3 Blue Jays Prospects Suspended for PED Use

hugocardona

The look says it all.  16 year-old Hugo Cardona of La Sabana, Venezuela, signs his first pro contract on July 2nd of last year.  It’s for a modest sum in the land of international bonuses, but it’s an opportunity for him and his family to escape the cycle of poverty in his turmoil-filled homeland.

Cardona was one of 3 Toronto Blue Jays prospects were among 5 players handed lengthy suspensions for positive PED tests yesterday.

SS Hugo Cardona, C Leonicio Ventura, and UT Yhon Perez were all handed 72 game bans for testing positive for Boldenone.  The website steroidly.com says that Boldenone, “is one of the most popular and commonly used anabolic androgenic steroids by competitive and non-competing bodybuilders and athletes today.”  Available only in veterenarian’s offices in the USA, it was developed to treat horses.  The list of minor side effects include acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening of the voice.  Major side effects are many, such as increased risk of cancer, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea.

All 3 players made their pro debuts with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays this year.  18 year old Cardona was one of the organization’s top international free agents last summer, signing for a $300K bonus (the maximum the Blue Jays could offer as a result of penalties imposed for exceeding their total bonus pool limit after signing Vladimir Guerrero Jr the previous year).  Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish was very high on Cardona prior to the season, calling his arm “plus,” and his speed, “plus-plus,”  and that he profiled as a top of the order hitter if his bat came around.  After a slow start, Cardona finished with a line of .249/.342/.285.  20 year old Dominican Ventura split Catching duties, and led the team with a .790 OPS.  17 year old Venezuelan Perez played several positions, slashing .249/.335/.332.   Of the trio, only Cardona likely would be moving stateside to play in the Gulf Coast League next year.

It seems like the majority of players who test positive for PEDs are from Latin America.  There are a variety of reasons for that, most of them cultural, according to Cleveland blogger Justin Lada of Burning River Baseball:

Lack of education can play a factor and I am sure a language barrier can make that an even bigger issue. I think they see it as a way that will help them earn life changing money since many are sending money back to their families in poor parts of their home countries. I think there are cases where some players and even trainers will allow them to take certain things and just tell them its OK to take.

In many cases, it’s a lack of awareness of either what they’re taking, or the dangers of taking it.  And money, of course, is a motivating factor in places like the Dominican Republic, where the annual per capita income is about $2500 US.  Unscrupulous Buscones, the greedier versions of the famed Latin traininers, can also be a factor.  Their influence over their charges can’t be discounted, and if they say a substance is fine and will help a player’s game, the majority of 16 year olds that come to their academices to train and hopefully land a pro contract will go along willingly.

Their suspensions take effect at the beginning of DSL play in mid-June, and likely wipe out any hope of playing in 2018, a huge blow to the trio’s collective development.  If past history is any indication, the Blue Jays will likely stick with Cardona, even given their comparatively modest investment in him.  The other two probably will be released before spring training is over.

 

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4 Jays Prospects Help Propel Peoria to AFL Title Game

Three Blue Jays prospects have played prominent roles in taking their talent-laden Peoria Javelinas to the Arizona Fall League championship game.

OF Jonathan Davis was a 15th round pick in 2013 out of Central Arkansas.  Injuries limited his development early on in his minor league career, but he’s been a steady, get-on-base (.376 at A+ last year, .361 at AA in 2017) guy at the top of the order.  His speed may not be in the Anthony Alford/D.J.Davis/Reggie Pruitt category, but he’s stolen 54 bases over the past two years.  Davis can play all three outfield positions.  Initially sent to the AFL for some exposure to advanced competition, he’s boosted his stock with a .295/.389/.410 fall.  Davis has to be considered at least a fringe 4th oufielder with his showing this year.  He hit an absolute rocket in Peoria’s come-from-behind win last Saturday:

 

 

IF Lourdes Gurriel has split time between 2B and SS for Peoria, and has been a fixture in the botton third of their lineup.  The much-heralded Cuban off season signing had his pro debut season marred by injuries and the rust of almost two years of baseball inactivity.  His stint in the AFL was designed to give him more reps.  He did not set the league on fire, but was solid on both sides of the ball.  Gurriel showed some pop, as suggested by his .802 OPS.  He has a chance at least a utility role in spring training – it feels like the real Lourdes has not quite shown up yet.

