Astros sign 12 International free agents

Signings include five of Baseball America's top 50 international free agent prospects

HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Astros have agreed to terms on contracts with 12 international free agents, including five players from the Dominican Republic and seven from Venezuela, Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Director of International Oz Ocampo announced today. 

Shortstops Freudis Nova and Deury Carrasco, catcher Nerio Rodriguez, infielder Jeury Castillo and right-handed pitcher Ronny Garcia were signed out of the Dominican Republic, while shortstops Yorbin Ceuta and Sean Mendoza, right-handed pitchers Angel Macuare, Jairo Solis and Angel Ortega, catcher Jose Alvarez and center fielder Leonardo Gonzalez were signed out of Venezuela. All 12 players are 16 years old. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

"Today's signings reaffirm our commitment to finding the best players internationally, especially the top amateur talent from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela," said Luhnow. "We are excited to bring this talented 2016 class of players to the Houston Astros organization, and we are fully committed to creating the right player development environment for all of our international players to succeed."

Five of the Astros 12 signings are regarded as top 50 prospects in this year's July 2 international free agent class by Baseball America, including Nova (#5), Ceuta (#11), Macuare (#40), Rodriguez (#43) and Carrasco (#46).

Dominican Republic

Nova is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop who hails from Azua, Dominican Republic. In addition to his fifth overall ranking by Baseball America, Nova is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 8 overall prospect in this year's July 2 international free agent class.

"We're very excited to bring Freudis Nova into our minor league system," said Ocampo. "Freudis is a quick-twitch, premium athlete with exciting and loud tools across the board. Offensively, he has plus bat speed and strength, solid bat-to-ball skills, and possesses the ability to make hard contact and generate power. A plus runner with a plus arm, Freudis also has the hands, actions and athleticism to project as a future plus defender in the middle of the diamond."

Carrasco is also a shortstop and stands at 6-foot, 160 pounds. He is from Sanchez Ramirez, Dominican Republic.

"Deury Carrasco is one of the most advanced and underrated players in this year's class," said Ocampo. "He is a top-of the-order hitter with a short, quick stroke, good swing path, and the ability to hit line drives into the gaps with consistent hard contact in games. He has a cannon for an arm, solid actions and reliable hands at shortstop with very good instincts and feel."

Rodriguez is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound catcher from Santo Domingo Oeste, Dominican Republic. His father, Nerio Rodriguez Sr., is currently a pitching coach in the Los Angeles Angels organization and enjoyed an 18-year professional playing career, spending parts of five years in the Major Leagues as a pitcher with the Orioles (1996-98), Blue Jays (1998-99), Indians (2002) and Cardinals (2002).

"Nerio Rodriguez is a tall, strong, physical catcher with a durable frame, solid defensive skills and power upside offensively," said Ocampo. "What separates him from other Latin American catchers, besides his obvious physical tools, is that Nerio speaks fluent English and has Major League bloodlines."

Castillo is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound infielder from Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic, while Garcia is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-handed pitcher from Samana, Dominican Republic.

From Ocampo:

"Jeury Castillo stands out for his offensive potential and defensive ability at second base. He has a solid line-drive approach with high contact frequency in games."

"Ronny Garcia is an athletic right-handed pitcher with arm speed, and the makings of a solid delivery. Presently, Ronny throws an 88-89 mile per hour fastball with two solid off-speed pitches that he can throw for strikes."

Venezuela

Ceuta, a shortstop, checks in at 6-foot, 165 pounds and is from Miranda, Venezuela. 

"We're thrilled to bring Yorbin Ceuta into the Houston Astros organization," said Ocampo. "Yorbin is one of the best pure hitters in this July 2 class. All he does is hit, with a good swing path and a natural ability to barrel balls consistently with present deep gap power. Defensively, he is an athletic shortstop who possesses good footwork and actions, and a very good internal clock for the position."

Macuare is a right-handed pitcher from Bolivar, Venezuela. He stands 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.

"Angel Macuare is a strong, physical Venezuelan power arm and one of the top starting pitching prospects in this year's class," said Ocampo. "He projects to have two plus pitches with a 90-94 mile per hour fastball and a hard curveball that generates swings and misses. Angel has also shown solid command, feel for pitching and strong performance in games."

A catcher, Alvarez stands at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and is from Zulia, Venezuela.

"Jose Alvarez is a young, athletic, live-bodied catcher with a solid average arm and solid hitting ability," said Ocampo. "He has bat speed and a good swing path, with an advanced approach at the plate. Behind the plate, he is very athletic with strong receiving skills and a solid-average to plus arm with strong, accurate throws."

Solis, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-handed pitcher is from Carabobo, Venezuela.

"Jairo Solis projects to be a power starter with size, strength, athleticism and good mechanics," said Ocampo. "He has a present fastball that sits 87-91 miles per hour and generates weak contact, a hard 70-73 mile per hour curveball with solid command and a feel for a changeup."

Mendoza is a 5-foot-9, 150-pound shortstop from Miranda, Venezuela. Gonzalez (5-11, 160) is a center fielder from Zulia, Venezuela, while Ortega (6-0, 180) is a right-handed pitcher from Bolivar, Venezuela. 

From Ocampo:

"Sean Mendoza is an athletic middle infielder with soft hands, solid actions, plus speed, good hand-eye coordination and contact hitting ability from both sides of the plate."

"Leonardo Gonzalez is a projectable center fielder with a contact-oriented, left-handed swing and feel for the barrel. He possesses good baserunning instincts, solid plate discipline for his age and ability to hit to all fields."

"Angel Ortega is a starter arm with a very good delivery and advanced pitchability and command for his age. Presently, he throws an 86-90 mile per hour fastball with a curveball and changeup that he throws for strikes."

All 12 players will report to the Astros complex in the Dominican Republic but will not appear in games until the 2017 calendar year.