Looking at two free agent amateur lefties

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Keith Law’s list of the Top 50 Free Agents hit the tubes yesterday, and mixed among the Matt Hollidays and John Lackeys and Placido Polancos of the free agent world were two amateur lefthanders that won’t necessarily make an impact in the big leagues next year, but would still be a wise investment for some team(s).

First up is the guy you all know, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. He comes in at number five on KLaw’s list:

Chapman is the wild card of the free-agent market, as his track record is largely unknown, he’s barely thrown for clubs since defecting and he’s represented by agents who haven’t handled a free agent of this magnitude before. When Chapman is on, he’ll show No. 1 starter stuff, with a fastball in the mid-90s (and yes, as high as 101 mph) with good tail and a mid-80s slider that will show plus with legitimate tilt, although the latter pitch isn’t consistent. He does have a soft changeup but lacks feel for it and pushes it out of his hand rather than selling it with good arm speed. His command isn’t good, and he’s more thrower than pitcher, with a very loose arm that makes the velocity come out easily. Since defecting, he has worked on his body and scouts who’ve seen him recently say he’s stronger and in better overall shape. He might be a No. 1 starter; he might be an ace closer; he might be a mountain of frustration. Is that worth $60 million? Or the fourth- or fifth-biggest contract of the offseason? Not to me, but he’s worth some eight-figure amount because of the almost limitless upside.

We do know that the Yanks’ brass met with Chapman during Game Six of the ALCS, although we don’t know the nature of the meetings. For what it’s worth, Chapman has met with a bunch of other teams as well, including the Mets and Red Sox.

I’m still not convinced Chapman will get the $50-60M that’s been rumored. He’ll surely get more than the $15.1M deal Stephen Strasburg got because he’s a true free agent, but in the end he’s still just a raw 21-year-old kid that’s not quiet Major League ready. Realistically, there’s not much of a difference between Chapman and what Andrew Brackman was coming out of college. Brackman had the elbow issue, sure, but the scouting report was pretty similar. Of course Chapman’s a lefty, which is a plus.

The second amateur pitcher on KLaw’s list is another Cuban southpaw, 19-year-old Noel Arguelles. He checks in at number ten:

Arguelles defected from the Cuban junior national team with current Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias in the summer of 2008 and is just now at the point where he’s ready and able to sign with a major league team. Arguelles is 19 and already pitches with a solid-average fastball, although before he defected he had worked as high as 91-94 and will probably return there once he’s throwing on a regular schedule again. His changeup projects better than his curveball, with the change a potentially plus pitch. What everyone notices about Arguelles is his body — loose, lean, athletic, with good projection; his new agents took him underground for a few weeks to get him back into playing shape and the results have definitely impressed. If he was an American high school or junior college player, he’d be a solid first-rounder with a chance to be a top-10 guy and would probably be a $4 million bonus baby. As a free agent, he should easily double that.

Here’s a clip of Arguelles throwing a bullpen, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus’ Kiley McDaniel. The Yanks have been connected to Arguelles in the past, on more than one occasion too.

Chapman gets all the hype, but Arguelles is no slouch. In fact, if you’re talking bang for the buck, Arguelles at say $8M is probably a better value than Chapman at $20M. There would also be less pressure to get him to big leagues as quickly as possible. Klaw’s scouting report makes him sound a lot like Manny Banuelos, though he looked to be a little taller with more room to fill out than the 5′-10″, 160 lb Banuelos. I doubt he’s as polished as Banuelos though, few kids that age are.

While the amateur draft gets most of the attention, the Yanks have done a tremendous job bringing in lesser known, but still high caliber international free agents on reasonable contracts. For some reason, Cuban defectors cost more than their Dominican or Venezuelan counterparts, even though the skill set and level of polish may be the same. Maybe it has to do with the level of competition faced, which is negligible in most of Latin American, but pretty good in Cuba (although not as good as it had been in years past).

Although my knowledge of both Chapman and Arguelles is elementary at best, it seems like it would be wiser to take the money that could be used to sign Chapman, and instead sign Arguelles plus some other players, maybe even a Major League free agent. Of course, we’re talking about the Yankees here, so they can afford to do both. What do you think?

