January 15th will mark the official international signing period but many deals are already in place. According to Francys Romero César Prieto Orioles have agreement on a contract. Prieto is a 22 year old second baseman and is currently the defending Cuban National Series batting champion. He walked away from the Cienfuegos Elefantes and the Cuban National Team in late May upon arriving in Florida for an Olympic qualifying event.
Prieto broke through in the Cuban National Series in 2018 and was selected by Villa Clara as a reinforcement for the second phase of that season. He would break Kendrys Morales‘ rookie hits record. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for that game and captured him in action, photo above. As a 19 year old Freshman he hit .356 with 6 home runs and would take home Rookie of the Year honours.
César Prieto would make the Cuban National Team and see the majority of reps at second base in 2019. He would visit Ottawa with that squad in 2019. He hit lead off for the majority of their tour against the Can-Am League. I was able to capture him in both photo and video. I was definitely impressed with his bat to ball skills. He would also travel with that team for the Premier 12 Olympic Qualifier. Cuba would ultimately fall short in their bid and miss out on the Olympics for the first time.
The Cienfuegos Elefantes have struggled in recent years due to the losses of Yasiel Puig, Yoan Moncada and José Abreu but Prieto led a resurgent Elephants team back to relevance. I crossed paths with him again in late 2019. His sophmore season saw him build on his impressive rookie season and although his counting numbers don’t show a marked improvement, he showed better patience cutting his strike outs in half while walking more than whiffing.
César Prieto Orioles have agreement reported between $650,000 and $750,000. This number falls well below initial projections and the amounts similar players like Pedro Leon or Oscar Colas have received. This is due to unfortunate timing. Prieto left Cuba late and was declared a free agent in the fall. Many teams already had deals in place with their preferred prospects. This particular class is also very full. Covid pushing July 2020’s signing period to January 2021 has essentially combined two signing periods into one. From a Cuban perspective there will be more available young Cuban talents available than usual as well.