The Astros' strategy of developing young, talented players continued with the acquisition of left-handed-hitting outfielder Danry Vasquez from the Detroit Tigers on Monday. They traded 32-year-old closer Jose Veras to obtain the 19-year-old Vasquez, who was the fourth-ranked prospect on the Tigers' Top 20 list. Vasquez starts in the No. 16 spot on the Astros' significantly stronger list.
Vasquez signed with the Tigers as an international free agent from Venezuela in July 2010. He has played parts of three seasons in the United States.
At a wiry 6-foot-3, 177 pounds, Vasquez likely will add strength and weight to his frame. In fact, scouting projections probably highlighted and emphasized further development of his upper body and torso.
The Astros have received a raw player with evident tools in the earliest stages of development. Scouts are able to observe existing skill levels and project ahead three years, to a time when Vasquez will be in his early 20s and more physically mature.
Vasquez is the type of player who provides tremendous reward for little to no risk.
In his four Minor League seasons, Vasquez has a composite batting average of .276. He began his career at Detroit's Rookie League club in Florida, where he hit .272 with two home runs and 30 RBIs. He also stole three bases.
In a short time frame, Vasquez is making progress.
Fast forward to this season -- Vasquez was playing at Class A West Michigan in the Midwest League. It is the same team and league where he ended the 2012 season. Vasquez was hitting .281 in 420 plate appearances at the time of the trade to Houston. He has increased his home run production to five so far this season.
I have watched Vasquez, and I've seen a player with strong hands and wrists with a very uncomplicated, easy swing in addition to raw, undeveloped power. Vasquez's swing relies on quick hands and good extension, while he is also very good at using the barrel of the bat.
Not yet the power hitter he projects to be, Vasquez has shown he can hit both gaps. He has five triples and 16 doubles among his 105 hits this year.
Vasquez does get fooled a bit by breaking balls and offspeed pitches. He has struck out 56 times, but he is likely learning with each swing.
On the opposite side of the equation, Vasquez has walked 31 times. That shows an attempt to recognize pitches and exercise patience at the plate.
Vasquez still has some work to do hitting left-handed pitching. While he has faced more righties than lefties, he is hitting only .232 against left-handed pitching this season. By comparison, Vasquez is batting .297 against righties.
Vasquez has been challenged as a defender. His routes are unsophisticated, while he has work to do on tracking fly balls.
Without great speed, Vasquez will not be a stolen-base threat.
In a word, Vasquez is projectable. He has exciting upside and can become a solid middle-of-the-order hitter. And the Astros can allow him to develop over time.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.