The Houston Astros have arguably been the most aggressive MLB team in signing International free agents from Cuba of late. Since bringing Yuli Gurriel on board in 2016 they have been fortifying their system with young caribbean ballers. Yordan Alvarez and Pedro Leon to name a few. The next signing period will begin in January of 2022. Recent news puts the Astros Favorites to Sign Cuban Fireballer Carlos Espinosa.
Espinosa, 19 left Cuba in March of 2020. This was shortly after he pitched sparingly for The Camagüey Toros in the 58th Cuban National Series. In 16 regular season innings he posted a 4.50 era and struck out 9 while walking 7. The Toros advanced to the finals that season and relied heavily on fellow youngsters Yariel Rodriguez and Yosimar Cousin. It shouldn’t be surprising that the then 17 year old struggled to find a spot. The Toros trying to mix youth with veteran hurlers. Camagüey has built an impressive pitching pipeline with the three youngsters representing some of the best prospects on and now off the island.
Carlos Espinosa was originally expected to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His pact with the Astros is reported at $450,000. It will not be official until the January period opens. Espinosa has high upside as illustrated by his 95 MPH fastball. Little else is known about his pitching repertoire at this point. The relative small dollar amount is a definite mitigated risk for Houston. The Astros as mentioned have a great culture and history of cultivating Cuban talent.
2022 looks like it might be the busiest International signing period for young Cubans yet. It is smart for Carlos Espinosa to get ahead of the market that could include César Prieto, Jeison Martinez, Andy Rodriguez and Oscar Colas as the premiere names looking for contracts. Espinos likely isn’t of the pedigree that those players are at least in comparing Cuban National Series resumes. He may however represent the most affordable value with as much upside as any Cuban arm to sign in recent years.