The Cubs new President of Baseball Ops was one of the best GMs in the game. Their new GM was one of the best assistants in the game prior to becoming the GM of the Padres. He rebuild the Padres farm system in two years. The Cubs new player development director is also one of the better ones around. I don't think anyone would deny that the previous statements are true. It's something we can all likely agree about.
They're going to make mistakes. One of the better comments Theo made the day he was introduced as President of Baseball Ops was about how if you're right 55% of the time you're doing really well. I'd quibble with the percentage, but it's irrelevant. We can also all agree that GMs, no matter how smart they may be, are going to make mistakes. They're going to sign players they should have stayed away from. They'll add unnecessary prospects into a trade because they're desperate. They'll pay a player more than he's worth. They'll sign him to far too many years and if they're around long enough they'll also sign players to horrible contracts. They'll make terrible trades. They'll look like they just might be the worst in the business from time to time.
Are we still on the same page? Great.
A few days ago the Cubs signed a young Cuban prospect in Gerardo Concepcion. He and the Cubs agreed to a Major League contract meaning he is immediately added to the 40-man roster.The contract is worth about $7 million. It's a relatively meaningless sum of money. His spot on the roster is also relatively meaningless. It's not like the Cubs have anyone else they currently need to protect though that could easily change in the near future. But it's still a $7 million investment so the question is about whether or not it was a good one.
Baseball in Cuba is probably the equivalent of no better than High A. If we look at the Florida State League because that's probably where Concepcion will begin his career, the average pitcher struckout 7.4 per 9 and walked 2.3 per 9. Concepcion struckout 4.7 and walked 3.8 per 9. His numbers are well below that of the average FSL pitcher. Concepcion would be quite young for that level, but still. Those are not encouraging numbers.
He's not especially difficult to hit either. He allowed just over a hit per inning. His numbers remind me a lot of Jeff Samardzija's numbers in college.
Over 3 years in college, most of which Samardzija spent preparing for Notre Dame football, he threw 240 innings, allowed 236 hits, and 11 home runs. He walked 84 and struckout just 159. Per 9 innings, that is 8.8 hits, .4 HR, 3.2 BB, and 6 strikeouts. He had a 3.82 ERA.
Last year Concepcion threw 101.2 innings, allowed 103 hits and 6 home runs. He walked 43 and struckout 53. Per 9 innings, that is 9.1 hits, .5 home runs, 3.8 walks, and 4.7 strikeouts. Concepcion's numbers are quite a bit worse than Samardzija's unimpressive college career.
The reason Samardzija got the big bucks is becase he had a 99 mph fastball and hadn't focused on baseball all that much. There was reason to believe he could develop into a front line starting pitcher. Samardzija did add a few more strikeouts, but that was about it. In the minors he walked 3.9 as opposed to 3.2 per 9. He struckout 6.3 per 9 compared to 6 per 9. He allowed 9 hits per 9. His home runs increased. He just never missed enough bats to become the pitcher some thought he might. He has since become a relief pitcher and he's not even that good at his job.
Unlie Samardzija, Concepcion's fastball sits 89-92. Sure, it could increase a few mph, but I'll be pretty damn surprised if his stirkeouts increase enough to make him a useful big league player. We're not talking about a guy who has struckout 7 per 9 and needs to increase it to be effective. We're talking about someone who can barely strike anybody out. We're also not talking about someone who has the control of a David Wells.
I trust that Theo and Jed Hoyer saw something in Concepcion because they wouldn't have signed him if they hadn't. I don't trust that he's going to be good just because those two saw something in him. I hope he ends up being useful, but he has a long long way to go before that happens. This front office will make mistakes. We shouldn't trust that everything they do is going to work out anymore than we did the previous front office. Hopefully they make a few less mistakes over the years, but I don't think it does anybody any good to just say this front office saw something in them and leave it at that.
The Cubs saw something in Jeff Samardzija. They saw something in Tyler Colvin. They saw something in every player they acquired. Theo and Jed saw something in every player they acquired. They also made mistakes. They'll continue to make them. I trust that this front office is going to be more alanytical than the previous one. In all honesty, that is the only thing I trust. I hope this front office makes some great decisions that creates a great team for the Cubs, but it's not all that easy to accomplish.