Astros international emphasis

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.

Chips

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.

Future 

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.

 

 

44 comments on “Astros international emphasis

  1. Hey folks – this took a lot of work to complete – any comments beside Larry’s?

    Yes, Larry this is a high caliber pickup for the Astros that they “saved” up bonus money to chase. Hopefully it really happens and he comes charging up the system like some of his Cuban compadres.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Didn’t know a lot about the prospects but I do now thanks to your expose’ on the subject. Well done! I shall keep an eye on them. Also the story behind the current 40 man roster players.

    Like

  3. Looking at the expansion of international signings, I can see where, there is a possibility of a majority of the major league players could be non-Americans in the future. Parents need to introduce their children to the joys of playing baseball. I remember when spring training always posed problems with international players reporting on time due to visa issues. We don’t hear about these anymore. … just rambling here…

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  4. And relative to Mr Pedro Leon – MLB is talking about putting off this year’s draft and this year’s international signing period.
    The Astros might get squeezed out of Mr Leon – perhaps some indirect punishment to the team. By this I mean they change the roles in a way that we are not the only team capable of meeting his salary demands

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  5. I’ve been reading this gentleman with the rather unfortunate last name for a few years — if moderator allows me to post this? His comments on the Abreu Starter / Reliever debate are interesting, for example.

    https://www.prospectslive.com/lists/2020/3/16/astros-2020-top-30-prospects

    As for expecting comments on prospects and the work put into it, Dan … welcome to the prospect world. It’s a definite niche to find someone who watches them play (DSL; GCL; Troy, NY; Quad Cities, IA; Fay’ville, NC; Corpus; RR), and who form our own opinions in spite of the parrots. It comes in handy to follow on twitter; patrons, scouts/coaches, and fellow players to get the latest info. Our own “triumphs” are in being ahead of the established services. A few of mine this year were McCormick, Torres and Garcia.

    One of the things that causes more disagreement about our farm is the high velocity (scouts love that), versus the issue of harnessing control (Strom frets). The questions abound when pitching command becomes a premium in terms of extreme shifting. If we cannot pitch to contact, the sound and fury is all for naught, a la, Yohan Ramirez.

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    • I went to that link Gostros – his page pops up but it is blank – has the right title but no content. Do you have to subscribe or something?

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      • I suppose so. I could copy/paste, but it would be 30 pages. Here is the example of his content on Abreu, and how I spend my days reading.

        “Despite what you’ll hear about guys like Andres Munoz, James Karinchak, and Emmanuel Clase; Bryan Abreu might be the best RP prospect in all of baseball. Abreu had shown promise prior to last year, but truly broke out in 2018, posting a ridiculous 41.9 K% across two levels.

        Abreu came into 2019 with a ton of helium, but posted mixed results for the most part. After three dominant starts in High-A, the Astros moved Abreu to Double-A, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in 16 starts. Despite struggling as a starter, Abreu thrived in his appearances as a reliever, leading many to question if he was better off out of the bullpen. At this point, the Astros were met with a decision; they could either send him down and let him continue to develop as a starter, or they let him run as a reliever and fast track his path to the majors. For now at least, it seems as if the Astros have gone with the latter, as they called him up in September and allowed him to make seven appearances out of the bullpen.

        Even as a spectator, it’s easy to see how one can be divided on whether Abreu should start or move to the bullpen. While he isn’t the tallest guy at 6-foot-1, his wide shoulders combined with a strong, athletic build are ideal for a starter. He also has the type of mentality people look for in starters, but his command and pitch arsenal both point to a future in the bullpen. For example, Abreu is a rare pitcher who relies almost solely upon two breaking balls, as he possesses one of the best curveballs in all of baseball, to go along with a plus slider. Both of these pitches possess elite spin, with the slider sitting around 2,700 RPM, and the curveball sitting around 3,000 RPM. What makes these two pitches so effective, is that Abreu manages to throw them both at very similar velocities, but with very distinct spin and break. In his short stint in the majors, Abreu’s slider averaged 86.6 MPH, while his curve came in at 85.3 MPH, but they had massive differences in movement. One elite breaking ball is already hard enough to hit, but when a guy has two of them that come in at the same speed with completely different movements… good luck. In his short stint in the majors, Abreu had a combined 60.5 whiff% on these two pitches.

