Last week, the Chicago Cubs signed (well, “reportedly” signed, as the team has yet to make an official announcement) 19-year-old Cuban lefty Gerardo Concepcion to a $7 million Major League deal, which could reach $8 million in value with certain incentives.

Spending that kind of money and guaranteeing a 40-man roster spot to a 19-year-old kid suggests the Cubs think quite highly of Concepcion. To our eyes, though, there has been very little available on the lefty, thanks in large part to the restrictive nature of his home country. In other words: we haven’t really been able to watch the kid pitch. But the Cubs’ front office has been able to see him a number of times, and they clearly liked what they saw.

So, how did everyone else feel about the deal? About Concepcion’s future? Here are a number of notable bits on the Cubs’ newest, possibly best, left-handed pitching prospect:

  • Most scouting reports have Concepcion as a very mature pitcher for his age. He is very polished, and has outstanding control. His fastball sits in the upper-80s/lower-90s, though that could tick higher in a couple years. He’s got a good breaking ball, and he also throws a changeup. Few believe he’s got an upside beyond a back-end of the rotation starter (though I highly doubt the Cubs would have spent so lavishly (even in the shadow of the new CBA) if they didn’t think there was a chance that he could be a three or a two), but he’s also thought to have a very high floor (i.e., low probability of completely busting).
  • Baseball America had this to say: “Concepcion is a slender 6-foot-2 with long arms, sloped shoulders and an athletic, wiry build that could have some projection remaining. He has advanced feel for pitching for his age and has shown the ability to pitch with his fastball to both sides of the plate, though he doesn’t have the stuff to miss many bats. At times his fastball ranges from 88-92 mph, though some scouts have said they’ve seen him dip to 86-90 mph at times. Concepcion has had success in Cuba by being able to change speeds to keep hitters off balance. Some scouts like Concepcion’s mid-70s curveball, which shows good depth at times, but others say it gets loopy. He throws slightly across his body, which provides him with a little deception, but it’s a concern for some scouts who think his mechanics hamper his ability to get to the front side of his delivery and show consistency with his breaking ball. Concepcion also throws a changeup (some scouts have called it a splitter), though like many young pitchers it’s still a work in progress. While some scouts view Concepcion’s upside as a No. 5 starter, others see a bit more, though with his present stuff it’s hard to project more than a back-end starter for now.
  • Concepcion was the rookie of the year at Cuba’s highest professional level last year, putting up a 3.36 ERA – 11th best in the league – in a little over 100 innings of work. He didn’t strike out too many, just 4.7 per 9, but didn’t walk a ton either (about 3.8 per 9). Numbers aren’t everything, but Concepcion’s are impressive. Even if you consider professional Cuban baseball to be the equivalent of High-A ball here, I’d be thrilled to see one of the Cubs’ 18-year-old pitching prospects put up those kind of numbers in Daytona.
  • BP’s Kevin Goldstein weighed in both on the signing and on Concepcion as a prospect. As for Concepcion as a prospect, Goldstein would rank the lefty sixth in the Cubs’ system, but that doesn’t mean Goldstein is a huge fan. “This is not a guy to get crazy excited about,” Goldstein said on MLBN Radio. “This is not a guy who, if I had to re-do my Top 101 prospects list, I would put on. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider it. He wouldn’t even sniff the list …. His ceiling is probably as a four or five starter and that’s it. But, he does have a safer floor than most teenaged pitchers just because of how crazy polished he is. You talk to people who went to his private workouts and not-so-private workouts, he doesn’t show a ton of stuff.”
  • Because of his age, Goldstein doesn’t think Concepcion will pitch beyond A-ball this year (recall, the Cubs can get a fourth option year if Concepcion spends this entire year at Low-A ball, so don’t be discouraged if that’s where he stays – if pitches at a higher level this year, he’s likely to get only three option years, which means the Cubs would have to call him up by 2015, when he’s just 22).
  • As for the signing, Goldstein wasn’t impressed with the price paid by the Cubs, believing that the $7 million was far more than other teams offered (he hasn’t heard of an offer over $2.5 million), and was simply craziness associated with the upcoming changes to the CBA (to which I say … um, yeah, so? If that’s what it costs to ensure you get some of these kids before spending limits kick in, and you’ve got the money, why not use it?). Absent the CBA changes, Goldstein guessed that Concepcion would have been paid in the $1.5 to $2 million range.
  • FanGraphs sees the signing as a good one, even if it was an “overpay”: “The lofty price tag does not mean the Chicago Cubs made a poor signing, though. Concepcion may not have a high ceiling, but he is an extremely polished young pitcher and is considered a safe bet to reach the big leagues in some capacity. Any big league talent that will be under team control for at least six seasons provides substantial value for a rebuilding club, like the Cubs, and if the organization has money to burn and overpay for a probable back-end starter, more power to them. It will ultimately help.”
  • Idaho Razorback