Reliever Andrew Case, a New Brunswick native, must be placed on the 40-man roster by Monday, or risk being claimed in the Rule 5 draft.  He may be a long shot, but Case built on a solid 2017 in which he pitched at three levels.  Not a strikeout an inning hurler, Case did not give up an earned run in 10 appearances for Peoria pitching primarily in a set-up role.

T.J Zeuch, who we had written about earlier, has also had a fine fall in the desert, and gets the start for Peoria.

The championship game between Peoria and Mesa will be broadcast on MLB network at 1:08 MST on Saturday.

Blue Jays Linked to Top 2018 IFA SS

Ben Badler of Baseball America attended the showcase of top prospects for next July 2nd in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, and in an article today suggested that the Blue Jays are the odds-on favourite to land 15 year-old SS Orelvis Martinze next summer.  Martinez is expected to command the highest bonus of all IFAs when he signs.

Fresh off this past July 2nd, when the club signed 5 of the top 40 ranked prospects, including Brazilian P Eric Pardinho, the Blue Jays appear to be very competitive in the IFA market.

Martinez showed well in pre-game batting practice and drills during the event, which was held by Major League Baseball.  Having not played in several months, he was rusty at the plate, however.  And his below average 60-yard times suggest that the 5’11″/175 youngster will eventually grow off of the position.

At the plate, Martinez already shows smooth mechanics.  His bat takes a short path to the ball, and he gets good extension on his swing.  He barrels up ball consistently with excellent bat speed.  His motions are fluid and swift.  In the field, he doesn’t show actions that are as smooth, and that coupled with his relative lack of speed lend support to the idea that he may shift over to 3rd. His hit tool is the strongest element of his toolkit.  With the loft he gets on his swing, it’s easy to project some power down the road.

Of course, it’s highly unofficial that Martinez will sign with the Blue Jays.  As we have learned in the past, however, where there’s international prospect smoke, there’s usually fire.  Pardinho was linked to the Jays well in advance of this year’s July 2nd signing date, as was Vladimir Guerrero Jr two years ago.  Credit goes to Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, and Director of Latin American Ops Sandy Rosario for their work.  Despite bonus limits imposed last year by signing Vladdy Jr the previous one, the Blue Jays got good value from the players they did sign in 2016, despite not being able to offer a bonus beyond $300K.

Martinez is expected to sign for a bonus in the neighbourhood of $3 million. Cuban RHP Oseil Reodriguez, who hit 96 at the showcase, will likely be the top IFA Pitcher.

 

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #6 T.J. Zeuch

The 2016 1st round pick has found redemption in the desert.

Limited to all of 12 innings after a late May stint on the disabled list that stretched into the summer, T.J. Zeuch has been drawing rave reviews for his work in the Arizona Fall League.  Count MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum, who caught him in action this month, a fan:

There’s a lot to like about Zeuch, who has a chance to be a successful big league starter based solely on his sinker, a bowling ball of a pitch that’s product of his tremendous extension towards the plate and makes him difficult to barrel for hitters on both sides of the plate (think Aaron Sanchez or a young Rick Porcello). Combine that with a slider that flashes above average and a changeup with similar potential, and the makings are there for a future No. 3 or 4 starter at the highest level.

When he locates that sinker down in the strike zone, Zeuch induces a lot of weak contact, as evidenced by his 61.5% ground ball rate this year.

chart
MLBfarm.com

Delivered from an over the top arm slot, it gets considerable downward, eye plane-changing movement.

The trick for Zeuch, of course, is to be able to consistently locate that pitch.  When he doesn’t,  his fastball tends to get hit when he lives up in the zone.  Reports on his secondaries were not all as glowing as the one above, although they have progressed considerably since he turned pro.  Their continued development will determine whether or not Zeuch reaches that mid-rotation starter projection.

