First-base prospect Amador packs a power punch
Former Mexican Leaguer likely to begin season at Astros' Triple-A affiliate
Low risk. High reward. That's how I would classify the Houston Astros' signing of Mexican League slugger Japhet Amador.
Amador is a first-base prospect with seven years of experience playing in the Mexican League. His career batting average is .320, and he has hit 112 home runs.
Before I describe Amador, it is important to note that the Mexican League is Triple-A baseball, but the teams have no affiliation with Major League clubs.
Well respected, the Mexican League features lots of offense, but in general, the pitching is not considered to be as advanced or as challenging as that in the United States.
As a result, it is important to keep Amador's Mexican League statistics in context.
However, Amador has the power and potential to succeed for the Astros. His challenge will be to translate his success from Mexico to the type of baseball played in America.
In a word, Amador is huge -- listed at 6-foot-4, and 315 pounds. That may be slighting him a pound or few.
For such a big man, the 26-year-old Amador moves very well around first base. He is agile and well coordinated. His feet are quick around the bag and he has good range. Defense should not be a problem.
I saw Amador during the recently concluded Arizona Fall League. He made an impression as a player with potential, but one that must make adjustments at the plate.
Amador will have to adjust to greater velocity and recognize pitches quicker. He will have to begin his swing a bit sooner and be much quicker through the ball.
Amador holds his bat upright, with a slight tilt towards his ear. Hitting right-handed, Amador had some trouble recognizing pitches, resulting in him lunging after balls at times. He lacked plate discipline.
Amador's trigger is a slight leg kick and a measured stride from an open stance.
I did see his power. Amador hit four home runs among his 19 hits on his way to a .284 batting average in 18 games. He knocked in 12 runs and used the entire field, and didn't hesitate to take the ball up the middle. He showed he had experience trying not to pull every pitch.
Amador's home run output was good, considering league leader Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs organization had six.
My greatest concern about Amador this past fall was his impatience at the plate. He really didn't take too many pitches, walking only one time. He struck out 17 times in his 67 at-bats.
Amador made only one error at first base.
It's very understandable why Amador is being given an opportunity to show his talent with Houston. This past season, he hit 36 home runs for Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He led his team in homers and RBIs with 121. In 104 games and 449 plate appearances, Amador struck out only 59 times.
In the Mexican League, Amador was equally successful against both right-handed and left-handed pitching last season. He hit .355 against righties and .381 against lefties, while 28 of his home runs were hit off right-handers. Amador faced them in the vast majority of his at-bats.
When a player hits with that type of power he will garner attention. That's what Amador has done.
On Aug. 24, 2013, Amador played his first game in the Astros' system at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Amador finished the season having played 10 games, and hitting .302. It was a nice beginning to his new baseball life.
He knocked in two runs, scored twice and got 13 hits for his Pacific Coast League team.
Amador will likely begin his season back at Oklahoma City.
Given the increasing need for power at the Major League level, provided Amador follows the usual definition of baseball's "prime" years, the Astros may reap the benefit of the best years of Amador's career.
If Amador makes the proper adjustments, he can provide a huge reward to Houston.
If he makes progress, Amador could bring some real midseason excitement to the Crawford boxes at some point this summer.