    Glad you’re back Brett and hopefully ok. Did you run your fingers through the doctors hair during the procedure? As for Concepcion, I love the signing, when he finially gets signed after his physical. Huge upside.

  • JB88

    It continues to shock me that guys like Goldstein can draw opinions with such force without ever having seen a kid. I trust my wife as much as any person I know and I wouldn’t completely buy her opinion on something as debatable as ranking Concepcion without having the benefit of witnessing something myself.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Of the three Cubans, IMO, he’s easily the safest bet, risk vs. reward wise. 7 million is not a lot, at all- especially spread over the time we have control over him. I also think his ceiling is around a 3, not a 5.

  • imwhitti

    For reasons that I can’t fully explain, I like this kid. Probably because he is so young. And, IMO, a comparatively inexpensive asset. IF there is truly a new emphasis on development, then this is a great signing. He is still young enough to learn his craft.

  • SirCub

    A 6’2″ 19 year old with a slender frame throwing in the upper 80s and an already polished repertoire? Yes, please.

    This is the kind of prospect I really dig. Scouts love top see a guy who can light up the radar gun, trying to find the next Justin Verlander. But in the process, they might miss the next Greg Maddux.

    • JB88

      That was my initial thought as well. I’d be curious to see what Maddux’s walk rate looked like at 18/19. I do think I recall his S/O rate was higher than Concepcion’s was at that stage, though.

      • DocWimsey

        Maddux started off a “rocky” in rookie ball (4.3 BB/9), but that plummeted to the 2’s the next (age 19) year. Greg was heralded as a great control pitcher when he first arrived. What’s scary is, he actually got better!

        But as for missing the next Maddux, well, I wouldn’t worry about that: don’t be surprised if you do not see his likes again.

        • JB88

          It is funny that you don’t think you’ll see another Maddux. I’ve always thought that the Maddux’s of the world were the most likely pitchers we’d see again. Incredibly cerebral, good, but not great athlete, tremendous control.

          I’ve actually thought that seeing a guy like Maddux is far more likely than seeing pitchers like Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens. Those guys were physically dominant pitchers with tremendous longevity, something that seems uncommon these days.

      • LWeb23

        If you do a google search, there is a Greg Maddux high school scouting report floating around. Funny thing: they said he has control issues.

    • Eric

      I’d like this alot more if Greg was still a “special assistant” in the Cubs org.

  • Bails17

    FYI….Tom Glavine never showed top of the rotation stuff either. He just “pitched” well enough to be one!

    • die hard

      so hes already being compared to Glavine and hasnt faced a professional hitter yet?….Us Cub fans are starved for anything that remotely looks like a ballplayer but this may be just a mirage for now

      • Deer

        Some are desperate for a glimmer of hope right now. Hopefully he can hold his own in Peoria. Am I the only one concerned that the 2nd highest bid was $5M lower according to the article?

