Prospect Baldoquin excited to be around Angels' stars

Cuban shortstop addresses media at camp

Prospect Baldoquin excited to be around Angels' stars

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A long journey has finally brought Roberto Baldoquin, potentially the Angels' shortstop of the future, to Spring Training, and the 20-year-old is already thinking about winning a World Series with the Halos.

He arrived at camp Friday and spoke to the media for the first time Saturday, recapping his journey from Cuba to the Dominican Republic to Tempe over the last year, and setting his sights on helping the Angels in the near future.

"The main thing is I'm very excited to be around guys like [Albert] Pujols, [Erick] Aybar, Mike Trout," Baldoquin said through interpreter Jose Mota. "Guys who have done it on the field and guys I can kind of look up to and see their pattern. It's a matter of getting on the path to the big leagues, but it's good to be around players of that caliber."

The Angels gave Baldoquin an $8 million signing bonus in early November, which was a record under the new guidelines until Yoan Lopez broke it by signing for $8.27 million with the D-backs -- and it was a $15 million commitment, considering the 100 percent overage tax on a spending pool that began at $2,383,700.

"He's 20, we're going to take our time with him," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "But he has some things you just can't teach. He has soft, quick hands. He has great feet. And he has a wonderful internal clock on the field. We felt very comfortable with the player. The challenge … was where these guys fit financially into the great spectrum of players available in the pool of talent."

Dipoto said the Angels are committed to starting Baldoquin at the Class A level, regardless of what he shows this spring. That may not be on Opening Day, but it'll be the starting point for a player they believe can be Major League-ready by 2016, in time to potentially take Aybar's place at shortstop.

"Wherever he winds up, he's going to be one of the youngest players on his team," Dipoto said. "And he'll also wind up being one of the most mature, is my guess."

Indeed, Angels front-office members rave about not only Baldaquin's tools, but his character and that of the family members and support system he holds close. He was discovered, essentially, as he worked out with fellow Cuban defector-turned-Major Leaguer Yasmany Tomas, who also signed with the D-backs.

The Angels eventually focused their attention on Baldoquin, who impressed during an individual workout at the club's academy in the Dominican Republic.

"What I saw from them is the fact that they had confidence in me as a ballplayer, but they also showed an interest in getting to know me as a person, and that really made me feel comfortable immediately and quickly feel like I'm part of a big family," Baldoquin said.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.