At this time last year, the Draft was taking place against the backdrop of the Cubs’ hot pursuit of Jorge Soler. We’d been hearing about Soler for months – remember those three hours when he and the Cubs had a deal back in February? – and it would be another week before a deal was finally done.
This year, there’s another hot Cuban name making the rounds, though it’s unclear whether he’s in the Soler/Yasiel Puig/Yoenis Cespedes class of Cuban players, or a lesser tier. It often takes time for that distinction to come out, as these players are scouted only infrequently, and rarely with a wide enough audience (or enough of a sample) for the public to draw broad conclusions. Hell, just look at Yasiel Puig. Until he signed for $42 million, folks were still unsure whether he was even in the same class of prospect as Jorge Soler, let alone worth $12 million more.
One thing that’s clear is that the player – 26-year-old Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – is different from that crew in at least one respect: he’s a power pitcher, not a big-time outfielder. And the Cubs are interested.
According to Jesse Sanchez, the righty has been throwing in Mexico as he awaits an unblocking license to come into the United States. At least seven teams, including the Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, and Red Sox, have been watching Gonzalez since April, and have expressed “serious interest.”
Gonzalez, who hasn’t pitched too much competitively in the last two years as he tried to defect (and had bone spurs removed from his elbow), throws in the mid-90s, while mixing in a curveball, changeup and forkball.
Gonzalez could be unblocked as soon as next week and officially become a free agent, with a showcase to follow thereafter. Dylan Hernandez reports that it could come around June 20. Because he is 26, Gonzalez is not subject to any international signing restrictions, and teams can go hog wild on the bidding.
I expect that once Gonzalez becomes a free agent, we’ll get a better sense of what kind of player he is, in terms of hype and value.
The Cubs have already signed another top Cuban righty over the past year, inking 25-year-old reliever-type Armando Rivero to a $3.1 million deal. The last big-time Cuban pitching prospect the Cubs signed before Rivero was lefty Gerardo Concepcion, whom the Cubs signed to a $6 million deal in January 2012, and who subsequently struggled/got mono. He’s currently assigned to Kane County, but hasn’t been pitching, presumably because of an injury. No one really seems to be sure what’s up with him. Rivero had been pitching in Extended Spring Training after only recently arriving in the States.