Astros to Sign Mexican League’s Japhet Amador and Leonardo Heras
Japhet Amador first crossed my radar in a serious way about two months ago when I wrote a piece on the Mexican League. He is clearly the best young hitter (under age 27) in that league, which had me wondering why no major league organization had signed him. There are apparently a few reasons why not.
First, it can be somewhat difficult to sign young Mexican League stars because their teams want as much as they can get for them. MLB teams have made inquiries about Amador but haven’t been willing to pay what the Mexican Red Devils want for him until now. However, given the relative revenue streams of major league organizations compared to Mexican League ones, a major league organization can usually acquire a young Mexican League star if they really want him.
Here’s a scouting report from a purported professional scout which starts out by saying Amador’s “numbers are better than his tools” and also that he “lacks athleticism.” In this scout’s opinion, Amador has been able to feast on the slow throwing control pitchers of the Mexican League but that he’d be exposed playing against the harder throwers at the major league level.
I think that the now 26 year old Amador is an extremely impressive hitter, although his numbers are in fact exaggerated playing in the hit-happy Mexican League. His .368 batting average is only 8th best in the league this year, and his 1.111 OPS is only good enough for third. Even so, Amador was in the top five in both batting average and OPS in 2010 and 2011, before having a poor year in 2012.
The biggest problem with Amador in my mind is his conditioning. He’s currently listed at 6’4″ and 315 lbs. Unless he loses about 60 pounds, it’s hard to imagine him being able to do anything but DH at the major league level.
I suspect that Amador as a hitter is very comparable to Dae Ho “Big Boy” Lee, the star Korean slugger who has very successfully made the transition from South Korea’s KBO to Japan’s NPB the last season and a half. Lee is listed as 6’4″ and 286 lbs on NPB’s website, and he is actually in better shape now than he was when he was setting home run records in the KBO a few years ago.
I don’t think Lee would be a valuable player in MLB, and given Amador’s age and conditioning, I don’t think Amador will be either. However, I think Amador would have a good shot to succeed in NPB. It’s also worth noting that Cuban Michel Abreu, who was the Mexican League’s top slugger in 2012 is having an excellent rookie year in NPB this year — more than 100 games into the season, Abreu is eighth in NPB’s Pacific League in hitting and second in HRs. There’s a lot more money to be made playing in Japan than there is playing in Mexico if the player has what it takes.
Leonardo Heras isn’t nearly the hitter that Amador is, but he may be a better major league prospect simply due to the fact that at age 23 he’s three years younger. He’s fast enough to play center field, at least in Mexico, and he has good alley power. He finished 16th in OPS in a sixteen team league in 2012 and 18th in batting average in 2011.
[P.S. This is Burly’s Baseball Musing’s 1000th post. Thanks to my two dozen or so regular readers who have this blog a marginal success!]Baseball Abroad, Houston Astros