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  • pat

    I’d feel a lot better about Chapman if his slider was more consistent.At least then if he can’t learn a serviceable 3rd pitch he has a solid floor as a late inning reliever. Hard fastball + shaky slider = potentially mucho money wasted. Of course that’s all wost case scenario but it is still cause for concern.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Sign them both. Continue the youth movement. Profit.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Sign them both.

      Peter: What would you do if you had a million dollars?
      Lawrence: I’ll tell you what I’d do, man: two chicks at the same time, man.
      Peter: … That’s it? If you had a million dollars, you’d do… two chicks at the same time?
      Lawrence: Damn straight. I always wanted to do that, man. And I think if I were a millionaire I could hook that up, too; ’cause chicks dig dudes with money.
      Peter: Well, not all chicks.
      Lawrence: Well, the type of chicks that’d double up on a dude like me do.
      Peter: Good point.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    I’ll take both.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      We have this Cuban, maybe they can add the other guy for centerfield too.


      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        One time, we were about to sign a pair of Cubans through a contact of the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary, but it turns out they were just Dominicans instead.

        • Steve H

          Did they end up rolling crepe’s at Mandelbaum’s?

          • JMK aka The Overshare

            I think the ‘baums are on to bigger things:

            “I am interested in the mechanisms of human disease with an emphasis on cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. I am particularly interested in cancer genetics and how we can apply this knowledge to design novel targeted therapies for the treatment of cancer.”

            http://network.nature.com/people/U572B4439/profile (SFW)


    “Cuban defectors cost more than their Dominican or Venezuelan counterparts, even though the skill set and level of polish may be the same.”

    The Cuban national team is the Yankees of international competition.

    Given the level at which they are able to compete despite the difference in available resources, I would imagine that the assumption among Major League teams is that their ability to complete without comparable resources is the result of coaching and training, thus the players are viewed as more advanced than their peers from other countries.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Wait, isn’t it more basic than that?

      Cuban IFA’s cost more than Venezuelan and Dominican IFA’s because Cuban IFA’s don’t hit the market until they’re 19-25 (or, in some cases, into their 30’s) due to the need to and nature of the defection process.

      Venezuelan and Dominican IFA’s are signed at the ages of 16-17, when they’re far, far rawer and far further away from MLB readiness. Teams pay less for these kids because they have a longer road to the show, all things considered.

      • ROBTEN

        On the one hand, I fully agree with this. I think that’s true and if MLB had its way, it would do the same to the Cuban baseball system that it has done in the DR and, to a lesser extent, Venezuela. If Cuban players were available from the moment they turn 15 or 16, the salaries would be nowhere near as high.

        On the other hand, I think that while the Cuban players have been older when they have become available–and thus, age-wise, closer to hitting or at their prime playing years–one could imagine that they would still be relatively unpolished if it were not for the quality of the coaching and leagues in Cuba. In other words, if we assume that they are closer to major-league ready, it can’t only be a matter of age, but preparedness to compete against major-league level talent.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Oh, absolutely, I’m not arguing with your take on the quality of the Cuban baseball system. I was merely saying there’s a simple and basic explanation as to why Cuban IFA’s often get bigger contracts than other Latin American IFA’s.

          They’re older. Case closed.

  • CountryClub

    I’d be happy if they signed either/both. But if I had my choice, I’d like to see the yanks go with Arguelles. Every time I read a scouting report on Chapman I get an uneasy feeling.

    • Bo

      Uneasy because hes 21 lefty and throws 100mph??

      • Chris

        There’s more to pitching than throwing hard occasionally.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Yes, but Bo put TWO question marks on his comment.

          That means he’s indubitably right, and CountryClub’s comment is horrendously retarded.

          Two question marks. DOUBLE the punctuation. Can’t argue with that shit.

        • Steve H

          Kyle Farnsworth is proof of that.

  • Bo

    These are the cases where you’re supposed to use those resources to your advantage. Since they will never have a shot at upside guys like Strasburg in the draft they have to use the international market to bring in elite talent.

  • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

    Wasn’t Jose Contreras seen as even better than this guy when he was all hyped up?

    But if we can get Theo to angrily smash another chair against the wall…that’s always a plus.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Jose Contreras was, what, 32 at the time?

      He’s not very analogous to either of these kids.

      • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

        Knowing most of the international free agents…he probably was even older. Wasn’t El Duque like 46 when we signed him? lol

        • JMK aka The Overshare

          Maybe. Contreras looked like Greg Olsen. El Duque was the Old Man in the sea.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Let’s get Lou Dobbs all over this birth certificat shit now that he’s got more free time on his hands.

          (Seriously, though, El Duque is kinda the outlier. I doubt that Contreras is any older than he claims to b . The DR is notorious for people selling their identities to each other for birth record hijinks, but Cuba’s vital statistics office is actually fairly well respected.)

        • http://www.richardiurilli.com Richard Iurilli

          El Duque may have been old, but he sure could dance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRMJQvSJyQg

      • Ed

        Contreras had also pitched an exhibition game against an MLB team and dominated.

  • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

    But who needs either of these guys when you have this guy on your team…??

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


      • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

        We could scrap getting Johnny Damon and find out whether this guy is available…

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        That’s the dude from The Electric Company!!!

  • Steve H

    Why don’t we let them sign elsewhere. See which one develops into the best LHP in baseball………then trade Melky and IPK for them?

    • Marcus

      I think the plan is to sign them, then trade them for Pujols, and get St. Louis to throw in some cash to cover their signing bonuses.

  • Salty Buggah

    Evil Empire will strike…twice!

    Fuck them haters!


    I just hope the Yankees don’t make a decision without finding out if either has ever pitched in the eighth inning.

    • Steve H


    • jsbrendog

      ::golf clap::

      nicely done

  • Mike bk

    Arguelles would be a much better value at 8 mil than Chapman will be at 20+ if that is what he gets. The Man-Ban comparison is one i had when i was reading about him. The reports I have read like the baseball prospectus one from July make him on similar time table to Man-Ban in that he is 2-3 years away. From what I have seen of Chapman which is admittedly little obviously he appears to also be at least 2 years away and while higher upside more bust potential.

    Here is a scouting report from Baseball Prospectus:

    “[Noel]Arguelles is considered a better prospect than Iglesias, as a left hander standing 6’3, tipping the scales at 210 lbs., and hitting 93 mph with his fastball. Arguelles has a solid curveball, changeup, and command, along with a recently-added slider that some scouts say has quickly become his best off-speed pitch. Some scouts saw him sitting at 88 mph recently and said Arguelles was out of shape, but other clubs have recently watched him hit 91 mph and say his body isn’t a big concern. Every team I’ve spoken with is comfortable with his talent, given his consistent international performances. Executives agree that Arguelles would have been a late first rounder or sandwich pick in the recent draft, if he entered the draft rather than become a free agent.”

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      Sounds like a worthy signing. Obviously you’d like to get talent at a reasonable cost, but since the Yankees are a lock to pick in the bottom part of the draft every year, and also are not shy about signing Type A free agents, the best way to stockpile talent on the (relative) cheap is still through IFA. Maybe Chapman’s risks and high price tag are greater than his talent, I don’t know. It depends what he’ll get. I think to get a young, uber-projectable lefty throwing 100 mph for under $30 million is worth the risk. Over that? Hmm…I don’t know. As you mentioned, his ceiling is very high, but his floor could be very low and you’d likely be spending top dollar on him developing in the minors for two years (maybe 1?). That’s a big gamble, but if any team is able to overcome a huge bust, it’s the Yankees.

      Regarding Arguelles: From the sound of it, Arguelles seems like a promising guy. I’d definitely take a flier on him for $8 million.

      • Mike bk

        i think maybe in the end Arguelles gets 6-8 and Chapman is more reasonable than expected at 15. If they can get both for basically 20 they do it is my guess. That’s one year of lackey or holliday from what they want. My only problem with signing both would be if they then take a big chunk out of next year’s draft and IFA budgets.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Seriously, though, sign both. If there’s any single team in baseball who could afford to drop 28M combined on two high-risk, high reward young lottery tickets and absorb the loss with little to no adverse effects if they both busted… it’s us.

    I’d rather spend 20-30M over the next 3-5 years on Chapman and Arguelles, whom I can stash in the minors and let develop, rather than spend double that (minimum) on John Lackey, whom we A) may not need and B) don’t have room for.

  • Mike bk

    different question slightly. any way we sign either one without giving them a ML contract? 40 man roster spots are valuable.