The Blue Jays, fresh off one of their more successful IFA signing groups in several years, are said to be in the running to land Dominican SS Manuel Beltre, described by some as the top bat in the 2020 International Free Agent class.
In last fall’s Tricky League, a Dominican-based development loop for IFA signings, most teams had around a dozen prospects. The Blue Jays had close to 40, led by top signees Rikelvin de Castro, Estiven Machado, Peniel Brito, and Dahian Santos.
There is an air of uncertainty hanging over the 2020 group about a possible draft. MLB had met with international personnel in Miami last summer to discuss the prospects of a system owners would like in place as soon as possible. One idea that has been floated is of a draft of international players that lasts 20 rounds. Hard slot values would be assigned for each round, teams could trade picks, and picks in the top three rounds would be protected in the event a team fails to sign a player. Rather than base the draft order on the previous year’s standings, the draft would rotate be division.
An international draft would be subject to MLBPA approval. MLB had hoped to have a draft in place by this summer, but 2021 is looking more likely. When we talked to Blue Jays VP of International Ops Andrew Tinnish in December, he said the team has made plans for both a draft and non-draft scenario.
Beltre, who hits from the right side, has “ample game experience and baseball IQ beyond his years,” in the words of Ben Badler of Baseball America. At 5’11″/160, there’s some room for projection on a build that’s been described as medium in terms of athleticism. His bat has taken a huge step forward over the past year, with a whippy barrel action, and an ability to make hard line drive contact that is impressive given his age (15). As the above video shows, he has a Bichette-like bat wrap, but he gets the barrel across the plate quickly and there’s a distinct sound the ball makes when he connects. There is little wasted movement, and he his hips generate plenty of torque. In the field, Beltre has plus speed and arm strength and good reactions to the ball. It’s incredibly hard to predict his future at this point, but a move off the SS seems likely in his future. The bat appears to be the carrying tool at this point.
July 2nd is the opening of perhaps the last IFA signing period.