Zeuch might be in line for a promotion to AA New Hampshire in 2018, but given his injury history this year, he may begin the year in Dunedin, forming a formidable 1-2 punch with 2017 1st rounder Nate Pearson.  Zeuch does not profile as a front of the rotation starter, but he has the build and clean mechanics to potentially eat a fair number of innings, depending on his ability to turn over a lineup.  Zeuch is not ready to compete for a major league job next spring, but if he can build on his success in Arizona next season, he could be in the mix for a rotation spot sometime in the 2019 season.  If/when he reaches AA this year, we will truly have a clearer idea of his long range outlook.  A small sample size of his work against elite prospects this fall suggests that he should succeed at that level.

For further viewing – a compilation of Zeuch’s Arizona work by Baseball America:

 

For a more detailed look at Zeuch from a May start this year, have a look here.

 

 

 

 

 

Will a New Team Change Alex Anthopoulos’ ways?

I have to admit to mixed feelings about former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who landed with Atlanta yesterday.

When fans almost everywhere were tweeting #FireAA in the early 2-teens, I was a steadfast AA defender, even as his attempted overhaul of the team in the fall of 2012 ultimately proved unsuccessful.  He was a Canadian kid who had made good with two Canadian teams.  He went to the same school (McMaster), and was in the same program (Economics) as my oldest son.

As a guy who follows the minor leagues closely, I was dismayed with the quantity of prospects he dealt from November, 2014 to the the trade deadline the following July, even though it brought the team back to the post season for the first time since that son was a toddler.  It was as if six years of also-ran status was erased in the space of just over two months.  When Anthopoulos left the club shortly after the team was defeated in the ALCS, his image rehabilitation was complete, and he became something of a deity in the eyes of fans (many of whom had clambered aboard the bandwagon weeks earlier).  The FireAA fans were too impatient, while the halo-effect crowd seemed to have forgotten about a half dozen mediocre years prior.  And it’s not like the guys he dealt that July have set the world on fire just yet.

Along with amateur scouting director Blake Parker, Blue Jays drafts were a thing to marvel at, and it still is an interesting exercise to look back on them today.  They found some clever work arounds of the new slotting system, and they weren’t afraid to roll the dice on draft day, often gambling on that most risky draft commodity of all, the high school Pitcher.  And they weren’t afraid to punt a pick – whether it be a Tyler Beede, who turned into Marcus Stroman a year later (not signing Beede also freed up cash to convince Daniel Norris to forego his Clemson commitment) , or Phil Bickford, who begat Max Pentecost.  During the period 2010-14, Anthopoulos and Parker drafted and signed 9 Pitchers who made 20 starts from 2016-17,  but only 2 of them are currently with the Blue Jays.  That fact, as much as anything, might summarize the Anthopoulos philosophy on roster construction.  Just the same, there is a solid legacy in place in Toronto from his years at the helm:  Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Danny Barnes, Ryan Tepera, and Roberto Osuna were all drafted/signed and developed during his tenure, along with Anthony Alford, Sean Reid-Foley, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, among others.

And now in Atlanta, AA takes over a team with the number one-ranked farm system in the game, a new stadium, and hope for the future.  He also inherits an organization that likely will face some harsh sanctions for their international dealings under disgraced former GM John Coppolella – the Braves may have many of their IFA signings declared free agents, including prized prospect Kevin Maitan.  With the Braves heading into year three of a rebuild, he may be under some pressure to make moves to put more fans in the stands – despite a new park, the Braves last year were middle-of-the-pack in terms of attendance, and their local television deal has been called well-below market value.

What will his approach to building his 25-man be?  Will he deal from this wealth of prospects to upgrade it, or will he allow his young players to grow into it?  The Braves have what Baseball America calls the deepest group of pitching prospects in the game, as well as Ronald Acuna, the best prospect in the minors with the possible exception of one Vladdy Jr.

