Right handed pitcher Jose Fleury was a very pleasant surprise in the Astros’ farm system in 2022, debuting at age 20 in the DSL with a cartoonish 60 Ks against 4 BBs in 38 innings en route to a 1.42 ERA across 10 appearances. He was old for the league at age 20, and most evaluators weren’t able to get eyes on him, but it was difficult to ignore the production, even if it came with the typical DSL caveats- most notably the questionable plate discipline of hitters at the level. Fleury’s performance was so dominant that the Astros felt comfortable pushing him straight to the Carolina League to start this season- conveniently, fellow 2022 DSLer Sandro Gaston, a catcher, followed a similar path, posting huge numbers as an older player for the league, and would join him with the Woodpeckers. They weren’t teammates as the Astros field two DSL rosters, but one would imagine that the two did plenty of work together outside of game action.
Fleury has been on a starting pitcher’s program with the Woodpeckers, throwing at least three innings in each of his five outings to date. The difference in level of competition has shown a bit in the numbers so far, but there has been no issue with his stuff playing. A 6’0” righty, Fleury is well prepared for the rigors of full season ball with an athletic, 185 lb. build and a full arsenal of fastball, change and a murky-but-extant breaking ball mix. The changeup came up a lot in DSL reports, but with Fayetteville his fastball has done most of the heavy lifting. Sitting in the low-90s, the heater has great carry, which is augmented by the low release point created by his mechanics and smaller frame. His command of the fastball can still improve, but he shows some nascent ability to mix levels with the pitch, keeping hitters uncomfortable.
The changeup has shown well- it is thrown with good arm speed and has plenty of fade, making it especially effective against lefties. Against righties, he opts for his slurvy breaking ball most often. His command of breaking stuff seems to lag behind that of his fastball and change up at present, but it can look good when located, though he has a tendency to lose them up, where the shape gets loopy. The arsenal projects as fastball dominant, but could be very startery if the breaking ball command comes around. On paper, the repertoire looks reverse splitsy, but he has performed better against righties thus far (21:8 K:BB in 11.2 IP vs 7:4 in 7.1). That could change further up the ladder where he can’t lean on his fastball quite as much, but it’s a good indicator.
Fleury has had some off command nights, walking four twice so far this season, but has had better luck on other days, including his Tuesday outing in which he walked the first batter he faced before finishing four innings without issuing another free pass, striking out eight. His fastball was again the most impressive pitch, but he worked in his secondaries liberally, finishing several batters with them. He did still give away a lot of pitches to waste zones, but was able to work relatively efficiently regardless. He is looking like an exciting find as an older, low dollar international free agent, and should continue on a starter’s program into next season, as he won’t be Rule 5 eligible until the winter of 2025. He will need to improve on a couple of fronts- location and breaking ball quality- to remain in the role long term and is probably more likely to relieve should he reach the majors, but there’s certainly enough to work with to justify a long look as a starter, and his early performance has entrenched him as a top 30 organizational prospect at a minimum.