A Look Back at the Blue Jays 2017 IFA Signings

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.

 

 

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Toronto Blue Jays Top 11-20 Prospects

Some evaluators will give you their Top 30, or even Top 50 prospects for a team.

Truth be told, the differences in terms of overall tools and MLB potential gets less and less the farther you go down an organization’s list of prospects, which is why it’s very tough to get past the Top 20.

Generally speaking, players in the 11-20 range are fringe MLBers, at least at this point in their careers.  Some have produced solid bodies of work, but are at a point where they’ve all but reached their projection, while others have plenty of projection remaining, but are still a long way away.  There’s always someone from this group who can make a tremendous leap forward, but the odds tend to be more with the guys in the Top 10.

As evidence of the rise in quality of the Blue Jays system over the past several years, this may be the most impressive group of prospects in this range they’ve produced in some time.  Thanks to some trade deadline deals, there are a couple of new faces, too.

 

11. Cavan Biggio UT

Biggio broke out in a big year at New Hampshire in 2018, and bears further close watching next year.

The 2016 5th rounder attempted to put more loft into his swing last season, and then lowered his hands this season.  The results were impressive – he led the Eastern League in Home Runs.  He also led the league in walks, and just missed a Three True Outcomes triple crown by finishing second in Ks.

Biggio is a patient hitter, as evidenced by the number of walks.  What keeps him from the upper echelon of prospects is that at 23, he’s probably hit his ceiling, and he doesn’t have the lengthy track record that other top prospects have.  His defensive skills are also a consideration, as he has been described as a fringy defensive player – the Blue Jays have had him playing RF in Arizona in an attempt to build his versatility.  Biggio’s swing can also be long, and Pitchers with sharper secondaries may take advantage of it at AAA or even MLB.

12.  Patrick Murphy SP

The 2018 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year had a truly dominant year at High A, and will likely earn a spot on the 40-man roster next month.  What seems to be keeping him off the prospect lists is a lengthy injury history, although he made 27 starts for Dunedin this year.

Murphy has upped his velo, hitting 100 mph with his fastball in August, the culmination of a steady increase all season.  He pairs that FB with a hammer curve, but needs to develop a 3rd pitch.

Murphy gets lost a little bit in comparison to the other high-profile Starters in the system, but he should make for an interesting follow at AA next year.

13.  David Paulino SP

A one-time top 100 prospect, Paulino has a starter’s mix of pitches, and has fanned better than a batter per inning in his MiLB career.  Despite his injury history (13 starts over the past two seasons),  Paulino still projects as a starter.

A stretch of good health at AAA would be the best case scenario for Paulino.

14.  Hector Perez SP

Perez, like Paulino, came over in the Roberto Osuna deal from the Astros.  He throws four pitches, all of them with some movement.  Harnessing that movement has been a challenge for him, as his walk rate has consistently been in the double digits throughout his minor league career.

Perez’ future may lie in relief, where his mid to upper 90s fastball will play up, but the Blue Jays will likely give him an extended opportunity to pitch in a starting role.

15.  Rowdy Tellez 1B

Tellez helped to put a season and a half of AAA disappointment behind him with a post All Star line of .306/.360/.497 that was hard to ignore, and resulted in a September promotion.

Tellez hit 9 Doubles in only 70 ABs during his September audition, but walked only twice.  With Justin Smoak firmly ensconced at 1B for the time being, Tellez appears headed for another tour of the International League come next April, but he gives the Blue Jays some roster flexibility.  With the team not likely to contend for a couple of seasons, Smoak could be dealt to upgrade other areas of the roster at some point, and Tellez could step into his role.

16.  TJ Zeuch, SP

The 2016 1st rounder’s main weapon is a bowling ball sinker, which gets good downward plane due to his 6’7″ height.  Zeuch can command all four of his pitches, but what seems to limit his projection to back-end starter is the fact that none of them grade as plus.

Zeuch rarely puts himself into difficult situations with walks, and he generates ground balls at about a 55-60% rate – he led the Eastern League with a 55.2%, and his 16.5 Line Drive rate was 3rd-lowest among qualifiers.  Because he tends to pitch to contact, Zeuch will always need a solid defence behind him.

While he might not profile as an Ace, Zeuch has been an important part of some championship teams of late – New Hampshire this year, Dunedin last year, and an Arizona Fall League title (where he was the starting Pitcher of the final game) sandwiched in between.

17.  Miguel Hiraldo SS

One of the top bats in the 2017 J2 class, Hiraldo slashed .313/.381/.453 in the Dominican Summer League – interestingly, the Blue Jays didn’t think he was ready for stateside play until August.

Baseball America‘s scouting report focuses on his bat:

Hiraldo has a knack for hitting and driving the ball with impact from a direct, compact swing. He doesn’t generate much separation with his hands to load his swing, but he has explosive hand speed that generates plus bat speed. He’s an aggressive hitter who mashes fastballs, with strong forearms and legs that he incorporates to generate average power. He’s a pull-heavy hitter who’s still improving his pitch recognition and selectivity.

