The Toronto Blue Jays 2015 IFA class pretty much begins and ends with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
It was the last IFA signing period for the tandem of now VP on International Ops Andrew Tinnish and International Scouting Director Ismael Cruz, who left for the Dodgers at the end of the season.
As is the custom of all high profile IFAs, the Blue Jays had been unofficially courting Vlad Jr and his representatives for several years. To make room for the younger Guerrero, they dealt a pair of minor league players (P Chase DeJong and 2B Tim Locastro) to the Dodgers for pool money to limit the penalty Toronto would pay in ensuing years.
Baseball America‘s Ben Badler was impressed with Vlad as a bat-first player:
While Guerrero’s father was a five-tool player who had an 80 arm and once stole 40 bases in a season, Vladdy Jr.’s skills are all concentrated on what he does in the batter’s box, with the best combination of hitting ability and power in the class. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Guerrero has excellent bat speed and hand-eye coordination, taking a compact, powerful and repeatable swing with the bat control to routinely barrel the ball. He sometimes swings out of his shoes, but it’s a controlled aggression and he’s able to maintain good plate coverage, squaring up good velocity as well as breaking pitches with a good hitting approach for a 17-year-old.
Guerrero was signed as an OF, and most scouts agreed with his body he was best suited for LF. At Instructs that fall, heads were turned when the Blue Jays had him working at 3B, a position he told the club he actually preferred.
Signing Guerrero cost the Blue Jays $3.9 million, just under 15% above their bonus pool. By staying under that threshold, Toronto avoided the sanction of no bonuses above $350K for two years, but they did face a one year penalty, and had to pay MLB $500K.
If you ask the Blue Jays, they’ll say it was worth it.
Because they blew the budget on Guerrero, Toronto made no other July 2nd signings in 2015. They did make several $10K signings, which were exempt from the bonus pool. The best of these has been Venezuelan RHP Maximo Castillo, who had a deal all but done with the Yankees, but they pulled their offer because of an elbow issue his physical revealed. The big-bodied (6’2″/260) Castillo was one of the youngest players in the Florida State League last year, but was also one of its most effective starters. Named a FSL Post-Season All Star, Castillo sported the 4th-lowest ERA in the league. A workhorse, Castillo throws a bowling ball sinker, although he was prone to the flyball (49.5%) in a loop where the ball doesn’t often leave the yard. A fringe top 30 prospect, Castillo’s velo would tick up in a relief role. Likely headed for New Hampshire when play begins in 2020, Castillo is Rule 5 eligible this fall.
Another $10K signing who has given some home has been Dominican OF McGregory Contreras. Through four years in the system, he’s yet to shake the toolsy-but-raw label. Lack of plate discipline and curious routes on flyballs have limited his development. Contreras began last season at Lansing, but was sent back to Vancouver in July, and he slashed .211/.263/.321 between the two levels. He was ranked the 19th top prospect in the Appy League by BA in 2018, with one Manager crediting him with “sneaky power.”
The Blue Jays 2015 IFA class was a case of quantity over quality.