2022 International Signing Period – Best Astros Connections

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With the opening of the international signing period tomorrow, baseball fans should receive some surely welcome trade news as we continue to await a contentious lockdown. While officially tomorrow is supposed to open negotiations between players and clubs, the reality is that these have been going on for some time now, and signings will come early and often once MLB rings the bell on Saturday. At this point, we already know the destinations of many of the top-tier players in the class, with only bonus dollars to finalize.

The Astros aren’t expected to walk away with one of the best names in this year’s crop, but it has allowed for increased activity in the middle tiers, where they’ve been linked with a quartet of exciting young talent, with more names expected follow as information on lower levels continues to become available. Continuing recent trends, maintaining a strong presence in Cuba was again a point of attention for Houston, with three of their top-ranked new players coming along with players from the island. Let’s take a look at the names we’ve learned so far:

Luis Baez (18), OF, Dominican Republic

Uniquely, Baez is the Astros’ top-ranked prospect despite being older for the class, as he was eligible to sign previously but ultimately didn’t reach a deal. The Astros kept tabs on him and reached a handshake deal in July for a seven-figure bonus that has stood to this day. Already tipping the scales at 190 pounds. With a 6’3″ frame, Baez has exceptional physicality and power potential. He’s already very advanced physically and may not be too throwable compared to most 18-year-olds, but he has already an extraordinary force.

His current power is on par with any other player in the class, and it comes with a certain loose athleticism and barrel-handling feel. There are busy elements in the swing and opportunities to use power more effectively, but being physically ahead of schedule should give him plenty of opportunities to iron out any offensive issues. There may be a bit of a learning curve as he acclimates to the ball in the United after a long layoff, and defensive value is a question mark despite his strong arm, but Baez is a exciting offensive talent that could make waves a little earlier than international free agents. through physical maturity. He’s a straight field or first base in long-term form with the heart of the upside order if his approach can sustain the power potential.

Kenni Gomez (16), DE, Cuba

Joining a very strong group of Cuban talent at all levels of the Astros system, Gomez ranked 47th in Baseball America’s top 50 and is expected to sign a deal that includes a bonus of just under $1 million. Unlike Baez, Gomez stands out more for his skill than his physicality, getting high marks for his striking feel and outfield instincts. Reports praise his forward approach and bat-to-ball skills, and some are even optimistic that significant power could follow despite an unremarkable 6’0″ frame.

The youngster gets on the plane early and shows solid batting speed, which lends credence to the optimism around the strike tool. While he doesn’t have exceptional athleticism, his foot speed and arm strength are solid or better, giving him a punching chance to hold center field in the long run. He will need to maximize his skills to project himself as an everyday outfielder, but he has the markers of a player who might be able to surpass his raw qualities. Although he’s advanced for his age, it’s likely to be some time before we see Gomez in full season.

Alberto Hernandez (17), SS, Cuba

Barely squeaking up Baseball America’s 50th-place rankings, Hernandez is another player who was previously eligible to sign, so he comes to the Astros with a bit more seasoning than the 2022 base name. At 6’1 “With a narrow, athletic build, Hernandez looks like a natural left infielder, and that’s exactly where he’s played so far. Senior shortstop some scouts felt he might need to move to third in the long run, but he’s more physically developed than some of his peers and may not slow down much by maturity. Video of Hernandez’s swing doesn’t appear to have been released to the public yet, but the reports we have are praising his bat-to-ball skills – it doesn’t appear power is a big part of his game for the moment. instant. A switch bat, Hernandez hit .442 with 18 extra base hits in his last live action, an U16 national tournament in Cuba, and has a chance to deliver impact on both sides of the ball. Hernandez’s bonus is tentatively projected at $1 million.

Carlos Espinosa (19), RHP, Cuba

The Astros have had a lot of success with Cuban players and older pitchers in the international market, so they really have their bases covered by 19-year-old Espinosa. Journalist Francys Romero, who is constantly all over this space, previously reported an agreement between Espinosa and the Pirates, but the Astros were able to take advantage of it when that fell apart:

I don’t have any height/weight numbers on Espinosa yet, but the clip above includes a bit of promising pitch data – his fastball can hit 95 MPH with solid spin to boot. It would also have shown a feel for two different breaking balls as well as a change, and shows nice mechanical ease, including a very aesthetically pleasing arm action. Given his age and physical maturity, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Astros pushed him to the full-season ball fairly early in his professional career.

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