Most reports suggest that while Hiraldo has the hands and arm for SS, his stocky build profiles better at 3B.

18.  Travis Bergen RP

At the end of a conversation with Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro last fall, he was asked what a General Manager’s most difficult job was.  “Developing Starting Pitching,” was his response, but with all due respect, given budget considerations and the volatile nature of relievers, building a bullpen may be a GM’s most daunting task.

The Blue Jays farm system has already made a solid contribution to the big club’s bullpen with relievers such as Ryan Tepara, Danny Barnes, and Tim Mayza.   Another wave is coming, led by southpaw Bergen.  Despite missing the better part of three seasons since being drafted in 2015, Bergen has been lights out at every stop over the past two seasons, most recently with New Hampshire.

Bergen tops out at 94 with his fastball, sitting 91-92.  He commands both sides of the plate with it, along with his slider.  Even though he fanned 74 in 56 innings at two levels this year, his best tool is his ability to avoid barrels.  He keeps hitters off-balance with his sequencing, and is very tough to square up.

19. Yennsy Diaz SP

Diaz burst onto the radar last year with a scintillating debut in full season ball at Lansing, where he fanned 82 in 77 innings, mainly off the strength of a 96-97 FB that Midwest League hitters could not catch up with.

Sent back to Lansing to begin 2018, he fanned 10 hitters on Opening Day in 5.2 innings.  Diaz was promoted to Dunedin after 9 starts, and while he continued to miss bats (11.6% SwStr rate), he didn’t notch as many Ks.  He was holding his velo later into games this year, but was pitching more to contact.

Diaz often gets ahead of hitters by establishing a fastball down in the zone, then elevates when he gets two strikes.  His best secondary pitch at the moment is his curve, which has progressed from a show me pitch to a true barrel dodger.  His change-up is a pitch that pairs well with his fastball, but can be a little firm.  How fast and far Diaz progresses (New Hampshire is his likely destination next April) will depend on how those secondaries continue to develop.

20.  Jackson McClelland RP

You don’t tend to see many relievers on top prospect lists due to their volatility.  When you have one who consistently hits triple digits, it’s worth a second look.  Such is the case with McClelland, a 2015 draftee who has consistently added velo as he’s moved through the system.

McClelland has a deceptive delivery, and combined with his length, it makes it tough for hitters to pick up the ball coming out of his hand.  He pairs his fastball with a slider and an ever-improving change-up.  McClelland is still working on it, but he’s shown improved command this fall in Arizona.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays Last Ten Hot Sheet

Ok, if you’re scoring at home, it’s been a little more than ten days since the last post.

This is not a ranking of the Blue Jays Top 10 prospects – it’s a snapshot of who the top performers have been.

1.  Ryan Noda, Lansing

Noda tops the charts for the second straight time.  This guy is having a monster June, and has posted a ridiculous 1.460 OPS over the last ten days.

Many will be suggesting that the 2017 Appy League MVP has slugged his way into the Top 10 Prospects list.  That conversation should probably wait until we see what he does at the next level, but he certainly has slugged his way into consideration.

Noda’s 59 walks and .455 OBP lead the Midwest League by a wide margin – his BB total is second highest in the minors, and his OBP trails only some guy named Vlad.

Patient almost to a fault, the knock against Noda was that he sometimes was too selective.  He’s now doing a much better job of managing the strike zone.  Midwest League Pitchers pay a heavy price for their mistakes as a result.

After a long wait, Lansing’s games finally came online this past week with milb.com’s subscription service.  Let’s celebrate with some Noda video, narrated by our good friend Jesse Goldberg-Strassler:

 

2.  T.J. Zeuch, New Hampshire

Zeuch did not give up a run over two starts totalling 15 IP over the past ten days, and is really starting to open some eyes with his ability to generate ground ball contact and work deep into games.

Zeuch’s detractors will point to his low strikeout totals as evidence that he doesn’t miss enough bats to get MLB hitters out.  With his bowling ball sinker, he pitches to contact, and this season is getting hitters to ground out about 60% of the time.

In his first of two starts over this period, Zeuch worked a career-high 8 innings, and allowed only two hits and one walk, needing less than 90 pitches.  He followed that up with 7 innings, giving up a pair of unearned runs.  Zeuch was worked into the 7th in six straight starts.

3.  Eric Pardinho, Bluefield

Two years ago, the Blue Jays sent their prize IFA signing from the season before to the Appalachian League for a challenge to begin his pro career.  They’ve done the same with Pardinho, last year’s top ranked Pitcher.

