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2021-22 International Reviews: Houston Astros

The Astros have developed an impressive pitching pipeline from Latin America over the years, particularly with lower bonus, often “older” signings with players like Luis Garcia, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Enoli Paredes. This year’s Astros class leaned heavily on players who were previously eligible to sign and Cuban players.

Top Of The Class

Outfielder Luis Baez is 18 and was eligible to sign the previous year, but the Astros made him their top signing for this year’s class that opened on Jan. 15. He’s a strong, physically mature player for his age at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, which results in some of the best raw power in the class. Baez should have at least plus power, with scouts highest on him also praising his ability to translate that power in game situations, with a righthanded swing and approach geared to pull the ball in the air. Baez has an arm that earns 55 to 60 grades from scouts, with the mobility now where he can post average run times underway. That’s good enough for him to play right field now, though he’s likely to slow down considerably, with some risk he could end up at first base depending on his physical development.

Names To Know

Alberto Hernandez, SS, Cuba: Like Baez, Hernandez was also eligible to sign during the previous signing period, but he waited until Jan. 15 this year to sign with Houston. He’s a lean 6 feet, 170 pounds and has been a switch-hitter, though some scouts think he might end up hitting exclusively from the right side. He shows good bat control and a solid grasp of the strike zone against live pitching, with mostly alleys power that could tick up as he gets stronger. He’s a 55 runner whose hands work well at shortstop, with some scouts believing he might outgrow the position and land at third base long term.

Kenni Gomez, OF, Cuba: At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Gomez is a plus runner who reads the ball well off the bat and takes good routes in center field. He has a below-average arm, with a body where his speed could back up, so some see him potentially in left field. He’s a righthanded hitter with a flat path through the hitting zone, leading to a high contact rate with some sneaky juice that could allow him to develop into a 20-plus home run hitter.

Samuel Capellan, SS, Dominican Republic: Capellan is one of the best athletes the Astros signed this year. He’s a wiry 5-foot-11, 155 pounds with plus speed and the skills to stick at shortstop. Capellan has shown signs of a patient approach, but he will need to add more strength to do more damage.

Carlos Espinosa, RHP, Cuba: At 20, Espinosa is more advanced than the rest of the class, pounding the strike zone with a fastball that has been up to 95 mph. He’s a potential starter who throws a wide assortment of secondary pitches, led by a low-to-mid-80s slider that’s his best weapon. He also throws a mid-to-upper-70s curveball with good shape as well as both a changeup and a splitter.

Rafael Ramirez, SS, Dominican Republic: Ramirez has a rangy 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame with a chance to develop into a power bat on the left side of the infield. He drives the ball well now from the right side of the plate, with the strength projection left to grow into average to plus power at maturity. Ramirez has a chance to play shortstop, but given his build he might end up at third base, with the arm strength for either spot.

Axell De Paula, OF, Dominican Republic: De Paula is an athletic center fielder with solid-average speed and arm strength. He’s 5-foot-10, 175 pounds with strength in his frame that helps him drive the the ball well for his age from the right side of the plate.

Sleeper Watch

A lower-bonus pitcher, Raimy Rodriguez is a Dominican righthander who has a lot of projection arrows pointing in the right direction. He’s young for his class, has more physical upside left in his wiry, long-limbed 6-foot-1 frame and throws strikes at a high clip with a fastball that has been up to 91 mph and should climb higher. Rodriguez also shows feel to spin a hard curveball in the upper 70s.

Hotsheet Copy (1)

Hot Sheet: Baseball's 20 Hottest Prospects From The Past Week (6/14/22)

Six Top 100 Prospects lead this week's Hot Sheet.

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