I recently appeared on the Locked on Astros Podcast to discuss the already impressive and growing Cuban pipeline the Houston Astros have built. The Chicago White Sox might have more Cuban Name brand power but the Astros Cuban Connections are in Another Stratosphere. This is perhaps best illustrated by the number of Cuban baseball players they have invited to spring training in 2021, here is a break down.
Yordan Álvarez– DH/OF -Las Tunas Leñadores 2013 to 2015
The 2019 American League Rookie of the Year is looking to bounce back from an essentially lost 2020 due to knee surgery, he played in two games before heading under the knife. With the loss of George Springer, Álvarez will be relied on heavily to provide thump in the Astros lineup a capability he showed in ’19 swatting 27 home runs in just 313 At Bats. At just 23 time is still on his side and despite signs that Houston’s window is closing any offence built around Altuve, Bregman, Correa + Alvarez has a chance to do damage.
Aledmys Díaz– SS/IF- Villa Clara Naranjas 2007 to 2012
Díaz figures to make the big squad as one of the more solid utility options in baseball. Capable of filling in at every non-catching position defensively, he puts together solid at bats, shows good bat control and provides occasional sock as his career 25.5 AB/HR attests. Diaz is a fantastic option off the bench who can sub in as a starter at multiple positions with Short Stop being his natural spot.
Pedro León– CF/OF- Mayabeque Huracanes 2017 to 2019
Non-Roster Invite:León received the largest signing bonus of any player during the 2021 signing period when the Astros gave him $4 million.The youngster from just outside of Havana has shown all 5 tools in his short time in the Series Nacional but unfortunately has played sparingly since his defection in 2019. His power has been most impressive to date hitting 15 home runs in 33 games in his break out and final season in Cuba. His invitation to camp shows that the Astros have big expectations but his path more likely takes him to Double A to start and it would most likely be surprising to see him in Houston before rosters expand in September.
NO PROJECTIONS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE
Yuli Gurriel-1B/IF- Sancti Spiritus Gallos 2001 to 2016
The most common refrain regarding Gurriel is what a career he might have had, had he left Cuba sooner, but this undersells how effective a player he has been since he came to Houston in 2017. A career Third Baseman (Second Baseman w Team Cuba) he had growing pains in learning a new position at first but now grades out as above average defensively, is one of the hardest players to strike out in baseball and provides decent power as his peak 31 home runs in 2019 attest. Houston felt comfortable enough extending him for $7 million even at the advanced age of 36 coming off a down 2020, I think that contract could still prove to be a steal.
Lorenzo Quintana-C-Pinar del Rio Vegueros 2008 to 2015
Non-Roster Invite: A veteran catcher who will turn 32 before opening day and will likely have to Wow the powers that be to make the main roster. He has put up solid offensive numbers in the minors since his debut in 2018 hitting .278/.330/.517 with 28 HR and 98 RBI in 522 At Bats. Veterans Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro figure to get the majority of innings behind the plate but if either underperforms or misses time there is a path to the show for Quintana who would seem to have more upside with the bat than either backstop, although neither is particularly known for their offensive prowess.
NO PROJECTIONS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE