Baseball America published their review of the international signings the Cubs made last year. Ben Badler said the Cubs had an eventful year internationally, led by their big-ticket signing of Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.
The Cubs made several international signings that included RHP Juan Carlos Paniagua, shortstop Frandy De La Rosa, shortstop Danny Gutierrez, RHP Wagner Disla, outfielder Jorge Soler, LHP Gerardo Concepcion, RHP Luis Hernandez, RHP Oscar De La Cruz and LHP Jose Morel. Kyuji Fujikawa also signed with the Cubs last year and the veteran Japanese reliever inked a two-year, $9.5 million contract that included a $1 million signing bonus plus a vesting option for 2015.
Jorge Soler is the most notable of the signings the Cubs made last year. The Cubs inked Soler to a nine-year, $30 million contract in June that included a club record $6 million signing bonus. Soler is considered one of the top players to come out of Cuba in years according to Baseball America. Soler impressed scouts before he signed with his impressive bat speed, plus-plus raw power, strike zone judgment and hitting ability. Soler runs well for his size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) with average speed and possesses a strong arm. If Soler can make the right adjustments in the minors he has the tools, according to Baseball America, to be a quality right fielder.
The Cubs signed left handed pitcher Gerardo Concepcion to a five-year, $6 million deal that included a $3 million signing bonus. The signing was viewed as an overpay at the time because some teams did not project Concepcion past that of a fifth starter.
Concepcion struggled mightily last season for the Peoria Chiefs, especially in the first inning of his starts. The Cubs changed his routine and had him throw an inning in the pen prior to each start but that did not work. Concepcion was shut down at the end of June after contracting mononucleosis. The Cubs removed Concepcion from the 40-man roster in December and outrighted him to Kane County once he cleared waivers.
Juan Carlos Paniagua
The Cubs signed Juan Carlos Paniagua for $1.5 million on July 19 after he was eligible to sign again. Major League Baseball voided the two previous contracts that Paniagua signed due to fraudulent paperwork. MLB ended up ruling that Paniagua’s age was undetermined and the Cubs decided to proceed with the contract according to Baseball America. Paniagua received his visa and pitched last season in the Cubs’ system
Since Paniagua signed after July 2, his contract counts against the Cubs’ 2012-2013 international bonus pool. According to Baseball America, Paniagua’s bonus was the largest of the year handed out to a Dominican pitcher and the third highest of any international player signed since July 2.
Frandy De La Rosa
The Cubs inked Dominican shortstop Frandy De La Rosa on July 2 and he was the biggest signing the Cubs made of position players who became eligible to sign after July 2. De La Rosa signed for $700,000 and turned 17 in January. De La Rosa is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and has a short, simple swing from both sides of the plate according to Baseball America. De La Rosa has quick hands, good bat control and a knack for barreling up balls. Right now De La Rosa is more of a line drive hitter than a home run hitter and he stood out at the Cubs Dominican Instructional League, even with more advanced players in attendance such as Marco Hernandez.
The Cubs signed shortstop Danny Gutierrez for $185,000 in December and the 17-year old shortstop has been playing more at second base and in the outfield than at shortstop. Gutierrez has a quick bat, good balance and a knack for putting the barrel to the ball with good extension through the zone according to Baseball America. Gutierrez’s bat is ahead of his glove and his arm fits better at second base than at shortstop.
The 18-year old Ramon Valera also signed in December for $185,000. The right-hander throws from an unconventional low three-quarters arm slot that border on sidearm with a fastball and slider that both grade out as fringe-average pitches according to Baseball America.
Ciro Barrios signed both Gutierrez and Valera and has signed other players in the Cubs’ system such as Mark Malave, Carlos Rodriguez, Angel Mejias and Willson Contreras.
The Cubs inked Dominican right-hander Wager Disla last August for $100,000. The 17-year old is 6-foot-4, 180 pounds and there is plenty of projection left on his 85-89 mph fastball with his size and the way his arm works according to Baseball America. Disla shows a good feel for his breaking ball, which might be his best pitch.
The Cubs signed Dominican right-hander Luis Hernandez for $80,000 last August. Hernandez turned 18 in January and is 6-foot-5, 210 pounds. Hernandez has a feel for secondary pitches and his fastball is already up to 91 mph. Hernandez projects as a starter.
Oscar De La Cruz
Oscar De La Cruz is a converted shortstop and the 6-foot-4, 200-pound, 17-year old has not been pitching long. The Cubs signed him in October for $85,000 and he can hit 91-92 mph on the gun with his fastball.
The Cubs signed Dominican left-hander Jose Morel in August for $80,000. Morel is starting to fill out his projectable frame according to Baseball America. The 18-year old southpaw is 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and has been clocked in the upper 80s (89 mph) with a feel for a curveball and a changeup that he just started throwing.