Certainly, his time in Los Angeles has reinforced to Anthopoulos the importance of building from within.  In Toronto, he did have to take something of a riverboat gambler’s approach:  knowing that most free agents were reluctant to come north of the border, he had to deal from his prospect base in order to fill gaping holes in the MLB roster.  We may never know how the behind the scenes events of 2015 played out.  Did President Paul Beeston, who was on the way out the door himself, give his blessing to AA’s deadline moves in an attempt to go out in a mutual blaze of glory?  Had he known he was staying, would Anthopoulos have pumped the brakes on his dealing, or will his philosophy of “Flags fly forever/Prospects are good, parades are better,” always be part and parcel of how he attempts to put together a winner?

Anthopoulos takes over a team in transition and in some turmoil.  His previous experience dealing with Rogers in Toronto should serve him well in Georgia – the Braves are baseball’s only other corporate-owned team.  On the whole, I’m happy for AA.  For whatever reasons, it’s a shame that he either was forced out, or left Toronto of his own accord.  It would have been nice to see where he would have gone with this club.  A cynic might observe that he left the team with an aging core and little farm system depth with which to use in some way or another to upgrade it, while an optimist might say that a guy who dealt Adam Lind for Marco Estrada would find creative ways to improve it.

I wish him well, and will follow Atlanta more closely than I have in the past now that he’s running the show.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

Warmoth2017
Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

Warmoth2017
Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects – #8 Conner Greene

I don’t tend to write critically about Blue Jays prospects – I will be the first to admit that.  I prefer to state my opinion about their tools, the strengths, and their weaknesses, and let you the reader form yours.

It was during a conversation with Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim that I came to understand that there was a sixth tool that we as fans often overlook, but baseball insiders are keenly aware of:  the intangible quality called make up.  Kim even called it the sixth tool.  Subsequent conversations with Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders and High Performance Director Angus Mugford confirmed the importance of what the dictionary calls, “the combination of qualities that form a person’s temperament.”  As Mugford pointed out, skills-wise, there is not to distinguish a lot of minor league players from one another.  Make up, more often than not, seems to be the determining factor.  Those who have it tend to reach the top far more often than those who don’t.

Which brings us to Conner Greene.

Greene was a gem uncovered by the previous administration, one of those high risk/high reward prospects former Scouting Director Blake Parker, under the direction of noted dice-roller Alex Anthopoulos,  the Blue Jays coveted.  Baseball America‘s draft report:

Long and lean at 6-foot-3, 160 pounds, Greene is all about projection. He has a high waist, long legs and a quick arm, and he has cleaned up his delivery, helping him touch 91-92 mph on occasion. He usually pitches at 87-88, and his secondary stuff is underdeveloped. He throws a splitter rather than a changeup, and the pitch has sink but is inconsistent. His curve has 11-to-5 break, and his best ones rate as 40s on the 20-80 scouting scale. He needs to sharpen it up and improve his command of his entire repertoire.

Greene committed to the legendary JC of Southern Nevada, but a $100K bonus offered by the Blue Jays, who had taken him in the 7th round, helped him change his mind.  Greene had a rocky pro debut in 2013, and repeated the Gulf Coast League the following year, but his career took off when he was promoted to full season Lansing in 2015, after which he was ranked the Blue Jays 2nd prospect by BA.  Discovered by the Toronto media last spring, Greene stumbled in his second go at AA this year, despite the fact that he dialed up his fastball to triple digits on occasion.

Much of Greene’s difficulties stemmed from his not being able to command that fastball this year.  An 8% swinging strike rate indicates that he did not miss a lot of bats for someone with his heat, and a 43% pull rate reflects that he lived up in the zone (and was squared up) frequently.  The silver lining has to be his 52% ground ball rate, which likely came off of weak contact against his curve or change up.  His 13.6% BB rate, which was far and away the highest in the Eastern League,  demonstrates that finding the strike zone was a challenge.  Greene was pitching from behind for much of the summer, a high-wire act that few Pitchers can successfully walk.

Greene’s fastball, obviously, is the primary weapon in his arsenal.  It does not have much movement, but when he commands it gives him a great margin for error. His change is still inconsistent at this point, but multiple evaluators have called it a potential above average pitch once he can throw it close to the strike zone consistently.  His curve and slider have made tremendous strides, but both need to progress more if he is to turn a lineup over. They function more as an option to keep hitters honest at this point. Greene’s is an intriguing arm, but at this point he seems to be more of a thrower than a Pitcher.

