With the news earlier today that Luis Robert Moirán has been declared a free agent, the 19 year old Avileño is sure to draw plenty of attention from MLB clubs. But what would a potential big league buyer be getting with the highly touted youngster. Let’s take a look at the career of Robert Moirán to this point to see where he falls in the pantheon of Cuban sluggers.
Like all players down on the island, Luis Robert Moirán broke into organized baseball at a young age, breaking into the Serie Nacional Sub-16 at the tender young age of 14. By the following year, he had been moved to the Sub-18 circuit and enjoyed a fine season, batting .325 and swiping 21 bases against players sometimes 3 years his senior. At 16, Robert Moirán was named to the Cuban Sub-18 national team for the Pan-Am games, where he took the tournament by storm, batting .383 and clubbing 4 home runs to pace the islanders. His talent too great to ignore, the 16 year old Robert Moirán was called up to his province’s top club the defending Serie Nacional champion Tigres de Ciego de Ávila where he served as a reserve outfielder and pinch hitter. We can forgive the young man his .125/.214/.167 batting clip at 16. Few players are Omar Linares.
But it didn’t take Robert Moirán long to begin to make an impression. By his age 17 season, he was playing regularly with Ciego de Ávila as a centerfielder and corner outfielder and beginning to make an impression with the bat. Robert Moirán batted .244/.304/.317 during his first full season with the, belted his first homer and drove in 12 runs across 54 games played. Next season, at, 18, he upped that to .305/.384/.413 with 5 home runs (12 pro-rated to 162 games), 8 steals (19), 10 doubles (24), and 29 runs batted in (69).
During the summer of 2016, the young Robert Moirán was given his first big showing with the senior National Team, being named to the club that would tour the Canadian American Association. Robert Moirán started every game of Cuba's 16 game circuit, scattered across the different outfield spots. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he posted a solid an encouraging .286/.319/.397 line in his first 71 at-bats against professional pitching.
That first successful outing with the Nacionales was only the prelude, as Robert Moirán would make the next Serie Nacional his own. Playing primarily in center field, he unleashed a monster season, batting .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers (37), 12 doubles, (37), 11 steals (34), and 40 runs driven (122). Robert Moirán finished his campaign as the Serie Nacional leader in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, doubles, and home runs (his batting average would in fact be eclipsed by a single point following his departure by Jefferson Delgado). At age 19, that tremendous season put him in excellent company, and compares favorably to some of the age 19 seasons of the great Cuban players to have joined the majors recently, including Yasiel Puig (.330/.430/.581, 17 HR (31 pro rated)), Yoenis Céspedes (.351/.442/.649, 23 HR (41 pro rated)), José Abreu (.293/.382/.449, 9 HR (17 pro rated)), or Yulieski Gurriel (.358/.419/.614, 9 HR (24 pro rated)).
But just as Robert Moirán seemed poised to take the reigns from the now-departed Gurriel as the new face of Cuban baseball, he followed in Yuli's footsteps by bolting the island for the fame, fortune, and opportunity to play at the highest level which awaited in the North American professional leagues.
Physically, Robert Moirán looks the part of a big league player, standing a tall 6’3’’ and weighing in at 205 pounds according to his most recent weigh in with his training staff (up from the 174 pounds he weighed in at during his first few years in the Serie Nacional). That added bulk bodes well for his future as a power hitter. While he lacks the raw power that Céspedes had at the same age, he has shown the ability to add muscle and has shown an increase in power effectively every year he has played organized baseball. His swing, for such a tall and sometimes lanky player, is generally quite quick and he seems to have avoided the trap that some young Cuban players fall into of developing a bit of a looping swing since there are few pitchers left on the island with the velocity to make a batter pay for a long swing.
As I mentioned during the previews for the WBC, Robert Moirán has a stance and swing which are canonically Cuban, holding his body upright and holding the bat high and close to his body. He exhibits a bit more of an open initial stance, but he otherwise looks quite similar to Yasiel Puig in the batters box
Projecting Cuban players is never easy, with outcomes ranging from superstars like Céspedes and Abreu, to solid if unspectacular players like Kendrys Morales or Alexei Ramírez, all the way to replacement level players like Adonis García or Alexander Guerrero. But Robert Moirán looks like the real deal. He has the stats that look to put him closer to the Céspedes-Abrue tier than García-Guerrero tier. He has the physical body and the history of development both in terms of strength and technical approach at the plate. He has displayed a batting eye which is rare for any player in Cuba, much less for one who had just turned 19. He plays a premium defensive position with at least enough acumen that scouts think he'll be able to hang there for at least part of his big league career. An international free agent is always a risk for any team, but if I was a big league exec, Luis Robert Moirán is the kind of player I would take that risk on. Let's see if Jeff Luhnow agrees.