Vladimir Guerrero headlined the Blue Jays 2015 International Free Agent class, and the bonus pool penalty the team experienced the following year, but their 2017 group may be the best the Blue Jays have ever assembled.
And that’s saying something. The Blue Jays have been active in the International market for some time. The 2011 class netted them Roberto Osuna and Jairo Labourt, while the 2012 group included Dawel Lugo and Franklin Barreto.
The issue with IFAs not named after their Hall of Fame fathers is that given their age (for most, 16 at the time of their signing), it can be half a decade or more (if ever) for them to reach their projections. If a team can manage to get one big leaguer out of their bonus pool, that’s an accomplishment. The 2017 class has a way to go, but five potential MLBers jump out.
Top-ranked RHP Eric Pardinho dominated the Appalachian League as a 17-year-old experiencing his first taste of life in America, travel and under the lights play, and pro ball itself. The 4th ranked talent in a prospect-laden Appy, Pardinho already possess three pitches which grade as plus, and room to bump his velo up to the mid-90s. He passed the test this year with flying colours, and should pitch in Lansing by late next spring.
SS Miguel Hiraldo was the top bat in last year’s IFA class, and he didn’t disappoint, slashing .313/.381/.453 in 54 DSL games before earning a promotion to the GCL. Built more like a Catcher than a SS, Hiraldo is projected to be a better fit at 3B down the road.
SS/2B Leo Jimenez was a player Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who heads up International Ops for the team, could barely contain his excitement about last fall. Tinnish raved about his maturity and defensive skills. With 2018 draftees Jordan Groshans and Addison Barger on the GCL Jays roster this summer, Jimenez had to split time between 2B (20 games) and SS (19), but his range and actions at the latter suggest that he might become one of the best defensive players at that position in the organization. A top of the order-type hitter, Jimenez was ranked the 20th best GCL prospect, and adds to the stockpile of up-the-middle depth in the system.
P Ronald Govea was not a highly ranked signing last year, but he was someone Tinnish singled out last fall as a guy with, “sneaky upside.” Not a hard thrower although there’s some room for projection, Tinnish said Govea knows how to spin a breaking ball, and throws, “a ton of strikes.” While Govea fanned only 6.4/9 for the DSL Jays, he started 13 games, and once his pitch count was up, consistently pitched into the fifth inning, walking only 13 in 58 innings. He will no doubt need to add some velo to progress, but it sounds like he already has a good grasp of command and sequencing.
P Alejandro Melean can dial his Fastball up to 94, and although his command is not where the team would like it (22 walks in 32 GCL innings), Baseball America said Melean has, “The delivery, repertoire and feel for pitching to project as a starter.” His best pitch is said to be his curve, and his change made progress.
All of the above players should advance through the system this year at least as high as Vancouver or Lansing.