Top Cuban pitching prospect Gerardo Concepcion has just been declared a free agent after establishing residency in Mexico this week, and the Cubs, among others, are expected to be in heavy pursuit.
Concepcion, 18, is a lefty who was the rookie of the year in Cuba’s highest league last year, which is very impressive, even considering the lessened level of competition. To contextualize: Cuba’s highest professional level is often compared to High-A ball in the States. If a 17/18 year old pitcher was the best pitcher in the Florida State League, he would easily be considered one of the best prospects in baseball.
That’s not to say that Concepcion would immediately be a top prospect in all of baseball, but it is to say that he’s a very, very good prospect.
The Cubs have been connected to Concepcion for a couple months now, and it’s hard to figure why his imminent free agency hasn’t gained the same kind of national attention as that of Cespedes and Soler. It’s possible that those two are simply better prospects/players. But it’s also possible that Cespedes got the most hype because of his age (he’s less of a “prospect” than a close-to-ready player) and YouTube videos, and Soler got tag-along hype by virtue of also being an outfielder, who is frequently described as a younger, higher-ceiling version of Cespedes.
Because there hasn’t been as much hype surrounding Concepcion, I can’t rightly tell you if he’s a prospect on par with Soler (whose signing would generate immense, deserved excitement), or if he’s a lesser type that won’t knock your socks off. I suspect he’s more of the former, but I’m waiting to hear scouts’ takes before drawing any conclusions.
For now, all we have are his 2010/2011 stats, from which it’s hard to extrapolate too much: 3.36 ERA in 21 appearances (16 starts), with a 10-3 record. Concepcion is currently working out for teams in the Dominican Republic.
If you’re looking to test your Spanish, here’s a little more on Concepcion’s defection and free agency.
Ultimately, spending big bucks on international prospects like Concepcion is as good an idea as any for the Cubs’ remaining dollars – the international spending cap under the new CBA doesn’t kick in until July. So, until then, it might make some sense to go a little nuts.