        Unfortunately, Abreu has to rely on these two pitches because the rest of his arsenal is lacking. While some may label his fastball as plus, it isn’t anything special in terms of velocity and movement, and has a below-average spin-rate for its velocity. When you combine these traits with Abreu’s below-average command, it leads to a fastball that is mostly ineffective, and mainly thrown as a way to steal strikes when behind. Like many other pitchers with a poor fastball but solid velocity, Abreu thrives when he throws the pitch up in the zone, but struggles to command it there consistently. Part of the reason for Abreu’s command issues comes from his follow-through. While I actually like a lot about Abreu’s mechanics, such as how he utilizes his lower half, he has a few issues, such as how he falls towards first base in his follow-through. This compromises much of his command, and is also in line with the high effort deliveries of many relievers.

        At the end of the day, it isn’t impossible for the Astros to transition Abreu back to a starter’s role. He has the body for it, and he’s certainly talented enough, but he does need quite a bit more development in both his command and his fastball/changeup. If he does move back to the rotation at some point, he does remind me of a pitcher like Dinelson Lamet or Chad Kuhl because of his pitch mix, but as of right now I think Abreu profiles as an elite backend reliever moving forward.”

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  6. I wrote about the huge issues ahead for the Astros regarding service time yesterday, but didn’t get around to posting it here because I was just going to write a separate article myself.

    Not only do the Astros have MANY big questions in December, not knowing what the league will decide makes it even tougher to predict. MLB doesn’t seem to know how to tackle this problem yet!

    You may recall, I’ve been asking here a few times what we would do with Pete Solomon? No replies. He would have had to be added to the 40-man in order to “get back” this year of eligibility, after his TJ last Summer.

    Making this readable is difficult, but the 40-man looms large if Larry or others want to see what we are facing. One real positive in Astros favor is — Only Teams Who Have Space on their rosters in December Winter meetings can take our prospects (like the three teams that took our R5’s last year). With the losing teams stocking up on Top Prospects, there’s a high likelihood they will be focused on their own; and not some team rated #29 overall?

    [I’ll post below].

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  7. These are the top five candidates for adding to the 40-man roster in December 2020, because they are Rule 5 eligible;

    GS#1 Whitley; #5 Ivey; #6 Solis, *#8 Nova; #31 Solomon.

    Fringe: #24 McCormick, #29 Rivera, #42 Meyers, #48 Julks, JP Lopez, #41 Macuarie, Papierski (best defensive catcher in system), #37 Matijevic (on decline), #56 Santana (high hopes in Davis trade).

    This is to say nothing of the players who already passed through in 2019, and were hoping to play well enough this season to stick (examples);

    #43 McKee (rising)
    #30 Sanabria (sleeper)
    #33 Bailey (returned R5)
    #52 Adcock (offseason improving)
    #42 De la Cruz (impressive Spring)
    #32 Dawson (declining in ranks)
    #45 Scrubb (holding steady)
    #49 Tanielu (losing footing)
    #58 Garza (fringe)
    Quintana (bat first)
    Campos, Donato, Leovanny R., Pinales, Blanco… (not projectible today)

    *There seems to be debate about when Nova was added, and whether 2020 is his R5 date.

    As I see it, we’ll need at least seven open spots to plug these in 2021 season, depending on how the league handles service time this year. Some names that might come off the 40-man by then; Mayfield, Biagini, Devo, etc., and Free Agents.

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    • Do you really think that a league so chintzy they award a belt to the team with the best Arbitration Staff holding down salaries; a league interested in closing over 40 MiLB venues is truly interested in paying minor leaguers more money? It is only public outcry that is forcing the issue in debate, and only a league on a collision course in CBA talks that want to placate the players that this is even a discussion. Otherwise, they will continue to be the step-child of the majors, mocked and ridiculed like “daddy” last season.

