Posted on December 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
For the second time this year, the Houston Astros have agreed to sign Cuban lefty Cionel Perez to a minor league deal. The Astros originally signed Perez in September, giving him a signing bonus of $5.5 million, an Astros record for an international prospect. However, that deal was later voided because of concerns with his physical. However, the Astros and Perez have now reached a subsequent agreement on a minor league contract that includes a $2 million signing bonus.
“We are very excited to bring Cionel into the Houston Astros organization after scouting him for a number of years,” said Oz Ocampo, Houston’s director of international scouting, in a prepared statement. “He is a very talented, young lefty with the baseball ability and fortitude to have a very successful Major League career.”
The exact medical issue with Perez that caused his contract to be voided by the Astros is unclear, but it ultimately cost him $3.5 million. The issue clearly didn’t hinder Houston’s interest in Perez, but they did not feel as though they could commit such a large signing bonus to him. The revised bonus certainly lessens any risk the Astros take on with Perez, who is just 20 years old.
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Perez sent out a statement saying that he has no injury or discomfort, adding further mystery to the medical issue that caused the Astros to back out of the original deal. The statement also notes that Perez had offers on the table for more money than Houston’s revised offer of $2 million, yet he agreed to stick with the Astros. Interestingly, because Perez is signing with the Astros for a second time, he will be subject to the Rule 5 draft, and so the Astros may be forced to add him to the 40-man roster next winter, a scenario that likely played a factor in Perez staying with the Astros.
According to MLB.com, Perez is the 4th best international prospect available this year. He also ranks 15th in Houston’s farm system and is currently the best left-handed pitchers the Astros have in the minor leagues. Despite being just 5’11”, Perez is described as a great athlete who features a mid-90s fastball. Scouts believe he will fill out his frame and potentially add more velocity to his fastball. Recent scouting reports have indicated that Perez is making good progress in his development, particularly with regard to his secondary pitches.
“He’s added a two-seam fastball. He started to learn how to throw a changeup and while his secondary pitches aren’t consistent yet you’re at least seeing an average breaking ball out of him,” writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. “There are a lot of positive indicators between the athleticism, the arm speed that he has, and some of the developmental steps that he’s taken forward since he left Cuba that I think have encouraged a lot of the scouts who have seen him since he left Cuba.”
The Astros have not set a specific course for Perez, but he figures to open the 2017 season with an A-ball club. He’s likely to need at least a couple of years in the minors, but there’s little doubt Perez has the potential to become an impact pitcher in the big leagues. The Astros should feel lucky to have retained him following the small bit of controversy surrounding his initial contract.