Cubs Linked to Top Cuban Pitching Prospects, Norge Ruiz and Vladimir Gutierrez

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Cubs Linked to Top Cuban Pitching Prospects, Norge Ruiz and Vladimir Gutierrez

Chicago Cubs Rumors, MLB News and Rumors

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Given the Cubs’ current ability to spend internationally, their obvious desire to acquire young, impact pitching, and the limited spending ability they’ll soon have in the draft and in the IFA market, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that they’re attached to some of the best young arms remaining on the international market.

Back in December, we learned that the Chicago Cubs were interested in a number of top prospects from Cuba. One such prospect, 16-year-old left-handed pitcher Adrian Morejon, had even been identified as favorite to land with the Cubs.

Unfortunately, near the end of January, we learned that Morejon was no longer likely to sign with the Cubs, with all the new rumors pointing towards the San Diego Padres, who are expected to blow out their budget in the next IFA period (as the Cubs are doing in the current period).

But, fret no more: according to Baseball America, the Cubs are connected to two more pitchers from Cuba, Norge Ruiz and Vladimir Gutierrez. Ruiz and Gutierrez are both a bit older than Morejon, but, as you can see, both are ranked higher on Baseball America’s Top 15 (remaining) Cuban Prospects here.

Ruiz, 21, is a relatively small right-handed pitcher, coming in at just 5’9″ 195lbs. According to Badler, though, he is very athletic and carries average to plus stuff across the board with an “excellent feel for pitching.” Hence, he’s ranked behind only the Gurriel brothers, Jose Fernandez, and Jorge Ona on the list.

Badler’s report on the former Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year is extremely complimentary. Ruiz apparently, “stands out in a country thin on major league pitching prospects,” as he is an advanced strike thrower, capable of reaching 94 MPH, who could start as high as AA once he signs with an MLB team. The full scouting report here goes into much greater detail on Ruiz and his mid-rotation starter upside in the majors.

When he signs, though, has yet to be determined. According to Badler, Ruiz is still waiting to be granted free agency by MLB. And, although he is currently living (and waiting) in the Bahamas, he’s been playing and training in the Dominican Republic. There, Ruiz held an open showcase attended by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ representatives were also in attendance and are said to have interest in the exciting young right-hander. [Brett: They also have all the money (and that was before they signed Yaisel Sierra), so … ]

Gutierrez, 20, is one of Badler’s “favorite pitchers in Cuba,” and comes with a much more projectable frame. Standing at 6’3″ 170lbs, Gutierrez is a bit more of a traditionally sized starting pitcher with an 88-93 MPH fastball, expected to reach the mid-90s when all is said and done. His curveball, also rated as “plus,” comes in for some praise, as well.

Gutierrez’s story, however, has been a bit less straightforward than Ruiz. Despite having a promising future and being just 20 years old, Gutierrez left Cuba over a year ago, in search of free agency with MLB. Part of the reason he hasn’t yet signed is because his mechanics and velocity have been out of whack throughout his showcases in Florida. Apparently, teams were put off.

Moreover, he has switched agents multiple times over the course of the year. Having previously been represented by Octagon, Gutierrez made the agency switch to Bart Hernandez, who was recently indicted for allegedly trafficking Cuban players, forcing Gutierrez to join with Legacy. Even with reasonable contract demands and low expectations, switching between three different agencies is going to slow down (or restart) any existing negotiations.

As it stands, the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants have been connected to Gutierrez – who, himself, is expected to hold an open showcase in the Miami area over the next few weeks. According to Badler, teams are anxious to see him, because there are reports he has somewhat regained his old form. To be determined. [Brett: Recent reports had the Giants tapped out on dollars at this point, but we’ll see. Also, that thing I said about the Dodgers.]

All in all, both pitchers are extremely interesting and could reasonably help out more quickly than their multiple 16/17-year-old counterparts. Brush up on their scouting reports here, and hopefully the next time you see either name, it will be followed with “signs with the Chicago Cubs.”


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.