Toscano cleared to play, but where is unknown
Cuban outfielder may begin 2016 in Braves' Minor League system
ATLANTA -- Now that Dian Toscano has cleared all of the government hurdles that prevented him from playing this year, there is certainly reason to wonder how he might factor into the Braves' plans over the next few years.
A Braves official confirmed that the U.S. government has provided the final clearance for Toscano to be employed in this country. The 26-year-old Cuban outfielder signed a four-year, $7.5 million deal with the Braves in January, but he wasn't cleared to enter the U.S. until July.
Because Toscano spent all of this season on the restricted list, he will not receive the $800,000 he had been owed for the 2015 season. He is guaranteed $3.8 million over the next three seasons and has a $1.7 million buyout for 2019.
When the Braves signed Toscano, they viewed him as a potential backup outfielder who could rise to the Majors after spending some time at the Minor League level. Instead of getting the chance to prove himself with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year, Toscano was limited to the daily workouts he completed at the Braves' Spring Training complex once he was cleared to enter the country.
As the more talented Hector Olivera proved this year, it sometimes takes some time for Cuban players to adjust to how baseball is played in the U.S. Thus, there is a good chance Toscano could begin 2016 at the Minor League level.
This would allow Toscano to further his development and it would also give the Braves some time to determine how they want to use their left field candidates.
It has become clear that the Braves want Olivera to make a quick adjustment to become an outfielder and serve as their primary left fielder next year. If they get their wish, they will then need to figure out how to use Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Adonis Garcia, whose defensive woes will likely limit his time as a third baseman.
Because he did not participate in international events for the Cuban national team, Toscano was a relatively unknown player until he fled from Cuba and reached the Dominican Republic last year.
Toscano is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound left-handed hitter who is considered to possess good plate discipline and the capability to produce consistent contact. He batted .300 with a .403 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage while playing in Cuba's Serie Nacional from 2008-12.