To get back to the concerns about make up,  reports about Greene suggest that his levels of grit and resilience may not be the highest, and his troubles this season may have come from an inability to make necessary adjustments. Whether that was mechanical or attidutinal is up for speculation, but it was a frustrating season for Greene (who sometimes seemed to let his emotions get the better of him during games), and many who were watching him.  This was Greene’s first extended taste of difficulty in pro ball.  The question is will this experience help him grow, or will it keep him from doing so?

It’s hard to say where the Blue Jays go from here with Greene.  Do they continue to let him develop as a starter next year in Buffalo, or do they convert him to relief, where his high velo coupled with his change could be a devastating late inning combination?  Or, since he was a signing from a previous regime, do they view him as a long-term player, or do they include him in a package to help fill a need on the major league roster?  One thing is for sure:  Greene needs to be added to the 40-man by November 18th, or he will be exposed to the Rule 5 draft, where he won’t last long.   The betting here is that he will be added;  Pitchers who top 100 don’t come along every day.  That Greene will eventually learn to harness his stuff and forge a big league career is not as sure.

 

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #9 Ryan Borucki

Ryan-Borucki-2016-bs
Baseball America photo

I had a chance to meet Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro in his Rogers Centre office a few weeks ago.  The plan was to talk about the state of the team’s farm system, but it developed instead into a wide-ranging discussion about the team and baseball in general.

One thing that Shapiro said toward the end of our conversation stuck with me.  In talking about finding and grooming young players in general, he observed that, “people forget just how hard it is, and how long it takes to develop starting pitching.”  And while that wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering observation, we do tend to forget sometimes that staring pitching is where this game begins.  But the gestation period of a minor league to MLB pitcher can be 4 years.  Or more.

Case in point:  LHP Ryan Borucki.

Concerns about his elbow had caused Borucki’s draft stock to tumble in 2012.  He suffered a partial UCL tear while pitching a no-hitter in March, but played primarily 1B in his senior high school season as he opted for rehab over Tommy John surgery.  The Blue Jays were at the peak of their “roll-the-dice” approach to the draft that year, and selected him in the 15th round.

The rehab ultimately proved unsuccessful, and Borucki underwent Tommy John, which cost him his entire 2013 season.  He had a strong return in short season ball in 2014, but shoulder and elbow woes limited him to 5 innings in 2015.  It wasn’t until his fourth year as a pro in 2016 that he graduated to full season ball – the Blue Jays opted to keep him in Dunedin to keep an eye on his health, but Florida State League hitters teed off on Borucki, and when he was sent to down to Lansing after 6 starts, there was little hint that 16 months later, he would be on the cusp of a big league job.

With the help of Lansing pitching coach Jeff Ware, Borucki added some deception to his delivery, giving hitters less of a glimpse of his pitches.  Borucki dominated Midwest League hitters as a result, and even though he’d had limited success above that level, the Blue Jays opted to add him to the 40-man roster in order to avoid the chance of losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins told Shi Davidi, in a piece for Baseball America, that there was a huge consensus for adding Borucki to the 40:

