HOUSTON -- The Astros made a strategic decision to go past their allotted bonus pool during the July 2 international signing period and wound up landing 12 players on Saturday, including Dominican shortstop Freudis Nova, who's ranked No. 8 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list.Nova signed for $1.2 million,
HOUSTON -- The Astros made a strategic decision to go past their allotted bonus pool during the July 2 international signing period and wound up landing 12 players on Saturday, including Dominican shortstop Freudis Nova, who's ranked No. 8 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list.
Nova signed for $1.2 million, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, a figure which took up more than half of Houston's $2,197,000 pool. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Nova is known for his strong and athletic body. He has a good arm with soft hands and playable range on defense. He is considered an offensive-minded player who shows good bat speed and features a slight uppercut swing.
• Complete list of all Top 30 international prospect signings
"He's got loud tools across the board," Astros director of international Oz Ocampo said. "He's got very good tools to hit, bat speed, strength, a lot of hard contact, and we've seen him perform in games as well, and he also has power. He has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, which is rare for a Dominican shortstop. Defensively, he's got really good hands, really good actions, and he's got a plus arm. So we expect him to stay at short for a long time and be an above-average performer at the position."
In all, the Astros announced they agreed to terms on contracts with 12 international free agents, including five players from the Dominican Republic and seven from Venezuela: shortstops Nova and Deury Carrasco; catcher Nerio Rodriguez; infielder Jeury Castillo and right-handed pitcher Ronny Garcia were signed out of the Dominican Republic, while shortstops Yorbin Ceuta and Sean Mendoza; right-handed pitchers Angel Macuare, Jairo Solis and Angel Ortega; catcher Jose Alvarez and center fielder Leonardo Gonzalez were signed out of Venezuela.
"We've been aggressive every year, but this year we've made a strategic decision to go past our pool and pursue more players that we thought to be talented players," Ocampo said.
All 12 players are 16 years old and will report to the Astros' complex in the Dominican Republic but will not appear in games until the 2017 calendar year.
"Today's signings reaffirm our commitment to finding the best players internationally, especially the top amateur talent from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela," general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. "We are excited to bring this talented 2016 class of players to the Houston Astros' organization, and we are fully committed to creating the right player-development environment for all of our international players to succeed."
Sanchez also reported substantial deals with Ceuta ($1 million), Macuare ($695,000), Solis ($450,000) and Carrasco ($480,000).
Ceuta is an athletic shortstop who has good instincts, Ocampo said.
"You can tell that he's a baseball player," he said. "He's played baseball all his life, he's played shortstop all his life, so a lot of things come to him very naturally and instinctively. Even with the defensive package, which is impressive, the most impressive part about him is his offensive ability."
Macuare is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander with a starter power-arm profile who throws 90-94 mph with a hard breaking ball, which generates swings and misses. Solis, 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, throws 88-91 with a good breaking ball and changeup to fill out a solid three-pitch package.
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2015 for the international signing period.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and also have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.