      That is why I always say, it’s their fratenity and their rules. The only say I have is … my buying power.

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      • In general, I spend about 5x the amount of money on MiLB as I do MLB. The play on the field isn’t always fantastic, but the environment is fantastic and my kids love it.

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  8. JJ Cooper
    @jjcoop36
    ·
    17m
    “With discussions of MiLB player stipends and compensation being in the news, I have been told by a reputable source that one MLB team has put a gag order on their MiLB players to not talk to any media without written permission.”

    They don’t want it getting out to the other 29 teams?

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  9. Astros grant Jared Hughes unconditional release. He was one battling for the last bullpen spot, and incidentally, the only one (Biagini, Devo, Abreu) without an option.

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  10. Sorry to see Sale going down with TJ surgery….Altuve was waiting to hit another homerun off him! The look on his face when Altuve hit that *third* homerun off him in 2017 during the ALCS!! SO….we won’t see him or Servino next year!! EXCELLENT! You guys are waaay too technical for me, I’ve never seen any of the guys listed here, as a matter of fact….I don’t get to see ANY Astros player unless they are playing the arlington little league.
    I’m just sitting here in Kingwood with my baseball bat to hit that virus in the mouth if it comes up my driveway! I will however vent about having to cook everynight! Fortunately I’m married to a man that eats anything I cook unless it’s squash….and I LOVE squash! Finally the minor league kids are going to get a small check and that’s where these dudes making a bunch of money should give up that fat check they get in spring training to these kids. Angels and Dodgers are doing that for their minor league guys. There might be more, but I know those two teams are helping the kids, and trust me….IT MATTERS!
    Are we going to play baseball this year? OP give us a shout out when you slice one of those “beef steak” tomatoes this summer! I was reared on a farm, and eating one of those BIG tomatoes was the highlight of my summer! Becky⚾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Squash was something as I was growing up I wouldn’t touch. However, I changed my tune when a friend of mine’s mother made a squash casserole. I couldn’t get enough of it. My mother used to pan fry her squash with butter, onions, a little salt and some pepper. I tried this a few weeks ago and it was delicious. Others who ate it liked it too so thanks to my Mom who let me watch when she made it even though I didn’t eat it until I was in my twenties. Oh and by the way fried zucchini with a corn meal breading is pretty tasty too. Also take your zucchini, slice it length ways, marinade it in Italian salad dressing and then throw it on the grill. Sorry, got to head for the kitchen . I’m hungry.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Becky, the type of tomato I like to grow up here is Big Beef. My wife likes trying all the other crap tomatoes, including the darn cherry tomatoes, which are mostly skin and no beef?
      I’m going to do most of the gardening this year so we will be doing things my way.
      But maybe a little later, since we had five inches of rain in the last three days.

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  11. We’re pretty lucky here. Backyard gardens are not really necessary, as there are little farm stands all along the island road that circles the island. I really don’t know how our local farmers manage the monkeys. Some a dem get shot up.

    The Guyanese lady just down the road was well stocked this morning. Tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, green onion, string beans, grapefruit, bananas, okra, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, and then local stuff like callaloo greens, carambola (starfruit), scotch bonnet peppers, sweet potatoes, cassava root, tannia, then lemon grass and sage and other stuff to make bush tea from. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. And soon we’ll have the crop Nevis is best known for; 44 varieties of mango, some weighing down branches of massive trees that can be a 100 years old. Stay well everyone!

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  12. I am not going to subscribe to the Atlantic to read these guys, but here is the start of today’s article from Ken Rosenthal.

    “Red Sox lawyer suggests team is aware of — and disagrees with — MLB findings.

    A lawyer for the Red Sox on Friday morning suggested that MLB already has made a conclusion on whether the team in 2018 violated baseball’s ban on in-game use of electronics. The attorney declined to admit that the Red Sox illicitly stole signs using electronics.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be prepared to be underwhelmed, as mentioned over a month ago. They will report BOS got the signs via video room; from dugout to runner on 2B, then to their hitter. They will make the case it was less egregious than trash cans. Even though trash cans are not in the rules, yet “getting the signs by video,” which every team did, is against the Sept 13, 2017 rule.

