So you’ve heard of Yoennis Cespedes, and you’ve heard of Jorge Soler, but have you heard of Gerardo Conception? He is the latest Cuban player to hit the hot stove news circuit after emerging as a free agent on Wednesday. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes Los Angeles reported that the left-handed pitcher was scheduled to attend a training session at the Yankees’ Dominican camp on Thursday.
Concepcion projects to be everything the Yankees value in young pitchers. At 17, he broke out in the Cuban National Series, winning rookie of the year for his 2010-2011 performance. In that season he posted a 10-3 record with a 3.36 ERA through 101.2 IP. Now, 18, Concepcion is listed at 6’1” and 175 lbs, a thin frame that figures to grow and add velocity to his 89-91 MPH fastball. Concepcion’s secondary pitches include a plus curveball and solid slider and changeup.
As you can tell by the chart, the 4.75 FIP indicates Concepcion’s success in Cuba was most likely luck. His 4.7 SO/9 does not compliment the report of a plus curveball. Still, the other numbers are quite impressive when you consider his age and competition. A 3.8 BB/9 at such a young age, for a pitcher topping out at 94, illustrates above average control. When you combine the relative control with his 9.1 H/9 and a 0.53 HR/9, against Cuban hitters ten years older and in their prime, the statistics suggest that Concepcion has a very advanced feel for pitching.
As a young thin finesse left-hander, Concepcion projects to miss bats along with an ability to pitch to contact. Predicting the cost of such a prospect is difficult, but fellow Cuban Noel Arguelles offers a decent comparison. Arguelles inked a 5 year $7 million contract from the Royals back in late 2009, but with the new collective bargaining agreement, players under 23 years old count against a team’s spending pool, which should lower the price on such young players. The Yankees haven’t been huge spenders on the international market recently; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them grab up some of the young Cuban players available this offseason, Concepcion included.
Correction 1/20/12: According to Jim Callis of Baseball America, players who reach free agency in 2012 before the July 2nd International Signing Period, are not subject to the $2.9m spending pool. So assuming Concepcion signs before July 2nd, he will be one of the last young free agents to avoid the new CBA rules. Big thanks to commenter Ralph.