It’s been some time since the Astros have been able to pay top dollar for international prospects, as their signing of Yuli Gurriel among others earned them penalties for overspending their bonus pool in the 2016 signing period, which capped their max signing bonus at just $300k for the 2017 and 2018 periods. While the Astros were able to maneuver this situation admirably and come away with some solid prospects, they were no doubt excited to have some more cash to work with on the international market in 2019.
Spending freely again this past year, the Astros inked several players, from numerous locales, to deals north of the $300k limit they’d been constricted by the last two years. The biggest deal went to shortstop Dauri Lorenzo, a 6’1” from the Dominican Republic, who received a whopping $1.8 million signing bonus, the largest handed out by the team (excluding Gurriel) since they paid Gilberto Celestino $2.5 million in 2015. Celestino has since been traded to the Twins as part of the Ryan Pressly deal, and remains a prospect, albeit a mid-range one. To be frank, in general, players who have received big bonuses in the IFA market from the Astros in recent history have not fared well- shoutout Ariel Ovando- and bonuses aren’t always directly indicative of a player’s talent level, but regardless, there’s a lot of excitement around Lorenzo in player evaluation circles.
While he does play shortstop at the moment, and should project up the middle somewhere, it’s important to keep in mind that position player prospects this age generally either play short, outfield or catcher, save for a handful of third basemen and some edge cases- think Bayron Lora or Aaron Bracho types. That is to say, a lot of prospects who play shortstop in their teenage years end up moving off the position before too long. There are some who believe that Lorenzo can stick at short long term, and I wouldn’t rule that out based on what little video I’ve been able to find, but there’s a good chance that he fits in better at second base or the outfield long-term.
The pluses in the field come in the form of smooth hands and solid instincts, but the bar for playing shortstop at the big league level is a high one, and Lorenzo doesn’t have the sudden explosiveness or early arm strength that your typical slam dunk future shortstop would possess according to the reports and video available for now. If I had to place a bet on where Lorenzo ends up in the long term, I would put my money on second, and before you remark on him being blocked by Jose Altuve in that scenario, keep in mind that Lorenzo is at least four years from the big leagues at this point.
While Lorenzo’s defensive chops help his stock and he comfortably projects to at least the middle of the defensive spectrum, he earned his money with his bat. At the plate, Lorenzo has the look of a much older player. There’s some light inconsistency present in his swings in terms of sync, but his hands, which stand out in the field, are even more impressive at the dish. They work in a nice, tight circle, staying back effectively in his level cut. A switch hitter, Lorenzo looks very similar from both sides, and consistently barrels balls to all fields with gap power. As young as Lorenzo is, I’m not sure how much power growth can be forecast. His 6’1” frame is fairly narrow, and while there’s some projection remaining here we’re not talking about a Yiddi Cappe type, as Lorenzo is already somewhat filled out. However, he does have good bat speed and there’s potential to add some loft to his swing as well, so I would expect at least some gains in that department with a projection of average power at maturity. The hit tool, on the other hand, shows big time upside. There’s no such thing as a player sure to hit, especially at this level of play, but Lorenzo shows the potential to be a plus hitter down the line. Combined with his above-average speed and an approach that has drawn some early positive marks, this gives Lorenzo a chance to be a two-hole type hitter when fully realized.
As is the case with any 16 year old prospect, the range of outcomes here is nothing short of massive, and it will be awhile before there’s more clarity on his major league projection. While he is an advanced offensive player, he’s expected to spend 2020 in the Dominican Summer League, the lowest level of affiliated competition, where he’ll be facing off against other teenage prospects fresh off of international deals. DSL statistics can be outright disregarded and even reports from this level tend to be scarce. If evaluators are especially impressed with what they see from Lorenzo in instructs or DSL play, we might see him stateside in 2020 with the GCL club, but the most likely path for Lorenzo is a full DSL campaign in 2020 before an assignment to either the GCL or Tri-City in 2021 depending on how things go over the next year. In an Astros farm that has been greatly weakened by trades and graduations, Lorenzo now stands out as one of the flashier prospects in the organization, and should make for an exciting follow for Astros fans and dynasty league GMs over the next few years.