The Runner Sports

AFL Astros, Pt. 7: RHP Rogelio Armenteros: The Cuban Rocket

The pipeline supplying MLB players from Cuba is wide open, and continues to fill out rosters, and the Houston Astros are no exception. Add 22-year-old RHP Rogelio Armenteros to this influx of talent.

AFL Background

The Arizona Fall League sprouted in 1992, and generally provides an autumn haven for MLB teams’ hot prospects. It’s no different this year, as the Astros placed eight of their prized organizational players on the Glendale (AZ) Desert Dogs.

In fact, the Desert Dogs housed an AFL-high seven Top-100 MLB prospects.

The AFL season began October 11, and lasts six weeks each year, ending around the middle of November with the Championship Game. A mid-season Fall Stars Game provided an exhibition of the league’s best on November 5. Houston pitching prospects David Paulino and Francis Martes were chosen to participate.

The Desert Dogs play in Camelback Ranch-Glendale, a stadium in Phoenix.

Minor League Astros on the Glendale Desert Dogs (AFL):

Read Pt. 2: RHP Francis Martes (#1 Astros Prospect)

Read Pt. 5: RHP David Paulino (#4): Dominant Dominican Cyborg

RHP Rogelio Armenteros

Read Pt. 3: RHP Jacob Dorris, Undrafted Sidearm Closer

Read Pt. 8: 2B Nick Tanielu: The Wazzu Wizard

Read Pt. 1: OF Ramon Laureano (#29) Hits the Wall

Read Pt. 4: OF Destiny For Jason Martin (#30): Bass or Bourn?

Read Pt. 6: C Garrett Stubbs: Tech Geek In a Catcher’s Mask

Cuban Ballplayers Already Mapped

The top-ranked MLB prospect is Cuban IF Yoan Moncada of the Boston Red Sox. Twenty-three Cubans were on Opening Day rosters in 2016, after a number of high-profile defections. This was an increase of five over the previous year and the most since MLB began releasing such data in 1995.

And, after grabbing the World Series Game 7 win for the new World Champion Chicago Cubs, lefty closer Aroldis Chapman (“The Cuban Missile”) has to be the most visible Cuban ballplayer on the planet.

The Astros made headlines in the summer by signing Cuban defector Yulieski Gurriel, and his little brother, IF Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. signed a 7-year deal with Toronto the second week of November.

Related: Astros in 2017: The Power of Yulieski Gurriel

Rogelio “The Arm” Armenteros

Raised in Havana, the sturdy 6’1″, 215-pound Armenteros signed with Houston for $40,000 in September 2014. As a 17-year-old in 2011, he pitched 13 pro innings, in Cuba, for Industriales.

Armed with two-seam and four-seam fastballs right around 90 mph, a slider, curve, and change-up round out Armenteros’ arsenal. Some scouts have reported an occasional fastball of 95. After seeing Armenteros pitch last June for the Astros’ Advanced-A Lancaster JetHawks, Bobby DeMuro of Today’s Knuckleball had this to say:

“Armenteros has a more violent delivery, pushing off and landing hard on his front leg and locking his left knee, cutting off some of his power as he stops momentum on his follow-through (not to mention his significant arm recoil after release).”

Similarly, Joshua Schwager of Baseball Ranks offers: “He does, however, struggle with his front foot. I noticed he had a tendency to land early in his motion which caused him to lose the ball high. Other than that, though, he has great mechanics.”

The Houston Ladder Climb

In 2015, Armenteros pitched for Houston’s Tri-City ValleyCats (New York-Penn League short season A), and Quad Cities (full season Class A), and combined, posted a 3-2 record, and a 3.69 ERA in 61 IP. He logged 24 walks. 61 Ks, and a 1.26 WHIP while starting 12 of his 15 games.

2016 found Armenteros assigned to Quad Cities again, as his 17 innings (in 3 starts) there the previous year was not a large sample, although he did hold Midwest League batters to a skimpy .150 BA, and a 3:1 K:BB ratio.

In 18.2 Quad Cities innings, to start 2016, Armenteros notched a 1.93 ERA in his 3 starts (4 games), with a near-7:1 K:BB ratio, 20 Ks to 3 walks. This earned the pitcher a promotion to the hitter-friendly Advanced-A Lancaster affiliate, where he was tapped as California League Pitcher of the Week for July 10.

Video: Watch Armenteros’ delivery from a June, 2016 game with Lancaster

He spent the bulk of 2016 with Lancaster, logging 90.1 innings, starting 16 of his 19 games. He brought in a 6-4 record (including one save) and a 4.18 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and a .251 BAA. He walked 37, but struck out almost three times as many: 107.

Three starts for Double-A Corpus Christi to wrap up 2016 gave Armenteros a taste of where he’ll begin ’17. He impressed in his 18.1 innings, though, to a 2-0 record and a 1.96 ERA in 3 starts.

The Future for Rogelio Armenteros

A couple months with the Corpus Christi Hooks should be enough to earn him the promotion to AAA Fresno around June. If he breaks the Houston roster in ’17, it likely would be in the bullpen. Long-term, he projects as a back of the rotation starter, or depending on how the Houston rotation shakes out the next couple years, a long reliever.

AFL Action

In just 7.1 innings through games of November 15, Armenteros had yielded 9 earned runs, 4 walks, and 8 strikeouts. He’s logged one save in his 8 relief appearances.

In Glendale’s 15-3 blowout of the Peoria Javelinas, November 7, Armenteros pitched a perfect 8th inning, striking out one.

In 2/3 of a hitless inning in Glendale’s 5-2 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions, November 11, Armenteros threw 5 strikes out of his 9 pitches, picking up his second AFL hold.

Armenteros earned his third hold of the AFL season, November 15, in a 1-0 Glendale win over the Surprise Saguaros. In the 7th inning, he alternated singles and strikeouts to the first four hitters, before finally getting the fifth batter to hit into a force. He brought his ERA down to 11.05 in throwing 11 strikes in his 17 pitches.

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Here I am, meeting with Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, TX. One of us is trying to convince the other to take his 90 mph fastball, and get back into the game.

Needless to say, I've decided to spend my golden years, instead, crooning Sinatra at nursing homes, while reflecting on a life well-lived in the classroom, spinning rock'n'roll in '70s radio stations, and peddling wax in the record biz.

I'm a Houston native, having attended 'Stro games in Colt Stadium, the beloved Astrodome, and Minute Maid.

Join me at TRS for full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and surprises!
Brad Kyle