The Astros are making another international signing.
On Wednesday, Francys Romero reported that the Houston Astros are expected to sign Cuban shortstop Alberto Hernandez for around $1 million. The international prospect is 16 years old and will add to a list of Cuban prospects within the Astros system. The next international signing period doesn’t open until 2022, and Hernandez’s name could be the next Pedro Leon for Houston. The Astros have struck big in the past with their Cuban prospects after signing Yuli Gurriel in 2016 and trading for Yordan Alvarez in 2016 as well.
Hernandez’s expected signing announcement comes two days after the signing of Cuban outfielder/infielder Norel Gonzalez, who is now 26 and will be advanced to the Double-A level. Gonzalez has been playing in the Cuban National Series since the age of 20, and while struggling for two seasons, he found a strong bat as seen in his progression the next couple years. Through 772 at bats, the left-hander hit .315/.395/.457, which are all above-average. There is a large amount of slug behind Gonzalez’s swing as he will most likely hit in the middle of the order. In the field, Gonzalez throws right-handed and can play the corner outfields and first base at an elite level. With eight errors over 368 innings, he can been stellar at turning double plays.
Hernandez’s last season before he defected from Cuba was in 2020. The switch-hitter slashed .442 with 13 doubles, three triples, one home run, 27 RBI and 14 walks in his final U-16 league season in Cuba. There isn’t much else to find or evaluate on Hernandez’s performance and progression at 16 years old, but he will be 17 come the signing period next year, so expect him starting lower in the system compared to Gonzalez.
The Astros now have a list of recent prospects from Cuba including Leon, Gonzalez, and come next year Hernandez. All three have been described as multi-tooled players who can play the outfield along with carrying a heavy bat. After losing top draft picks as punishment for the sign stealing scandal, the Astros have turned to the international market to upgrade their farm system.