The Astros’ sustained success in international scouting and development was a topic of frequent discussion during their 2022 World Series run, but that conversation frequently revolved around their low-dollar finds who vastly outperformed all expectation. With the 2023 signing window opening this weekend, the Astros have been linked to a few prospects who they will be hoping can meet already lofty projections, as they are projected to hand out a pair of higher 7 figure deals to two position players who appear on virtually every public ranking of International amateurs in this class. It’s not necessarily a departure in the strategy department, as they handed out plenty of big deals over the last decade as well, but these players, along with a couple more projected in the high 6 figure range, will account for the lion’s share of their ~$5M bonus pool. Let’s take a quick look at each:
The consensus top prospect in Houston’s class is infielder Camilo Diaz, a 17 year old from Cibao who offers outstanding physical tools. He offers present strength in his 6’1”, 175 lb. frame, but has plenty of room to add strength in the upper body to add to his already strong power and throw tools. He has manned shortstop to this point in his career, but many scouts have him ticketed for third base and I’d be inclined to agree based on the limited video available. His hands look good in a training setting and he has a smooth transfer and throwing release, but he doesn’t appear to eat up ground as quickly as your typical big league shortstop and the lower body actions can be awkward at times. Some of this can certainly be cleaned up and his days at short shouldn’t be numbered yet, but he also projects to add some significant weight that could reduce his range further.
Thankfully for Diaz and the Astros, his bat certainly shows enough potential for him to be an exciting prospect at the hot corner as well. When reading reports on him from public evaluators, bat speed is usually the first trait mentioned, with MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs and Baseball America all calling attention to his explosive hips and rotational prowess. This is a huge determinant of overall offensive upside, bolstering both the hit and power tools, so it’s an exciting calling card. Scouts do however seem to agree that the swing will need cleanup, and those who have seen him in games report an aggressive approach that will also need to be teached up before he can really make full use of his athletic gifts in a game setting. If Diaz’s game matures on a typical curve, he has the physical upside of an every day big leaguer, but I wouldn’t expect him to be on anything resembling an accelerated timeline. He’s reportedly expected to sign for $2.5M.
The other consensus top name in the Astros’ haul, outfielder Esmil Valencia is of a very different variety, but is exciting in his own right. Unlike Diaz, he really doesn’t stand out for his physicality, with a stockier 6’0” frame and a less projectable build. His speed is ordinary and he already plays as a full time outfielder so his defensive value is limited, though his arm strength is reportedly already solid so he could have a chance to project in right field at the least. What carries the rather vanilla profile is a very advanced bat for the age group- his stance and in-the-box actions are a bit stiff and not completely orthodox, but Valencia really impresses with repeatability and barrel feel. Reports indicate that he was one of the more consistent contact hitters in this class both in batting practice and games.
It’s fair to wonder if Valencia might end up as a tweener type, with less than ideal power for an outfield corner and not enough range for center, but if he can make flush contact frequently enough the pop should play. Thus far in his young career, he has the look of the type of hitter who just might be able to achieve that. While the potential upside is a bit lower in this case, his skillful game could allow him to move more quickly than his counterparts early on.