By Jon Weisman
Now the Dodgers have a Yaisel to go with their Yasiel.
Yaisel Sierra, a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher from Cuba, has signed a six-year deal with the Dodgers.
Throwing mostly in relief (131 games, 25 starts), Sierra has had a 4.23 ERA since debuting as a teenager in 2010 with a strikeout rate that has increased in every season except one, rising to 8.0 per nine innings in 2014. He did not pitch competitively last year.
Baseball America ranked Sierra 13th among Cuban prospects. Here’s what Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote about Sierra in January.
… Sierra’s athletic frame (6-foot-1, 170 pounds), clean arm action and pure stuff are promising, though his results never matched his potential in Cuba. At his best, Sierra has looked like a midrotation starter, including in a dominant start in July 2014 against the U.S. college national team. Yet last season in Cuba, Sierra posted a 6.10 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 31 walks in 70 innings as a reliever, leading the league with 11 wild pitches.
Still, Sierra’s stuff is impressive, with a fastball that sat at 91-94 mph and touched 96 in Cuba, reaching 97 since then. His fastball has good life, enabling him to get swings and misses on that pitch in the strike zone. His slider flashes as another plus pitch with tight spin and late tilt. Sierra also threw a splitter when he was in Cuba, though he has since ditched that pitch in favor of a changeup. Like many Cuban pitchers, Sierra used to throw from multiple arm angles in Cuba, getting more movement on his pitches when he dropped down to a lower arm slot, though he now pitches exclusively from a higher arm angle. …
Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest rounded up more opinion on Sierra.
To create room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers placed right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas (rib resection surgery) on the 60-day disabled list.
Update: Dodger senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes spoke to reporters today about Sierra, who is expected to arrive in camp in the next day or two …
“This is all new to him,” Byrnes said. “He hasn’t thrown off a mound yet (here), so he’ll probably be a touch behind, but not too far behind.
“It’s kind of an interesting history. Like a lot of guys from over there, he’s kind of pitched at all angles, a lot of breaking balls. But we also saw some other things, especially a two-seamer we liked. His four-seam velocity is up to 97-98, his two-seamer is really good, 91-93, the slider — he’s working on a change. He’s got a lot of power in his arsenal, good delivery. We like his makeup, and we’ve got to keep developing him. He’s fairly far along, but still has some room to grow as we turn him into a Major League pitcher.”
Byrnes said that the Dodgers’ intent is to develop Sierra as a starter, and that he would begin his Dodger career in the minors.
“I think a lot of guys, you have that debate — starter or reliever — and it’s nice to have a fallback, but I think we want to at least shoot for starter,” Byrnes said, “because there’s enough there that gives him a chance.”
Control has been an issue for Sierra, but the Dodgers are hopeful that streamlining his delivery will address that.
“I asked him (about it) a week or so ago, because throwing strikes is essential, and he just doesn’t look like a guy who’d have problems with it, as we watched him the last several months, so it sort of begs the question,” Byrnes said. “He knows that that part of his history maybe is a function of a different style of pitching, but we’re going to really, really emphasize throwing strikes.”
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