributing at the Major League level. Ibanez is drawing interest from the Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Brewers, Diamondbacks and Mariners besides the Padres. The 22-year old right handed hitter is sure to make a decision relatively soon.