“It’s rare that you have a group of people absolutely pound the table for a player without one exception. When that happens, when they are talented, albeit he was in low-A ball and had a previous injury, he did have a good year. It was unanimous across player development that from a work-ethic and competitive standpoint, what he means to this organization as a teammate, that it was somebody we were excited to add to our 40-man.”
   Borucki pitched at three levels, starting at Dunedin and finishing the year with a start in Buffalo.  He did not have enough innings to qualify, but his swinging strike rate (14%), and ground ball rate (50.4%) were both good enough for 4th among Florida State League pitchers.  Promoted to New Hampshire in late July, he picked up where he left off in Dunedin, tossing a scoreless 7 innings in his first start, and allowing only one run in his first three.
   Borucki does not overwhelm hitters.  His fastball sits 90-92, touching 94 on occasion.  He complements that fastball with a developing slider, but it’s his change up which generates the whiffs.  Easily the best in the system, he throws it with good arm speed and movement.  The back turn that he developed with Ware continues to offer some deception, and helps his fastball play up a little faster than it is.  He also has some arm-side run to his fastball, which often induces weak contact.  At 6’4″/175, Borucki is long and lean, which allows his to get good downward movement on all of his pitches.  His athleticism enables him to repeat his delivery and field his position well.  When you talk to people in the Blue Jays organization, they are unanimous about Borucki’s grit and resilience.  Even as far back as 2014, he has been called a big leaguer in the making.  Given the ups and downs of his career so far, he has more than learned how to bounce back from a bad outing.
    Borucki should have a shot at competing for a back of the rotation spot in spring training, but he’ll likely begin his 2018 season in Buffalo.  Injuries and/or inconsistency at the big league level will probably mean that he makes his MLB debut at some point next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects – #10 Eric Pardinho

This is the first in a series of ten articles about the Blue Jays top minor league prospects.  I try to take a fairly deep dive with these posts, so I thought I would try posting them individually.

Projection is the name of the game when you are talking about minor leaguers.  These are always written with that in mind.  Since minor league stats can be very misleading (at least without some context), my goal is to provide insights that are difficult to find anywhere else.

I called up the Brazil-Pakistan World Baseball Classic online last fall in order to get a first-hand look at Bo Bichette, who hit over .400 for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays after being drafted in the 2nd round in June, and was playing for Brazil.  Bichette was as advertised – a kid with a funky load that translated into lethal bat speed.  His breakout 2017 was no surprise.

Pakistan, in its first taste of big-stage international play, was predictably overmatched against Brazil.  With no MLB-affilated players in their lineup, they were likely just happy to be there.  What really caught my eye, however, was a 15 year old RHP Brazil brought into the game in relief named Eric Pardinho, who the Blue Jays signed for a $1.5 million bonus on July 2nd.  He hit 95 that inning, and was dominant (he did give up a hit on a 1-2 cement mixer breaking ball) against the hitters he faced, most of whom were about twice his age.

Pardinho hails from the Sao Paolo region of Brazil, which has a fairly rich baseball heritage thanks to an influx of Japanese immigrants in the early 1900s (Pardinho’s grandparents on his mother’s side.  When he was 12, Pardinho trained at Brazil’s famous CT Yakult Academy, which specializes in “traditional Japanese training methods.”  Whatever those methods might be, they’ve worked.  Pardinho has a smooth, low-effort delivery with a clean arm action, and while that’s no guarantee for a young arm that already dials it up to 94, it bodes well for the future.   The ball seems to explode from his hand from those polished mechanics.  Baseball America compiled video of his delivery:

Pardinho was the 14th-ranked international prospect by BA, and the top-ranked pitcher.  His best secondary offering is said to be his curve.  His overall command already grades at 50, and will likely improve under the Blue Jays’ tutelage.

Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees international scouting, told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi in August that Pardinho is a rare find:

“I’d never seen a kid at this stage with this kind of fastball command and overall fastball effectiveness……Not only does he have velocity, but he does it easy, he repeats his delivery and he throws strikes.”

Why rank a player who has yet to play in a pro game a Top 10 prospect?  The velocity and location helps, as does the delivery.  It suggests there’s room for further velo, and the athleticism he displays holds hope for further development of his secondaries.  Even though he’s not the biggest of kids (listed at first at 5’10”, the reports now mostly seem to say 5’8″, so let’s call him 5’9″).  He may not turn out to be a Pedro Martinez, Tim Lincecum, or Marcus Stroman, but that’s enough of a sample size to make you think his size will not be an issue.  That downward, eye-changing plane that tall pitchers get on their pitches makes them the preferred recruit among most MLB teams, but there’s a lot to be said for movement, location, and general pitchability, which Pardinho has in abundance.  He will only improve in his first few pro seasons.

Pardinho should make his debut in the Gulf Coast League next summer.