MLB teams expanded their search for free agent talent to Tijuana, Mexico Tuesday. Between 15 and 20 teams had scouts on hand to watch Cuban catcher Yenier Bello and two other prospects work out at Estadio Salvador Sierra Vera, agent Bryce Dixon of Primo Sports Group told sportsnet.ca.
“Bello’s throwing arm and his power are his two calling cards,” Dixon said. “He’s training constantly to prepare to join a big league team in 2014.”
Bello was recently cleared by MLB — the first step toward signing with an MLB team. He still needs to be unblocked by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before reaching an agreement with teams. The timeline for that process remains unclear, though Bello may be free to sign within the month if the paperwork progresses quickly. Formal negotiations with teams cannot begin until Bello gets clearance from OFAC, but scouts can still watch him in action.
Tuesday's workout included Bello throwing to second and third base (pictured above) and hitting batting practice and live pitching (pictured below).
The 28-year-old hit .274 with 13 homers playing in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2011, and projects as a right-handed hitting catcher with pop. He hasn’t caught games this year, creating a potential concern for scouts. However, he has caught hard throwers including Aroldis Chapman in the past and showed solid receiving skills Tuesday.
Bello continues working out in anticipation of being able to sign with a team, and additional showcases are possible. If he needs time to tune-up his receiving skills and timing at the plate, he could require games at the minor league level in 2014.
Cuban prospects Rogelio Armenteros and Jozzen Cuesta also showcased their skills Tuesday. Armenteros, a right-handed pitcher, showed off a fastball that topped 90 mph. He and Cuesta, a first baseman, are both represented by Wasserman Media Group.
Bello was caught by authorities when he attempted to leave Cuba in 2012, but he successfully left his home country this year, enabling him to pursue an MLB career. If the success of fellow Cubans Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes means anything, Bello’s power could indeed translate from Cuba to MLB.