Height: 6’2″ Weight: 180
Cuban left-handed pitcher Gerardo Concepción Pérez wasted no time in signing with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, barely 2 weeks after establishing residency in Mexico and being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. The deal is reportedly worth $7 million with various incentives that could drive the price beyond $8 million.
It had been speculated by several sources that Concepción was on the verge of reaching an agreement with a major league club last week, and now the speculation is over as Theo Epstein has landed the 1st of the Cuban free agents this winter. Concepción is expected to start his professional career in the minor leagues and while I selfishly wish that he starts off the 2012 season with the Boise Hawks up here in the Northwest League so that our own Bart Klett or myself can get a first hand look at him and provide video for you, though that’s not likely the case. The good news however, is that if he heads to the Midwest League with the Peoria Chiefs or to Florida State League with the Daytona Cubs, Baseball Instinct’s Dave Reiffer (MWL) or Tom Belmont (FSL) will be on top of it. Bottom line, there’s an excellent chance that we will have video and a comprehensive break down on Conception by the early days of this summer.
The lefty is coming off of a season where he was named Rookie of the Year for the Industriales of the Cuban National Series. As an 19-year-old, he went 10-3 with a 3.36 ERA, 53 Ks, and 43 BB over 102 innings in 21 games; 16 of those were starts. Aroldis Chapman comparisons will be inevitable, but he doesn’t have the same kind of triple digit gas that Chapman has.
The Fastball – Concepción throws a low 90’s fastball, but when dialed up can hit 95mph on the gun, especially in short stints out of the bullpen. This 4-seam offering has some movement on it, but he lacks command of the pitch and as you might expect of an 19-year-old, it’s pretty raw and lacks polish. Still, he’s got room to grow in his frame and as he advances he should improve his command and possibly have an up tick in velocity.
The Slider – This is Concepción’s best pitch. This 90mph offering bends away from left hand hitters and is down right nasty. Sadly, it rarely crosses the plate and spends more time hitting the ground than it does webbing. To right hand hitters, he seems to be a little less aggressive as to not hit batters, and doesn’t get it in on the hands like you would hope. Still, he’ll be just 20 this season, so I think this pitch could be phenomenal in his prime.
The Curveball – This is currently a below average pitch, but gets mixed reviews from scouts as a potential plus pitch. He’s all over the place with it and this may just be a mechanics issue which the Cubs will address in spring training.
The Changeup – Has been classified as a work in progress. However, you have to use a pitch for it to be a work in progress and from what I’ve seen and heard, it was pretty much shelved in the Cuban National Series. Again, 20 years old, let’s see what the Cubs have to say.
Concepción throws across his body in an extreme manner which a lot of scouts believes gives him great deception. However, it clearly makes it very difficult for him to find a good release point for his breaking stuff, let alone trying to repeat that motion. Given his age and being tucked away in Cuba last season, there isn’t much video to go on, and most of its pretty rough to stress these points. Rather than getting too carried away at this juncture, I will go back to my original point that we will observe it closely as the Cubs break him down and build him back up to where they feel he will have the most success.
Undoubtedly the Chicago Cubs see some more projection left in this lanky Cuban kid. They also believe they can improve his mechanics and have invested a good chunk of change into seeing if they can prove right on this. Obviously, the development of an off speed pitch is a must if he’s going to be successful as a major league pitcher, particularly as a starter. If he doesn’t, he still could become a reliable member of the Cubs bullpen. The lack of pitching depth in the organization, especially from the left side makes this a great gamble. I wouldn’t expect to see him in the majors any time soon, despite some of the conjecture out there. As I said earlier, he’s going to need to be broken down and built back up mechanically to get the most out of his pitches. He’s a very exciting pitcher to watch and we will be on top of the situation during this season. If all goes as scripted he could be in the rotation at Wrigley in 2014. However, the Cubs are in rebuild mode and don’t need to rush him and if he arrives in 2015 as a solid lefty, I’m pretty sure no one will complain.
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