      • Bails17

        Die Hard….where in my post do I compare him to Glavine? I was simply making a point that guys with mediocre stuff can be front of the line type starters if they know how to pitch. Try reading and understanding the post before you comment.

        • King Jeff

          “Try reading and understanding the post before you comment.”
          Not. Gonna. Happen.

  • colocubfan

    Concepcion wouldn’t be the first left handed pitcher to only reach upper 80’s-low90’s that won a ton of games in the majors. Tom Glavine, Jaime Moyer, etc.

  • Norm

    I like that the Cubs signed him, I don’t like that he’s on the 40 man….they are already having 40 man issues and he’s not even signed yet.

  • RoughRiider

    His body type reminds me a lot of Ken Holtzman when he was young. Wouldn’t we love to get another Kenny Holtzman ? Just dreaming. What else is there to do, now that football is over ?

    • die hard

      I like the comparison, if accurate…but I recall KH fastball was 95 and curve fell off the table at 85…if true, comparison may be more accurate to a Jamie Moyer which is ok by me…but he didnt become really effective until late 30’s….do you think we can wait for this kid for 20 years? I hope thats not the case

  • rbreeze

    I like the signing as well.  The price is low for someone who has some polish and was an effective pitcher in the top Cuban league.

    How much does it cost to develop a Josh Vitters or Kerry Wood or Bobby Scales?  They get drafted out of high school or college.  The Cubs spend several years developing these guys.  Signing bonuses and salaries, facilities costs, coaches, meals, travel expenses, etc.

    Does anyone know how much it costs to develop the average baseball player?

  • steve

    Unlike football and basketball, baseball is such a crap shoot. Pujols was a late rounder and he is one of the best to ever lace up the spikes.
    Until he is proven otherwise, Theo has my blessing to spend as he sees fit. It’s like equating his job to that of my financial planner….I certainly hope he is making the right decisions!!!!!

  • Edgar

    With gj

    • DocWimsey

      Theo et al. are more worried about range than about fielding pct., as range has a much bigger effect on how many outs a guy makes. Castro has the basics for good range, and was showing above-average range until the last two months of last season.

      Last week, ESPN ran an article about how much the last decade of drafts has helped each team. The Sox far and away led MLB with almost 100 WAR for their team by guys drafted after 2000. This does not tell you how many “busts” they had (is Jed Lowrie a bust?), but it does tell you that the Sox have done better than anybody else lately.

      • die hard

        exactly …until last two months of season when he faded in field and was concentrating only on making contact so could reach 200 …which is what I have been harping about for months…this kid is talented but is playing out of position….3rd, 2nd or RF is where I see him and only if starts driving the ball or has an epiphany to become the second coming of Jeter…otherwise hes traded by spring 2013 is my prediction

        • DocWimsey

          Two months of fielding data mean diddly squat. And surely you realize that Jeter is an awful fielder…..

  • imwhitti

    I give the benefit of the doubt to Theo and Co. I like the signing…with the caveat that I expect a lot of “institutional” changes to happen that will help Concepcion (where is the damn tilde format button?) and many of our other prospects.
    It is clear that we are going with youth. And, I kind of like that. The difference is not necessarily WHO we bring into the organization, but rather HOW WE DEVELOP these players. For once, I believe that we actually have a plan that is organization-wide. This will make the difference for not only this young man, but for all of our other prospects.

  • imwhitti

    Although our record of developing quality position players has been (at best) lacking; we used to have some success in turning out really good pitchers from our system.
    I don’t believe that was necessarily the Cubs’ focus (if they actually had one), but I take heart in knowing that at least we have been somewhat successful in that realm.

  • IrishGold

    Brett, do you not really like the two latest moves?

    More on [Moron] Chicago Cubs Pitching Prospect Gerardo Concepcion,

    A Little More on [Moron] New Cub Adrian Cardenas

    • Brett

      Nah. That’s just how I like to title these kind of posts. Very literal.

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