The Phillies biggest free agent acquisition, going into the 2014 season, could potentially be the one they made last August as baseball was still in full swing. 27 year-old Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez inked a 3-year, 12 million dollar deal with the Phillies on August 30, 2013. Gonzalez defected from Cuba in early 2013. With a lot of questions regarding the righty and his future in the Phillies rotation, here's a quick breakdown of the pros and cons for Miguel Alfredo Gonzelez.
Gonzalez, a known commodity for the last several years, landed on scouts radars during the 2009 and 2011 World Baseball Cups with Cuba's National Team. Gonzalez was unable to play for the national team for the last two years as punishment for trying to leave Cuba. With a 6'3 lean and athletic frame, Gonzalez shows impressive strength in delivery and generates great extension towards the plate. With a high leg kick he hides the ball well and keeps his shoulders in line with the plate.
His greatest pro is his arm strength with his fast ball in the 90-94 mph range, topping out around 95-96. His most prominent secondary offering is his splitter. Gonzalez boasts an arsenal of pitches including a cutter, slider, change up, curveball and a knuckleball, yes a knuckleball! Gonzalez said he is able to use any of those pitches within a game, it is all dependent on what the hitter shows you.
When the Phillies signed him late last summer there were questions as to how soon we would see the righty in a major-league game. With the Phillies season pretty much a wash it made sense to take their time with their newest starting pitcher. Allowing him adequate conditioning and acclimation time with plans for a 2014 spring training debut.
The biggest downside to Gonzalez might be the questions marks surrounding his throwing elbow. What was reportedly a 6-year, 48 million dollar deal turned into a 3-year, 12 million dollar for the Phillies after injury concerns stalled negotiations. He had bone chips surgically removed from his elbow in January 2012. Allowing him plenty of time to recovery from surgery was the main reason the Phillies took their time with Gonzalez. Heading into spring training Phillies minor-league pitching coordinator, Carlos Arroyo, declared him "100 percent healthy."
Gonzalez has shined in different international tournaments but his lack of recent professional competition is a concern.
With a fastball that pops, there are question marks regarding how viable his breaking balls can be at the major-league level. He controls the ball well but his command becomes a concern at higher velocities.
The verdict on Gonzalez is obviously still out. Opinions on what kind of impact the Cuban righty will have vary radically across baseball. Some scouts see him with a high ceiling and potentially a #2 or #3 starter while other baseball minds see him as a reliever.
Three years removed from one of the best rotations in baseball history it is clear that RAJ and the Phillies are hoping to get lucky with Gonzalez. After Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee the Phillies have a lot of run of the mill starters with maxed out or low ceilings in Kendrick, Pettibone, Martin and Hernandez.
With spring training only 18 days away Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will be one of the biggest Phillies to watch heading into camp. I expect MAG to develop into a viable #3 starter for the Phillies and help to solidify a rotation with more question marks than starters.