Armando Rivero, P
Age 26 (2/1/1988)
2013 Teams: Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, (A); Daytona Cubs, Florida State League, (A+); Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, (AA)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 10
How acquired—Signed as a free agent on March 5, 2013
Prior to Cubs
A teammate of Cubs prospect Gerardo Concepcion for Industrials in Cuba's Serie Nacional, Rivero spent four seasons pitching out the bullpen in Cuba before defecting. He pitched 47 innings his final season (2010-11) with 38 K and a 3.08 ERA.
After signing for a reported $3.1 million, Rivero headed to Mesa to start a throwing program and in late June the Cubs turned the Cuban fireballer loose in the Midwest League. Pitching for the first time in nearly two years, Rivero knocked off the rust at Kane County making his pro debut on June 22. He faced eight hitters and allowed five hits, including a homer, and walked one. In his first six games, he surrendered 14 hits, four leaving the park, in 8.2 innings for a 11.42 ERA. The right-hander finally got into a rhythm and showed a glimpse of why the Cubs signed him. In his final five games in the MWL, which included his first pro save, Rivero fanned 18 in 9.2 innings and didn't allow a run, issuing five hits and four walks. He was sent to Daytona the first week of August and pitched in three games with D-Cubs, notching his second save while allowing a run in 3.1 innings with 5 K. After a week in Florida, Rivero was promoted to Tennessee where he fanned four in his AA debut in two shutout innings of relief. Rivero appeared in six games for the Smokies, recording 12 strikeouts in 8.2 innings with eight hits and three walks for a 2.08 ERA. Rivero added 11 more innings to his resume as he pitched in the Arizona Fall League, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Rivero had a streak of allowing a run in five straight games but finished the AFL with four scoreless innings, including an outing where his fastball averaged 96.
Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel saw Rivero in the AFL and filed this report "Cuban defector and new Cubs righty has some hype and had apparently showed better stuff in the past but was just another good relief arm off this look. He has a longer arm action (in part due to his long limbs) and off-balance delivery crossfire delivery (ugh) with fall-off after release that's makes him a likely relief fit. The stuff and projection is good, at 6'4/190, working 91-94 mph with a solid average slider at 79-81 that could be above average on a night where he had better feel for the pitch. The frame gives some hope there's more in there but he'll be 26 on Opening Day so there isn't that much time."
I wouldn't be surprised if Rivero makes his MLB debut in 2014 but the Cubs may decide to save a 40-man roster spot and allow him to pitch a full season between Tennessee and Iowa. Like McDaniel said in his scouting report, Rivero will be 26 opening day, and the Cubs may want to see if he can get major league hitters out now, rather than later. I really like his composure on the mound and the late movement on his fastball. He provides a hard-thrower out of the pen and could develop into the Cubs' closer.
Carlos Rodriguez, P
Age: 18 (7/18/1995)
2013 Team: Mesa Cubs, Arizona Rookie League (R)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking —Not rated
How acquired —Signed as a free agent on Aug. 28, 2011
Rodriguez caught the eye of the Cubs development staff with his inaugural season in 2012 with 73 strikeouts in 71.2 innings as the left-hander went 5-3 with a 2.01 ERA and a .197 BAA in the Dominican Summer League. He fanned a season-high eight in a five innings vs. D-Backs and threw 4.1 innings of no-hit ball vs. White Sox.
Rodriguez made the trip stateside for spring training and didn't leave, participating in extended spring training and then spent the summer in the Arizona Rookie League. The 17-year-old struggled with his command as his B/9 jumped from 2.5 in the DSL to 4.4 for Mesa in 13 appearances. The Venezuelan native also didn't miss too many bats with a WHIP of 1.93 and a BAA of .331 as he logged 31 innings.
After his 2013 season, the Cubs could decide to send Rodriguez back to the DSL or let him learn from his experience and try to pitch his way on the Boise roster. No matter where he goes, he will need to learn to command the strike zone, and not leave the ball out over the middle of the plate.