Profiling the top Cuban prospects, both on the island and beyond

The level of talent remaining in Cuba is poor. After years of monolithic talents leaving the island to play Major League Baseball, the well is nearly dry and more talented young players are leaving than ever.

The cause of such an exodus, if there is indeed a primary cause, is debatable, and many wonder why now, ahead of the potential normalization of relations with the United States, Cuban ballplayers are so quick to subject themselves to the risks of defection when laws that once denied them access to the United States are beginning to disappear. Many feel that normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations will inevitably lead to a posting process similar to the one MLB shares with the Korea Baseball Organization, in which a single MLB team buys the right to negotiate with the player. The system also could include a mandatory domestic service time before the player can be posted.

The possibility of a limited market at an advanced age has prospects fleeing to establish residency in countries like Haiti to make themselves eligible on the international market. Even if a prospect is subject to the (frequently ignored) international bonus rules for amateurs, he's still marketed to all 30 teams (minus those teams in that signing period's penalty box).

What follows is an assessment -- status, scouting reports and rankings -- of what's left in the way of MLB-level prospects in Cuba, as well as a separate list of prospects who are from Cuba but have left recently enough that they remain unsigned by a major league club or have yet to even be declared eligible to sign by Major League Baseball.

In Cuba

1. Luis Robert, OF, Ciego de Avila
Age: 19 | Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 174

Not on Cuba's roster for Tuesday's game vs. the Rays.

Any minute now, Robert could make his way onto the other list, as rumors that he has left the island began to circulate a few days ago. It would be another sizeable blow to the island's ever-weakening talent pool, as most of the sources I've spoken to consider him the best prospect on the island. Robert has a chance to not only remain in center field in the States, but also hit well and hit for power. While there are a few precociously talented outfielders still in Cuba, none has a future offensive profile quite as complete as Robert's. Advanced barrel control, tremendous hand-eye coordination and plus bat speed allow for lots of contact despite some effort and general noise in the swing. That effort is an attempt to coax as much power as Robert's body will allow right now, but as he fills out, the pop should come more naturally and the swing will quiet down.

The end result projects as a 55 bat (on the 20-80 scouting scale) with plus raw power, more than enough to profile in an outfield corner should Robert fill out so much that he must move out of center field. Not everyone thinks he'll have to, and if that sect of observers is correct, Robert is a star.

2. Victor Mesa, OF, Matanzas
Age: 19 | Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 175

Not on Cuba's roster for Tuesday's game vs. the Rays.

"Victor Victor," as he's known, is a near lock to remain in center field as a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed and tremendous instincts for the position. In fact, he spent much of his age-17 season as Matanzas' primary center fielder, showing he could be a plus defender out there with a 70-grade arm at maturity. Offensively, Mesa has plus bat speed but has undergone a number of mechanical tweaks already, and his lengthy swing -- like that of Yulieski Gourriel, whom I'll profile below -- might make him late on fastballs in the States, pitches that he's currently peppering to outfield gaps in Cuba. His frame has room to add mass, and the fact that he has been responsive to coaching is evidence that he might one day find a swing that works for him.

There's big upside here, but Mesa's recent elbow injury, and the development time it has robbed him of, make him a bit riskier than most teenagers with his baseball instincts. Also, nobody is sure how Victor's parentage -- his father was a longtime Cuban player and Olympic Gold medalist, as well as a manager -- might impact his ability or desire to defect.

3. Julio Pablo Martinez, CF, La Isla de la Juventud
Age: 20 | Bats/Throws: L/L
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 165

Not on Cuba's roster for Tuesday's game vs. the Rays.

Martinez is a terrific bet to stay in center field because of his plus speed and natural feel there. He positions himself well and coasts from gap to gap, making plays with an ease and grace beyond his years.

There's more raw power than one would expect from someone of Martinez's size because of remarkable wrist strength and leverage in his swing. His stroke is not unlike that of Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera; both get their weight forward almost excessively early and make their odd bat paths work because of freakish hand-eye coordination and natural timing . This isn't the kind of swing that traditionally has been a harbinger of long-term success, but it has worked for Martinez so far, and if he were to someday come Stateside, I think it would be unwise to have him change it unless it stops working. The range of outcomes were he to sign is anywhere from average everyday big leaguer or minor league flameout.

4. Jose Adolis Garcia, RF, Ciego de Avila
Age: 24 | Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 175

On the Cuban National Team roster for Tuesday's game.

Brother of Atlanta Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, Jose Adolis has been competing in Serie Nacional since he was a teenager, having produced a .299/.355/.459 career line and transitioning from second base to right field in 2014.

He sports a plus-plus arm, plus speed and considerable raw power and bat speed, but his approach, swing length and general lack of feel for hitting completely undermine the rest of his skill set. Physically explosive though he may be, most think Garcia is unlikely to hit enough to capitalize on his physical gifts, and they have him graded out as either a below-average big league regular or a bench outfielder at peak. Scouts acknowledge that if, through some player-development miracle, Garcia finds a way to make consistent contact, then he could be an above-average regular, but considering he's already 24, that seems unlikely.