By Yusseff Díaz
Sandy Gastón was one of the most heralded prospects when he left Cuba in 2018 and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for $2.8M in 2019. Gastón hurled a fastball that nearly hit triple digits at the age of 16. This caught the eye of various organizations in his various showcases before he signed with the Florida club.
The hard-throwing RHP combines his fastball with a good slider, a tricky changeup, and a splitter. With maturity and this repertoire, he could be a front-line starter in the future.
I spoke with Gastón about his fastball velocity. This is what he had to say: “I’ve maintained my velocity at 97 and 98, in the instructional league I even hit 99”. Although he wasn’t assigned to a level within the organization at the time his ultimate goal is to reach the Majors. “We are working hard every day. An extended Spring Training is around the corner,” Gastón said about his training this Spring, “at this moment we are doing bullpen sessions and next week we will start throwing BP live. We are working hard to prepare when I’m assigned to a league”.
The “Baby Hurricane “
Many compared the “Baby Hurricane,” as he is known to the Cuban fan base, to a young Jose Fernández. About this, Gastón says, “I have great admiration for José Fernández, although he was young, he was still one of the clubhouse leaders in Miami.”
Baseball America rated Gaston as the #24 ranked international prospect and stated that he was possibly the hardest throwing 16-yearold in baseball history.
In 2015 he pitched in the Sub-15 tournament in Cuba and posted an ERA of 1.22 while striking out 77 batters in 66 innings. His last season in Cuba which was 2016 he struck 47 in 47 innings during the Sub 18 league in his native Matanzas. When he arrived in DR he was throwing 91 mph but with a steady workout plan, he was throwing in the mid to high 90’s. “When I came to the Dominican, I was throwing 91 and my trainers told me if I bought-in I could add miles to my fastball,” Gaston commented about his fastball velocity, “they were 100% right I added seven miles an hour to my fastball within months.”
He confessed to me in person what his workout plan consisted of during his time on Dominican soil, “we worked hard with the use of very few weights and a lot of resistance training. We also worked with a lot of agility drills and sprints.
Being that Sandy is from Matanzas, he looked on proud as his Crocodiles won the National Series in 2020, “It was my dream to play for Matanzas.” When I asked him about playing for the Cuban national team one day he replied, ” If it was possible in the near future I would love to represent Cuba an international events.”
Looking to progress
The last time Gastón saw live action was in 2019 with Tampa’s rookie league ball club compiling a record of 1-2, 6.00 earned average and 31 K’s in 27.0IP. Although he pitched primarily as a reliever Gastón projects as a front end starter based on his repertoire and high talent ceiling.
The 19 year old as many minor leaguers lost a season of progress based on the suspension of last minor league season due to COVID-19.
Gastón has started this season in Port Charlotte at the team’s Spring Training site and will likely be assigned to low A ball after he completes his second stint at an extended Spring Training. This season could be a year in which he makes a big jump in his progress or falls out of favor, this all depends on his performance on the field.