Today’s post is based on a suggestion from friend of the blog, Larry Leach.
Over the years the Astros have been involved in scouting, player development and winter leagues in building up their international presence. Players like all-time great Cesar Cedeno or not quite so great Luis Pujols were signed as free agents out of the Dominican Republic for instance. The Astros would run their own development camps with youngsters and were on the front lines of that back in the 1970s and 1980s.
They seemed to step away from this, especially later in the ownership of Drayton McLane. However, under Jim Crane and ex-GM Jeff Luhnow the emphasis on international scouting, signings and development has been at the forefront.
Current 40 man roster
The following players on the current 40 man roster are international signings:
- 2B Jose Altuve – Signed as a free agent out of Venezuela, he was picked up under the previous regime and is the best international signing ever by the Astros. Jose has been great, clutch and someone who has shown that physical size matters less than the size of one’s heart.
- 1B Yuli Gurriel – The Astros made a big commitment to Gurriel in signing him to an approx. 5 year / $56 MM contract out of Cuba. He had played in international competition but had not played in the traditional high school/college world of the US. He has earned every cent of his contract and more.
- DH Yordan Alvarez – Technically the Astros did not sign Yordan as a young international free agent. But based on their scouting, they sent Josh Fields to the Dodgers in exchange for a player, who had not yet played in a game in the Dodger’s minor league system after also signing out of Cuba. Perhaps it was all the trash can banging that distracted LA when the trade happened….. The 2020 Rookie of the Year was a revelation.
- RHP Jose Urquidy – Urquidy was signed in 2015 as a free agent out of Mexico. He has been a solid performer in the minors, though he missed the 2017 season with Tommy John surgery. He looked good in his time with the Astros in 2019 including a clutch turn in the World Series and was penciled in to a spot in the rotation for 2020.
- RHP Bryan Abreu – The kid with the killer curve was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican. He looked great in a quick cup of coffee with the big club in 2019 and was throwing bagels at the opposition in this year’s Spring Training before it was suddenly put on the back burner.
- LHP Framber Valdez – Valdez signed out of the Dominican in 2015 and has shown tremendous movement paired with questionable control in his small time with the big club. He had looked good in the early part of this year’s spring training and being a left hander he will probably be a given another shot with the Astros some time in 2020.
- LHP Cionel Perez – He was signed out of Cuba, not once but twice in the 2016 off-season by the Astros as they voided the original contract due to concerns with his physical. He pitched quite well in 2018, when he made his MLB debut with the Astros and much worse in 2019. Again, he is 24 y.o. and a lefty, so there may be some spot for him this season, if and when the season does begin.
- RHP Cristian Javier – A 2015 signing out of the Dominican, he has smoked the opposition with a 2.22 ERA over those 5 seasons of minor league pitching. He slots in at #6 on the Astros top 30 prospect list and will likely be on speed dial for a call-up in 2020.
- RHP Rogelio Armenteros – The 25 y.o. was signed out of Cuba in 2015. He made his way up the organization with mixed success as mostly a starter and made his Astros debut in 2019, pitching fairly well in 5 appearances. His 2019 minor league performance was down, but so were a lot of pitchers with AAA adopting a souped up MLB ball. He is a good piece to have, but he may get passed up by splashier young talent.
- Enoli Paredes – Since signing out of the Dominican in 2016, the 24 y.o. has flashed a lot of arm talent in a quick rise through the ranks, sometimes pitching brilliantly but always pitching above average. He has a 2.41 ERA, with a 0.991 WHIP, while striking out 11.4 batters per 9 innings in four seasons in the minors. He has only pitched as high as AA to date, but he may be in the fast lane for hitting the bigs by the end of 2020 or in 2021.
- Nivaldo Rodriguez – The 22 y.o. was signed out of Venezuela in 2016. He has pitched so well that he was protected on the 40 man roster without having pitched above A+ ball. His short A ball stint at Quad Cities in 2019 (1.16 ERA, 0.871 WHIP, 11.3 K/ 9 IP while only walking 1.2 per 9 IP) was particularly eye popping. He will be one to watch in a couple seasons.
Top 30 prospects – not on the 40 man
Some of the top 30 prospects are on the 40 man, but the following are not there yet.
- INF Freudis Nova – Only 20 y.o., he was signed at 17 in 2017 out of the Dominican Republic. He has hit for decent average and not a lot of power and has fielded far better at 2B than at SS or 3B. This is likely due to throwing mechanics. Hey, he made it to A ball last year and is a couple years younger than his peers.
- RHP Jairo Solis – Like Nova, Solis is 20 y.o. and signed at 17 in 2017, in his case out of Venezuela. He had performed well in a quick rise through the rankings, but missed all of 2019 injured. He is one of the higher thought prospects, who did not need Rule 5 protection yet.
- RHP Luis Garcia – the 23 y.o. has had sparkling stats since signing out of the Dominican in 2017. He is not as young as someone like Solis, but he has dominated at each level finishing up 2019 in A+ Fayetteville with a 3.02 ERA and an eye opening 14.8 K/ 9 IP. He has to still work on his control, but if he can get that settled out he could be sniffing the big leagues in another year.
- RHP Jose Alberto Rivera – Very similar to Garcia – he was signed out of the Dominican in 2017 and is also 23 y.o. His numbers are good but a step back of Garcia’s and he finished one level lower in 2019 at A level Quad Cities.
- RHP Jojanse Torres – The 24 y.o. was only signed in 2018 from the Dominican, so he has been against some younger competition. However he did have excellent numbers in 2019 between A and A+ ball (1.71 ERA/ 1.1.09 WHIP / 10.2 K/ 9 IP). He could be poised for a big 2020 (if and when it occurs).
- SS Dauri Lorenzo – Signed this summer at 16 y.o. out of the Dominican he has not yet played in the Astros system. However he appears to be a plus hitter and fielder. He will likely start off in the Dominican rookie league.
- INF Luis Santana – The young man was actually signed by the Mets out of the Dominican at the age of 16, but the Astros thought enough of him to pick him up as part of the J.D. Davis trade. He hit OK at A- ball last year and less good at AA in 2019, but he was only 19 y.o. and almost 5 years younger than the league average. Unfortunately, he is mostly a 2B and blocked by some guy named Jose, but maybe he will be a future utility man.
- RHP Jairo Lopez – The 19 y.o. was signed in 2018 from Venezuela and has shown well ever since. Over the last two minor league seasons he has risen to A- ball with a 2.29 ERA / 1.060 WHIP/ 9.7 K per 9 IP/ 3.6 walks per 9 IP. Those are all good solid numbers.
The Astros also had some international free agents that were used in some of the big trades of the last few seasons.
- RHP Albert Abreu (Venezuela) and Jorge Guzman (Dominican Rep) were packaged for catcher Brian McCann before the 2017 season.
- RHP Franklin Perez – He had been signed out of Venezuela, became one of the Astros top prospects (not named Whitley or Tucker) and was sent to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade.
The Astros are expected to sign 21 year old Cuban star Pedro Leon when the signing period opens in July (if that date is not moved). He is a corner outfielder with above average speed and a lot of power. He is expected to come to the Astros because they have about $4 million available in their international pool that they have held on to.
So…..there you go. It is a pretty impressive, but no where comprehensive list of Astros’ prospects since their emphasis on going international.