2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Houston Astros
International signings played a huge role for the Astros in their 2020 club that reached the American League Championship Series. Lefthander Framber Valdez and righthander Cristian Javier—both $10,000 signings out of the Dominican Republic—were key parts of Houston's starting rotation, while righthander Jose Urquidy (signed out of Mexico) delivered a strong September stretch. Righthander Enoli Paredes looks like a high-leverage reliever, while Venezuelan righthander Luis Garcia ranks as the No. 1 prospect in the organization. There could be more of those lower-dollar, under-the-radar arms in the latest international signing class for the Astros, but nearly all of their bonus pool money went toward outfielders.
Top Of The Class
The biggest bonus for any player in the 2020-21 international class went to Pedro Leon, a 22-year-old Cuban outfielder the Astros signed for $4 million. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Leon packs loud tools into a short, muscular frame. He has a short, slight uppercut swing with the strength and bat speed to drive the ball with plus raw power, hitting balls out from the middle of the field over to his pull side. Leon performed well in his limited playing time in Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional. When he came to the Dominican Republic, he hit well against live pitching, though in a very abbreviated sample size that not many teams saw, so he still needs to be tested against better and more age-appropriate competition. Leon is a plus runner who could stay in center field if he's able to maintain his speed, with a plus-plus arm that might be his best tool. The Astros have also experimented with him getting reps as a middle infielder as well.
Names To Know
Richel del Rosario, OF, Dominican Republic: Del Rosario stood out for his offensive potential, showing a sound righthanded swing with at least average raw power from his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. Del Rosario spent time in the infield but moved to the outfield, with solid-average speed and a chance to start out in center field, but projecting long term as an athletic corner outfielder with a slightly above-average arm. He trained with Javier Rodriguez.
Anderson Sanchez, OF, Colombia: Sanchez doesn't have standout tools but he has good actions. He's 6-foot-1 with solid swing path, gap power and a chance to play center field, with solid-average speed and a 45 arm.
Dominican outfielder Brayan Nolasco has a strong, stocky frame (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) and moves surprisingly well for his size, with plus speed to start out in center field and an arm that earns 50 to 55 grades on the 20-80 scale. Nolasco has a solid righthanded bat for his age with gap power, though his defensive tools stand out the most right now. He trained at the Los Tiburones academy.