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2022 IFA Prize Baez off to Hot Stateside Start

After a solid professional debut in the DSL last year, the Astros’ most highly touted international signing from last year’s crop has come out of the gates on fire with the FCL club.


Despite signing in his second year of eligibility, which is uncommon (though not unheard of) for blue chip international prospects, the Astros’ acquisition of Luis Baez came with a lot of fanfare. What the then 18 year old lacked in projection (he was already over 200 pounds at 6’2”), he made up for with present juice, packing some of the best pure pop in his class, along with a plus arm, giving him the look of a prototypical right fielder. Scouts were split on his contact ability, and the lack of projection gave some pause, but many a future everyday corner outfielder came from a similar athletic profile.

After signing in January of last year, Baez was one of the better hitters in the DSL. His approach was reported to be aggressive, which is backed but by his K and BB rates of 25.2% and 6.3% respectively, but he did a lot of damage with his contact (9 HR, .246 ISO), evidencing an ability to get his prodigious raw power to show in a game setting at a young age. Notes from scouts typically focused mostly on the shaky hit tool, with some also sharing concerns on his swing actions, which were viewed as a bit stiff at times. While not an unqualified success, Baez’ debut would be rewarded with player of the month and DSL All-Star status, and more or less punched his ticket to stateside ball in 2023.

FCL play opened earlier this week, and Baez promptly announced his return with a home run and two walks in his stateside debut. He has since followed that by going 5 for 9 across his next two contests, including 2 HRs in today’s action. After showing a proclivity for whiffs last year, he has struck out just 3 times against 3 walks thus far as well. It would be foolish to draw too much from three games worth of FCL results (or 30, for that matter), but the continued game power holding up against what is meaningfully better competition, is exciting.

Given the struggles of the Fayetteville lineup so far this season, it’s hard not to wonder whether Baez could be pushed up aggressively with a bit more hot hitting. While I don’t think such a move is imminent per se, I certainly think it’s in play. At 19 and the physicality of a much older player, Baez is certainly equipped for the rigors of full season ball as far as maturity and athleticism go. The Astros were understandably hesitant to push him straight to A ball to start the season due to the concerns about his approach, but it appears that experience in the DSL and extended spring training may have sparked some growth in that department. If he can prove that real strides have been made with the swing decisions, to any meaningful degree, a move feels appropriate- if he’s successful, his timeline could be altered in a real way, and a 1-1.5 month trial shouldn’t be too developmentally costly even if he’s overmatched against full season pitching. There are a number of interesting prospects at the DSL and FCL levels right now, but none save Baez have demonstrated a true potential carrying tool- like Baez’ power- to this point, so he stands out from the pack a bit. He’s one of the more exciting stories to track in the system between now and the draft.