Much has been made of the Astros’ success with older international pitchers, and that’s a market that they continue to mine regularly, but they’re also willing to sign freshly-eligible arms when one suits their fancy. One of the more notable 16 year old signees in recent years is right handed starter Edinson Batista, who effectively made his full season debut in 2022 (he threw exactly one inning for Fayetteville in 2021) at age 20, and performed quite well across two levels.
A product of Santiago in the D.R., Batista has a fairly stock 6’2” frame and low to mid 90s velo with the fastball. His best pitch is a low-80s slider with tight two plane break, which shows an ability to pick up strikes in the zone and is thrown liberally. His changeup is in its nascent stages, but he’ll also show a more mature slow curve that could be a legitimate weapon for him going forward. His fastball isn’t particularly firm and doesn’t have the most movement, but he creates a bit of a unique angle that allows it to play up in the strike zone. There’s some effort to his delivery, but the head movement is kept to a minimum and the arm action is fairly vertical from his 3⁄4 slot, so his already playable strike throwing ability could continue to improve with more strength, which should be on the way.
Edinson Batista made quite the introduction in his @GoTourists debut.— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 27, 2022
The @astros prospect fanned 5 over 5 hitless in his first High-A start. pic.twitter.com/UIcct3HlHK
As you’ve likely noticed, Batista has a lot of starter traits and pitched in that sort of role in the minors this past season- while he did come on in relief more often than he actually started, he totaled 107 and 2⁄3 frames in 24 appearances. Despite his youth and projectability, the relatively heavy workload for a low minors arm didn’t seem to bother Batista, as he maintained effectiveness throughout the year and even earned a late season promotion to High-A Asheville, where he struck out 9 without walking a batter across his last two appearances of the year.
As noted above, Batista is due for Rule 5 eligibility after the season, but is early enough in his development that it probably shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Unless his velocity jumps more than expected, he’s a more natural fit in the rotation and wouldn’t be a priority 40-man add as a pure bullpen arm as explosiveness isn’t really his strength- he’d likely have to throw a ton of sliders as a reliever against big league hitters if the stuff profile remains mostly steady. I would expect to see the Astros keep him in the rotation as long as his performance holds up- if he performs especially well in that role, he could force his way onto the 40 man, and if his strike throwing doesn’t mature, he’s unlikely to be seriously considered in the major league phase anyway.
Batista’s breaking stuff, deception and developing pitchability are all intriguing, but it’s possible that he ends up not throwing enough strikes to be a starter or long man and doesn’t have enough raw stuff to really project in the bullpen. It’s not hard to the velocity and location improving, but one or both will need to do so before a potential role at the highest level really comes into focus. He’ll return to High-A Asheville as a starter to open 2023, and his season could go in several different directions from there.