HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Astros have agreed to terms on contracts with four international free agents today: shortstop/outfielder Osvaldo Duarte, shortstop/catcher Jonathan Matute, shortstop Joan Mauricio and center fielder Nestor Tejada. The Astros also acquired minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for international signing pool space. Terms of the new contracts were not disclosed. The announcement was made by Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow.
"Today marks the beginning of the new international signing period," said Luhnow. "We have agreed to terms with four players with high upside who fit our system well. We also made a trade for an established minor league prospect with Major League upside in exchange for a portion of our cap space. We expect to make more moves going forward but we are off to a great start."
Mauricio and Tejada, both 16 years old, headline the group, and were scouted and signed by the Astros Director of International Oz Ocampo.
"Mauricio is one of the few true shortstops in this year's international market," said Ocampo. "Defensively, he does everything easy - smooth, silky actions, very good internal clock, quick hands and feet. Offensively, he has a pretty swing from the left side, good pitch recognition, and sneaky left-handed power which we expect to develop as he gets stronger. For us, Mauricio is one of the top 10 players in this year's class - a true shortstop with projection and offensive upside. We're very pleased to have him as part of the Astros organization."
Mauricio is from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, while Tejada hails from Aragua, Venezuela.
"Tejada does a number of things well, but his strength is in the batter's box," said Ocampo. "We've evaluated him in a number of competitive environments - 15U IBAF tournament, MLB showcases, and even against our own Low-A pitching in Kissimmee, and he has always performed and hit in games. Nestor is a great makeup kid - intelligent, hard-working, a great teammate, and a true competitor who leaves it all on the field."
Matute is a 16-year-old from Caracas, Venezuela, and has the ability to play both the catcher and shortstop position. Duarte is the oldest of the four signings, checking in at 17 years of age.
"Matute's tools are solid across the board, and he separates himself with his intelligence and aptitude for the game," said Ocampo.
"Duarte's best tools are his bat and his plus-plus speed," said Ocampo. "Offensively, Duarte is a line-drive hitter with a short, quick stroke. Defensively, we project Duarte as a future average ML shortstop, but he also has a good chance to be a plus defensive center fielder because of his speed."
Torreyes, 20, was hitting .260 (58x223) with 13 doubles, 25 RBI and a .337 on-base percentage in 64 games for the Double A Tennessee Smokies. He has struck out only 15 times in 223 at-bats, while walking 22 times. An infielder by trade, Torreyes has played only second base this season, but has also seen time at shortstop and third base in his career.
The four international signings will report to the Astros complex in the Dominican Republic but will not appear in games until the 2014 calendar year.