Once top Cuban prospect Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is officially declared a free agent, it seems as though he’ll have his share of suitors to pick from.
After fleeing Cuba earlier in the year and arriving in El Salvador, Gonzalez took up residency in Tijuana and submitted all the necessary paperwork to the commissioner’s office in early June. On Saturday, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted that Gonzalez’ application was being processed by the United States government, and suggested that he could be cleared to sign as early as next week.
A known commodity for the last several years, Gonzalez put himself on the radar while playing for Cuba’s national team in the 2009 and 2011 World Baseball Cups. Since arriving in Mexico, the 26-year-old has been throwing bullpen sessions in front of scouts multiple times each week.
At 6’3”, Gonzalez has a lean, athletic build that doesn’t require future physical projection given his age. But despite his long limbs, the right-hander actually demonstrates plenty of present strength throughout his delivery. Furthermore, his frame helps generate lots of extension towards the plate.
Employing a high leg kick, Gonzalez hides the ball well and, for the most part, does a nice job of keeping his shoulders closed and in line with the plate. However, there are times when he’ll cut off his stride and rip open with his front shoulder, which leads to lower velocity and flatter offerings left up in the zone. Additionally, the right-hander doesn’t always finish his delivery and, in those instances, tends to rely on sheer arm strength rather than executing pitches.
With that said, there’s a lot to like about the arm strength. Gonzalez will sit comfortably in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball and bump 95-96 mph on occasion, and he generates considerable arm-side run when working down in the zone.
The right-hander’s secondary arsenal consists of a changeup and forkball, as well as a curveball from which he’ll add and subtract to create a variant shape. The one thing that concerns me about the changeup-forkball combination is that both pitches seem to share a velocity range in the high-70s/low-80s. While that speed is appropriate for his changeup, Gonzalez may be better off throwing the forkball with more velocity to improve its deception relative to his fastball.
With a big payday in sight, Gonzalez took the mound on Friday night with the Tijuana Toros to improve his value before signing. According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, about 45 scouts were in attendance for the start.
While many teams had representatives on hand for what might be their final look at the right-hander, Knobler notes specifically that the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox and Angels were among those watching Gonzalez on Friday.
For the Cubs, signing Gonzalez would help solidify their starting rotation for the 2014 season and beyond, as the club is expected to deal right-hander Matt Garza later in the month. Meanwhile, for the other organizations, the 26-year-old could potentially bolster their rotation during the second half of the season and, more importantly, aid them in a playoff run down the stretch.
After reporting earlier in the week that the Red Sox—including general manager Ben Cherington—had been scouting Gonzalez heavily, Knobler now says that the Dodgers want the pitcher “badly.”
He also said that he had heard potential contract estimates in the five-year, $60 million range for Gonzalez, though if a bidding war takes place between large-market teams such as the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox, he could conceivably receive something larger.