According to a recent report from Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the Cubs are one of the teams interested in two Cuban pitching prospects, RHP Norge Ruiz and RHP Vladimir Gutierrez.
Badler reported on the last day of February the Cubs and Dodgers are the two teams that have been linked to Norge Ruiz. And the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants are three teams that have been connected to Vladimir Gutierrez.
This is not the first time Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez have reported the Cubs have interest in the soon-to-be 22-year old Ruiz. Major League Baseball has not declared him a free agent, so he cannot sign with a team yet. Ruiz moved from the Dominican Republic and set up residency in the Bahamas.
Norge Ruiz held a showcase while he was in the Dominican that Theo Epstein attended in December.
Ruiz is 21 years old (turns 22 in March), 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. Ruiz throws four quality pitches. Ruiz features a fastball, changeup, slider and a splitter that Ben Badler reported “can be tricky to distinguish from his changeup.”
Ruiz has been described as “more of a finesse pitcher.” His fastball sits in the 89-93 mph range and has touched 94 on the gun. His changeup is reportedly an above-average to plus pitch and the slider has flashed above average. According to Jesse Sanchez, Ruiz has been showing “fastball, cutter, slider and splitter in private showcases for teams in the Bahamas.”
In his latest update, Badler described Ruiz as “athletic” and features “plus stuff across the board and excellent feel for pitching.”
Norge Ruiz projects as a mid-rotation starter. It was believed last April he could step into a High- or Double-A rotation.
Vladimir Gutierrez is 20 years old, 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds. Gutierrez fastball sits in the 88-93 mph range. According to Ben Badler, his fastball is “projected to reach at least into the mid-90s once he fills out.” Gutierrez already throws what is considered a plus curveball.
Gutierrez was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball last summer but remains unsigned. Badler indicated “part of that is because he simply hasn’t looked right during his workouts for clubs while training in Florida.”
Badler said his mechanics are off and his fastball has been inconsistent at best, and on occasions his velocity has gone backwards.
According to the report from Baseball America, Gutierrez has switched agents again due to the issues with Bart Hernandez and is now represented by The Legacy Agency. Teams are looking forward to a showcase from him in a “few weeks” in Miami. Gutierrez is believed to “be back to his previous form or better.”
The Cubs are well over their International signing bonus pool for the 2015-16 signing period that ends on June 15. The Cubs will be restricted to signing players for $300,000 or less for the next two signing periods (2016-17, 2017-18).
With losing the first two picks, and slot money, in June’s Draft after signing John Lackey, Jason Heyward and re-signing Dexter Fowler, the Cubs could make a late-push to sign a few more players that fall under the International signing guidelines before June 15.