What to Expect from Erisbel Arruebarrena, Dodgers' New Cuban Call-Up

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What to Expect from Erisbel Arruebarrena, Dodgers' New Cuban Call-Up
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With the team sputtering, and third baseman Juan Uribe hindered enough by an ailing hamstring to be placed on the disabled list, the Los Angeles Dodgers reached down and called up one of their intriguing infielders recently signed from Cuba.

It's not, however, Alexander Guerrero. Instead, the club has promoted shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, as Scott Miller of Bleacher Report notes:

While Guerrero was signed to a four-year, $28 million deal last October—four months before Arruebarrena—and expected to be the Dodgers' Opening Day second baseman this year, he struggled defensively in spring training and didn't earn the gig, which ultimately went to former prospect-turned-breakout speedster Dee Gordon.

Despite hitting very well with a .376/.417/.735 slash line and 10 home runs in 33 games through May 20, the 27-year-old Guerrero has been stuck in Triple-A.

Oh, and you've no doubt heard about the bizarre incident earlier this week in which former big league catcher Miguel Olivo bit off part of Guerrero's ear during an altercation, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes.

In addition to the aftermath of all that, Guerrero also appears to be dealing with what looks like a case of very poor timing:

So, while Guerrero isn't exactly a known commodity, his name has come up of late (albeit not in the way he wants), and he's at least been around the fringes of the discussion when it comes to the Dodgers so far in 2014.

On the other hand, even with 12 letters in his surname, Arruebarrena's name has flown much more under the radar. To this point, his biggest claim is probably that he was teammates—and friends—with Yasiel Puig in Cuba's Serie Nacional, as Hernandez reported.

"He was a good friend of mine," Puig said. "We were always together."

Well, they'll be together again, this time in the major leagues, now that the 24-year-old Arruebarrena has been plucked from Double-A and is getting his first shot in the bigs after inking a five-year, $25 million contract during the offseason.

Arruebarrena is joining a Dodgers team that's been searching for a spark in what has become a rather competitive NL West. Entering play Wednesday, Los Angeles' record is 24-22, which puts them four games back of the division-leading San Francisco Giants and two games behind the surprising Colorado Rockies.

Arruebarrena is considered a defensive specialist, which is something that can help the Dodgers, who aren't exactly a strong team with the leather. In fact, they rank as the 10th-worst club with a defensive efficiency of 69.7 percent—the rate at which balls in play are converted to outs—according to Baseball Prospectus.

Here's what Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote of Arruebarrena's D after he left Cuba last November:

At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarrena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. He’s a below-average runner, but his quick first step and instincts give him good range. He has a quick transfer and a plus-plus arm with accuracy, which allows him to make throws from deep in the hole and turn 4-6-3 double plays with ease. His awareness in the field is advanced and he’s shown the ability to make the barehanded play look routine and make strong throws from different angles. Scouts have called Arruebarrena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove.

That defense-heavy reputation also jibes with his performance with the bat in America so far. In 25 games at Chattanooga, Arruebarrena was hitting just .201/.252/.302 with 31 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances. And that's after a stretch where he's been going well.

Again, here's Badler:

A right-handed hitter, Arruebarrena has a long swing, struggles with pitch recognition, swings through breaking balls in the strike zone and is prone to chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. He has a pull-oriented approach and minimal power, so several scouts are skeptical he could hit better than .220 or hit a .300 on-base percentage against major league pitching. His lack of foot speed would also limit his appeal as a potential defensive-oriented backup, since he wouldn’t have as much value as a pinch-runner.

Just how much the Dodgers will utilize Arruebarrena remains to be seen. For now, though, assume he's likely to be limited to a late-inning defensive-replacement role initially.

Of course, sometimes a foot in the door and an opportunity is all it takes. If not for another body part—in this case, an ear—that foot just might have belonged to Guerrero. Instead, Arruebarrena is the Cuban infielder who's getting the first crack with the Dodgers.

 

Statistics come from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

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