Astros Press Release
Astros sign three international players
Houston makes largest investment in Venezuelan talent in franchise history
The Houston Astros have agreed to terms on contracts with three international free agents today: right-handed pitcher Franklin Perez, shortstop Miguelangel Sierra and catcher Brandon Benavente. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed. The announcement was made by Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow.
"The Astros have a rich history of scouting and signing Major League players in Latin America, and a large part of that has been in Venezuela," said Luhnow. "By signing three excellent players today, the Astros are making a historically large investment in Venezuelan players that adds substantially to our prospect portfolio."
The three signings mark the largest financial commitment the Astros have ever made in Venezuelan talent. Perez, Sierra and Benavente, all 16 years old, were scouted and signed by the Astros Director of International Oz Ocampo.
"When we discussed building our International program, we talked about wanting the Houston Astros to be Venezuela's team," said Ocampo. "Under Andres Reiner, the Astros opened up the first baseball academy in Venezuela in 1989. Since then, our organization has produced 23 Major League players from Venezuela, including Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora, Richard Hidalgo, Bobby Abreu, and Jose Altuve. Given the Astros long and storied history in Venezuela, we wanted to again become the top destination for the very best Venezuelan talent every year."
Perez (6-4, 200) hails from Valencia, Venezuela and currently trains with former Astros international signee and Major League shortstop Carlos Guillen. The right-handed pitcher is ranked by MLB.com and Baseball America as one of this year's top 25 international free agents.
"Franklin checks all the boxes in terms of what we look for in a frontline starter - a strong athletic body, clean arm action and delivery, advanced repertoire with now stuff, pitchability, and plus makeup," said Ocampo. "What impresses the most about Franklin is his plus makeup across the board. He works hard, shows competitive fire and intensity on the mound, and learns and applies information quickly. He is a blue-chip talent who checks all the boxes to be a potential Major League starter, and we believe he has the tools and makeup to approach his considerable projection."
Sierra stands at 6-1, 165 and is a native of Altagracia de Orituco, Venezuela. The shortstop is also ranked by MLB.com and Baseball America as one of the top 25 international free agents in the 2014 class.
"What stands out initially with Miguelangel is the athleticism and ease of operation defensively," said Ocampo. "He shows fluid actions, soft hands, good footwork, and a very good internal clock for the position. Offensively, he is a high-contact hitter with a line-drive stroke that he brings to game situations. Defensively, we believe that he has a strong chance to develop into a plus defender at shortstop with a solid-average to plus arm."
Benavente (5-10, 200), a catcher, is a native of Caracas, Venezuela.
"We feel that Brandon's defensive package and special makeup separates him from all other catchers in this year's class," said Ocampo. "He is a high-energy, high-motor player with soft hands, solid receiving skills, good footwork, easy transfer, and solid blocking skills. Brandon has a strong, accurate arm which projects to be solid average in the future. Offensively, he is a switch-hitter who generates bat speed and gap power from both sides of the plate. Brandon has a special personality and a tremendous desire to play baseball."
The players will report to the Astros complex in the Dominican Republic but will not appear in games until the 2015 calendar year.