The international signing period doesn't open until July 2, but the Astros aren't waiting around to make an impact in the Dominican Republic.
Houston added two of the top arms from the Dominican Republic this week, signing 16-year-old righthander Michael Feliz for $400,000 and 17-year-old righthander Jose Montero for $350,000.
Feliz had originally agreed to terms with the A's for $800,000 in March, but Oakland voided his contract when Feliz tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol and received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball. According to scouts who have followed Feliz this year, Feliz was regularly hitting 92-93 mph with his fastball before his positive drug test, but in more recent months has been topping out at 91 mph. Beyond pure arm strength, Feliz, who is from Azua, also has a projectable 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame with feel for a curveball and a changeup.
Montero is another power arm with a projectable frame. The 6-foot-4 righthander from San Pedro de Macoris can pitch at 89-92 mph and has touched 93 for some scouts. Montero throws a slider and an occasional changeup, though his secondary stuff and feel for pitching isn't as refined as Feliz. Latin American sources have said the Yankees and Padres were among the other teams courting Montero.
The Astros unveiled a new academy in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, and both Feliz and Montero figure to begin their careers there this summer in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, although Feliz will have to wait until late July or early August to pitch due to his suspension. That should give the Astros three power-armed first-year pros on their DSL pitching staff, with lefthander Edgar Ferreira (a December 2009 signing for $350,000) also expected to join them in the DSL.
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