Astros quietly sign a coveted young outfield prospect.

I’ll admit when I first looked at the announcement that the Astros signed a 16-year-old Dominican outfielder, I glanced over the release, tweeted the information and then moved on with my day. Not that I wasn’t interested; it’s just that we hear about a lot of Minor League signings and with so much activity to keep track of on a typical game day, these types of announcements usually don’t take center stage.

Then I looked closer, both at the team’s comments about this kid — 6-foot-4, left-handed hitting right fielder Ariel Ovando — and the money they paid him to sign, and I realized this is way more significant than I originally thought.

I’ve heard from reliable club insiders that Baseball America’s quote of a $2.6-$2.8 million is accurate. Translated to the June First-Year Player Draft, that’s first-rounder money.

There are no guarantees, of course, but to give a kid who doesn’t turn 17 until Sept. 15 that kind of dough, he must be some kind of special. (Side note: Latin players are eligible to be signed if they are 16 years old by July 2, and will attain age 17 prior to September 1 of such effective season.)

Here are various scouting reports from the Astros folks who did their homework on the kid:

Felix Francisco, Special Asst. to the G.M./Latin American Operations (and who signed Ovando):  Darryl Strawberry type body.  Large frame.  Long arms and legs with a lot of room to fill out.  Everyday right fielder with the ability to hit for average and power.  Ball carries off bat.  Will be an above average right fielder with an average to above-average arm.  Smart kid who has a clear goal in life and is dedicated.

Clarence Johns, Eastern Regional Supervisor:  2XL frame.  Long, lanky features.  High waist with extra long arms and legs.  Has the frame of Fred McGriff with the long arms and legs of Darryl Strawberry.  Will be a middle of the order bat with 30 plus home runs and 100 RBI potential.  Will drive the ball to all fields.  Future strong defender with arm strength to hold runners in check.  Makes solid contact with ease.  Plays the game with confidence and youthful exuberance.  Very engaging personality.  Reminiscent of Jason Heyward (Braves) and Dominic Brown (Phillies) as amateurs.

Bobby Heck, Assistant G.M./ Scouting Director:  Impact player.  Large, lean and loose frame. Broad, sloped shoulders.  High, trim waist.  Body similar to Carlos Delgado.  Will hit 3-4 in a lineup.  Advanced hitter for age.  Quiet confidence with a boyish smile.  Will be a big man.  Easy, fast bat with hitter’s hands.  Reminds me of Jason Heyward, Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado.

Ricky Bennett, Assistant G.M./Player Development Director:  Tall, athletic frame, good build with room to fill out; body type similar to Cliff Floyd.  Corner OF with power to all fields.  Good bat speed and plate coverage.  Ball jumps off bat and has 25-30 home run type power. 

Ovando is expected to spend this season at the Astros’ Latin American complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. He will then participate in the Instructional League in Kissimmee, Fla., in September.

Funny anecdote about projecting where players will hit in the order: When Heck was with the Brewers and his group was contemplating drafting Ryan Braun, there was some consternation about what position Braun would play. Heck put the kibosh on that topic with this statement: “He’ll play third or fourth. As in, in the lineup.” Looks like that one worked out pretty well.


Astros Throwback night

The Astros continue their season-long celebration of their 45th anniversary with another Throwback Night, scheduled for Saturday, July 24. They’ll wear the shoulder rainbow jerseys during the game versus the Reds that night, and the first 10,000 fans will receive a Throwback Jersey t-shirt, courtesy of ABC Pest Pool & Lawn.

You can get cheap tickets to the game, too. View Deck II and Outfield Deck seats will be just $5.

I’m hearing that players from that ’89 team will be signing autographs that night as well. I’ll give you the list of names as soon as I get it.


Bayou Bash

The Astros will host their annual Bayou Bash this Saturday (July 10) at Minute Maid Park, where you can take in the Astros-Cardinals game and also sample a slew of delicious food and drinks and take in some live music as well.

The event is open to the ticketed public, and food/drink sampling tickets will be available for $20. Let’s get right to it…here’s what’s on tap (literally):

Bud Light
Bud Light Lime
Shock Top
Beach Bum Blonde ale
St. Arnolds Amber
St. Arnolds Lawnmower
Modelo Especial

The special pregame event includes:
* Live Zydeco band and Cajun Art Gallery in Union Station
* Louisiana vendor expo in Conoco Alley
* Cajun food offerings at Lefty’s Restaurant in Union Station
* Beer sampling in the Union Station Lobby and passport that allows up to two food samplings and 12 two-ounce beer samples
* Full plates of food and full 12-ounce beers will also be available for purchase
* Cajun cuisine options in Lefty’s Restaurant include:
* Gulf Coast “Brown Roux” Seafood Gumbo with White Rice
* Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
* Spicy Fried Boudin Balls with Creole Remoulade Dipping Sauce
* Spiced Stewed Okra and Tomato over Old Bay White Rice

If you already have a ticket to the game, you can purchase food/drink vouchers for $20 and get access to the pregame event in Union Station and Lefty’s Restaurant. For more info, click here.


Auction items up for bid

Every Friday and Saturday home game, the Astros In Action Foundation hosts a silent auction featuring some very unique autographed Astros items including bats, baseballs, batting gloves and jerseys.

This weekend, the following items will be up for bid:

Jeff Bagwell Autographed Authenticated Baseball (bidding starts at $125)
Pedro Feliz #77 Autographed Authenticated Batting Practice Jersey (bidding starts at $125)
Jackie Robinson Day Game Used Jersey Autographed by 2010 All-Star Michael Bourn (bidding starts at $250)

To bid on these items this weekend, click here.



Uh, Alyson, you left the decimal point out between the one and two on Feliz’ jersey, didn’t you?

Alyson…my comment has nothing to do with your blog. It has to do with the Astros marketing tequniques. I went to Academy earlier today for the xxnth time this year and again failed to see an Astros hat that captured my attention. Why are the Astros marketing the orange star logo that hasn’t been in use for years? Why are trying to live in the past in stead of selling this the team that is here now? The astros in the past used to have some of the best merchandise and now they fall below the Texans Rockets and even the Dynamo. You might say I feel this way because they’re losing. But I want to support the Stros so that when they do win it’ll be just that much sweeter. I won’t do it looking like a fool with whats on the shelves right now. I understand we went through a throw-back stretch a few years ago, but that style is over and it’s kind of fustrating that I can’t find a thing to wear to support my favorite Houston team. I know you’re not responsible but since you’re their media blog/tweet/PR’er I figured I was going to post my fustrations here first.

It’s a shame when the Astros sign a highly touted international prospect and the only comments are about other things. I’ve been on vacation or I would have said something sooner. Sure, this kid from the Dominican hasn’t actually done anything yet, but with the shape this franchise is in, this signing is a big deal and should be celebrated. Any time the Astros look to their future instead of riding the same tired horses is a move in the right direction. Now let’s keep the momentum going by signing young Delino DeShields and getting him on a minor league roster!

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