Cuba returned from the WBSC U23 in Mexico last September with only half the players who had started the trip. Some of those names such as Loidel Chapelli have already made their way into MLB organizations. Bryan Chi (also spelled Brayan) left as perhaps the biggest National Series name and in many other signing cycles would be the most coveted Cuban asset.
Chi worked out for Major League clubs in Florida on May 26th, 2022. Those teams included the Phillies, Marlins, Rangers, Cubs and Red Sox. Most teams have exhausted their International bonus pool budgets for 2022 although players such as César Prieto signed for much less than originally projected. The former Cuban batting champion signed with Baltimore for between $600,000 and $750,000. This perhaps poins to how competitive the international signing space has become.
Luis Danys Morales is another young arm that left at the same time. He is reported to have an agreement with the Oakland A’s for as much as $3.5 million expected to become official in the 2023 period. Morales is considered to have much more electric stuff. He doesn’t carry the resume of even the modest success that Chi does to this point. Bryan Chi pitched in parts of 3 National Series for Industriales quickly becoming their top starter.
The right hander tops out at 94 mph which is solid for Cuba but will likely need to improve at the Major League level. In Cuba and in the showcase he has displayed a fastball, changeup, slider and sinker. The concerns with his National Series performance can be applied to the league at large. Too many walks with only moderate strike out numbers. He did improve in these categories. As well he dropped his ERA in each of his 3 seasons. It should be noted that the Cuban series focuses much more on pitching to contact. True fireballers are rare and as a whole the circuit walks more than it strikes out.
In the Video above Bryan Chi faces the Granma Alazanes in Cuban National Series Playoffs from January of 2021. In the Link below, Chi comes on in relief for Cuba in the U23 tournament in Mexico from September 2021.
Cuban pitchers have lagged behind their hitting brethren at the Major League level of late. Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias are the most effective Cuban pitchers of the past decade. They are both closers though and possess fastballs and stuff beyond the norm of the average Cuban pitcher. Chi however could represent great value. He bridges some of the gap between the historic veteran pitchers that once made their way to the bigs with youth still on his side.
Most Cuban hurlers tend to add velocity when they come stateside, as nutrition and American pitching approach lend to this. The Cuban approach is different than the increasing focus on high velocity and one electric secondary pitch in shorter outings. Chi’s path to success would likely be with an organization willing to develop a pitcher and less of a thrower. The challenge is always in developing a trusted third pitch and being able to work through a batting order a third time.