The Blue Jays landed 5 of the top 40-ranked International Free Agents (according to Baseball America) during the IFA signing period this summer.
This was a far cry from 2016, when in the wake of sanctions as a result of going over their bonus pool in order to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr, the Blue Jays could not sign a player for a bonus of more than $300 000. Still, they were able to cull some quality out of that group – their accomplishments have been overshadowed, however, by PED suspensions handed out to 7 Blue Jays prospects at their Dominican complex.
Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees the international market and signings, was understandably not willing to discuss that development in a conversation this week (an investigation is ongoing), but he did provide updates about many of the players they did sign this year. After signing, prospects converge on the Blue Jays complex at Boca Chica, near Santo Domingo. Players learn about nutrition, training and take English classes, and play in the “Tricky” League against other complex prospects who recently signed.
At the top of the list is Brazilian RHP Eric Pardinho. Ranked the top pitching prospect in the 2017 IFA class (and signed for a $1.4 million bonus), he did not disappoint. Tinnish noted that Pardinho touched 97 in short outings with his fastball. “A combination of athleticism, great delivery, advanced stuff and feel for pitching,” is how he described the young hurler. “I’ve never seen a 16 year old kid with that combination of skills.” What’s impressive beyond that, says Tinnish, is how he “slows the game down – how much poise and compete he has on the mound.” Pardinho is not the biggest guy in the world (5’9 1/2″, according to reports), but he is very polished – Tinnish says he has an extremely efficient delivery which he repeats well and uses his lower half effectively, and he can command multiple pitches. That 97 came in Instructs, and it was, in his words, “an easy 97.” He sat 90-94, but there’s room for added velocity as he matures. Pardinho has always had a power curve, sitting 78-82, and has developed a slider with good depth and some added velo to it. Tinnish had not seen Pardinho throw a change up prior to his signing, but was impressed with what he saw this fall. “To me, he’s a starter,” he said, pointing to that four-pitch mix. The team is not concerned about his size – there’s room for added strength. The Jays have had success with smaller Pitchers, with Marcus Stroman the prime example. Tinnish does not suggest that Pardinho is in Stroman’s class as an athlete, but he is in terms of stuff, delivery, and feel. It’s all but likely that Pardinho begins his pro career stateside in the Gulf Coast League next year. The Blue Jays will not rush him, but they certainly like what they’ve seen from the youngster, and he may move through the system quickly.
Dominican SS Miguel Hiraldo was rated the best overall bat in the class, and signed for $750K. Tinnish says that Hiraldo has “a compact build, sneaky athletic ability, and quick hands.” He’ll play SS as long as possible, but he may move over the 3rd. The most impressive thing about Hiraldo, according to Tinnish, is his bat. “It’s a compact swing, he hits a lot of line drives, he uses the whole field, is a smart hitter, and there’s power projection there.” Hiraldo has a chance to be an everyday player if the bat develops, and he may join Pardinho in the Gulf Coast League next year.
A player Tinnish is very high on is Panamanian SS Leonardo Jimenez, who signed for $825K. “A really, really great kid,” enthused Tinnish. “(He’s) bilingual, great make up, ultra young in the class – a late May birthday – he really has lead-off or #2 hole potential….if you asked me right now who has a chance to play SS in your system, Leo would be at the top of that list. The way the body moves, the way the arm works, the instincts, he’s a really good, future upside defender.” Jimenez, who led off for the Panamanian national team, has a good approach at the plate. He grinds out ABs, and hits a lot of line drives, and even shows glimpses of future power. He hit a HR his last game at Instructs, and Tinnish admits of all the players the Blue Jays signed outside of Pardinho, Jimenez is the one he’s most excited about.
Venezuelan RHP Ronald Govea is what Tinnish calls a “sneaky upside player.” Not one of the top 40 ranked players the Blue Jays signed, Govea is not a hard thrower, but has a good delivery, and can spin a breaking ball, and throws “a ton of strikes,” said Tinnish. He tops out at 88 right now, but Tinnish feels he has “a lot more left in the tank,” given his arm movement.
RHP Alejandro Melean is also a player Tinnish says is one to watch. The 32nd ranked IFA, the Venezuelan ramped things up toward the end of Instructs, sitting 90-94 with his fastball, with an ability to spin the breaking ball. Command is not where Tinnish would like it to be, but he’s another undersized, athletic “quick twitch guy.”
Venezuelan SS Jose Rivas is a player Tinnish calls a “sparkplug,” and while he doesn’t like to label players, he compares him favourably with an Astros 2B named Jose. “He’s got the Altuve frame and mentality,” and suggests that Rivas ultimately moves across the bag to 2nd.
BA’s Ben Badler offers his take on Pardinho:
On a big international signing group for the Blue Jays and the No. 1 pitcher in the class, Eric Pardinho from Brazil: pic.twitter.com/s28sK9JQhl
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 2, 2017