      Got to love the timing, too, dragging their feet to reveal this is a complete farce! Ater we got a steady month of 29 fanbases going out of their way to castigate us.

      From what I understand the Atlantic article is so poorly written, it leaves the reader wondering about the timeline. Leaving more questions than answers.. another shocker.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Dan, I wanted to again thank you for the enjoyable read in this post. I have read it twice and there is such good info and for the life of me I don’t know what to say in regards to it’s subject. The lack of info on baseball and the lack of enthusiasm because of what is happening in the world makes it so hard for me to conjure up ideas.
    What I can say is that, with Luhnow out, I’m hoping to see these young players develop faster by adding better pitches, subtracting lesser ones, and getting their deliveries fixed in order to cut down on their walks and number of pitches. I’m hoping the new GM has new ideas brought from TB to help our young pitchers mature on the mound and get to the majors faster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks op – it is tough to get the juices going right now.
      We’ve been watching some movies and binge watching some TV
      We were trying to beat the blues with old comedies like Animal House and Blues Brothers and get our mind off things with Hitchcock classics.
      My wife and I have been rewatching the dramedy Gilmour Girls – like the snappy – cultural referenced dialog and the small town folks and the conflicts inside the family.
      Can’t make myself watch old classic games – no desire right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sticking this out folks – though if I had to post everyday I would be in trouble even when baseball was on-going.
      I’m not going to judge anyone else’s situation – don’t know who might be dealing with illness personally or in the family – who is trying to help elderly relatives or who has 5 kids running around the house.
      I will toss out something to chew on every few days. It may get dry and chewy but we will keep things going together

      Liked by 3 people

      • We can never thank you enough for the hard work it takes to put together these posts and the mental stress of finding something to discuss.
        I, personally, would be lost without you guys.
        So thanks one more time.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. May I go back to “IT?” This is hypothetical but play along for a moment. Manfred decides to announce Astros punishment but delays the Red Sox because his staff is still interviewing the Red Sox Players. The Red Sox players see how the Astros players are treated, called names, and REQUIRED to come out and apologize for the cameras.

    Now if you were a Red Sox players, even if Manfred gives you complete immunity do you say anything. My thought is you better have video of me doing something or I say NOTHING. Ball players may not be brilliant but they are not raving morons either.

    Manfred is a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Hah, Hah, Hah.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. As we sit in our homes praying that God will destroy this deadly virus, having a blog like this is a ray of sunshine! We can talk about our team, or talk about food…right now it doesn’t matter. Just having something else to take our minds off the news of so many people all over the world who have lost their lives to this virus….Is WONDERFUL!! The first trade I would like our new GM to make, is for Robbie Ray. If the Padres aren’t going to get very far this year, Robbie Ray would cement this rotation and team to another playoff birth. Astros really need a lefty…..and he would be a good one, and he would have another year before he would be eligible for free agency. Got a container of sausage and chicken gumbo I froze over the winter….that’s’ what’s for dinner tonight!
    Daveb…if I had access to all the fruit and vegetables you listed, I would be in heaven! Ya’ll take care of yourselves, and pray for each other🙏 Becky⚾

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dan, thanks for sticking it out. This was definitely a post that took you some time to put together. I don’t have much feedback. Typically during the regular season, I’ll take a look at the previous nights minor league results and keep an eye on the few guys I’m somewhat familiar with. But indeed, I’m not real knowledgeable on the subject.

    Becky, we’re blessed down here. Although the tourists are all gone and unemployment has probably reached 30 to 40% terribly suddenly, there is a real grass roots effort afoot to plant more, catch more and raise more.

    Last night I figured out how to convert my TV to Roku and now I can watch Netflix. I’m going to start stocking popcorn!

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  17. Dan, I began a post which I planned to write after your Mar 18 plea but just could not what with everything happening. Sure many situations worse than mine. From what I read this morning, China beginning to turn corner after months isolation, so I am going to “choose” that course. Freedom by summer and hibernation nation in between. Psalm 91.

    Liked by 1 person

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