Last fall AGM Andrew Tinnish indicated that Pardinho would likely start 2018 in the Gulf Coast League.  This is a common path for IFAs, allowing them time to acclimate to playing stateside.  Pardinho impressed so much this spring that the decision was made to send the Brazilian far from home to Bluefield.  If his first start is any indication, he may not last long there.

Pardinho pitched 4 strong innings in the Jays’ season opener, fanning 5.  He gave up 2 hits, which a witness said were more like swinging bunt singles.  He did allow a stolen base and followed that up with a wild pitch, likely indicating some nerves.  Pardinho hit 97 with his fastball, and showed a curve that already ranks as a plus pitch.  As Tinnish said last fall, it’s not just that velo that makes Pardinho special – it’s his secondaries, and his feel for pitching.

He’s still a long way away, and there will be bumps on the road, but that was an incredibly encouraging start.

4.  Yeltsin Gudino, Lansing

Long regarded as a glove-first player, Gudino is having some success at the plate this year.

The Blue Jays have focussed extensively through their amateur scouting efforts on up-the-middle players, which has led to a bit of a glut of middle infielders.  Gudino started the year in a utility role with Dunedin, but was overmatched by Florida State League hitters.  Sent to Lansing in early May, he’s responded to the regular playing time he’s received since Kevin Smith’s promotion, filling Smith’s 3B/SS role.

Gudino has hit .364 for the month, with a 1.162 OPS over the last 10 days, with three straight two-hit games.

5.  Miguel Hiraldo, DSL Jays

Imagine, for a moment, being Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim.  He has a pair of blue chip SS prospects in the upper levels in Richie Urena and Bo Bichette,  another brace of top prospects at Dunedin in Kevin Smith and Logan Warmoth, a couple at Low A in Gudino and Kevin Vicuna, and now with the complex leagues getting underway, he has to find playing time for top picks Jordan Groshans and Addison Barger, as well as Hiraldo, the top-ranked bat in last year’s IFA class.

It’s likely that Kim would prefer to have Hiraldo, who scouts suggest will have to move off of SS, a full season in the DSL to play the position.  If he continues to rake as he has, Kim will have a dilemma on his hands.  Hiraldo posted a 1.080 OPS over the last ten, and with 9 hits in his last 4 games, brought his average up to .418.

It’s hard to see him staying in the DSL much longer, but playing time could be an issue.  Kim likely would agree that’s a nice problem to have.

 

Blue Jays Last Ten Days Hot Sheet

Hiraldo2
Miguel Hiraldo mlb.com photo

Here’s a little project that has been long in the thinking process, but has only recently come into execution.

The following are the top five Blue Jays prospects based on their performance over the past week and a half.  It’s not a re-ranking of the top prospects, but just a snapshot of the hottest players in the system over that period of time, with their stats for that stretch.

1.  Ryan Noda, Lansing .500/.560/1.222

The 2017 Appy League MVP brought his on-base ways with him to full season ball as he transitioned to the OF (a position he played in college), but struggled for the first two months of the season to get his average over the Mendoza line, or tap into the power he demonstrated last season.

With the promotion of 1B Kacy Clemens to High A, Noda shifted to his spot, and seems to have found his comfort zone.  Noda hit his first HR on May 30th, and has hit 4 since then, including a pair in a 3-4 night on June 7th.

2. Patrick Murphy, Dunedin, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, .184 BAA

Murphy was promoted to New Hampshire for a spot start on May 27th, and acquitted himself well with six strong innings.  Sent back to Dunedin, Murphy has not been scored upon over his last two starts.

Murphy is not one of the higher profile arms in the system, but he has steadily put together a good body of work since reaching full season ball in 2016.

3.  Miguel Hiraldo, DSL Jays, .433/.485/.833

One of the top-ranked bats in last year’s IFA class, Hiraldo hammered DSL pitching over the course of its first week of play.  Hiraldo had a three-hit game, and a pair of four-hit games last week, knocking out his first two pro Homers in the process.

Hiraldo’s long-term future probably involves a move from SS to 3B.  His short-term one may see a move to the Gulf Coast League, which starts play next week.

4.  Tayler Saucedo, Dunedin 1-2, 2.55 ERA, 2.65 ERA, .234 BAA

Just over a month ago, Saucedo changed his arm angle, and he’s become one of the more effective starters in the system since then.

Saucedo’s latest effort was a career-high 8 inning effort, in which he allowed two runs on five hits.

Saucedo does not overpower hitters, but relies on a mix of pitches and some deception in his delivery to get them out.  He was Dunedin’s Pitcher of the Month for May.

5.  Sean Reid-Foley, Buffalo, 1-0, 2.00 ERA, .235 BAA

Reid-Foley seems to have alternated good starts with not-so-good outings since his promotion to Buffalo last month.  Knocked out in the 3rd inning in his first start, he fanned 10 over 6 in his next.  Following that, Reid-Foley lasted only two innings, which then was succeeded by one of his best starts as a pro – a career-first 7 inning complete game, a 9-hit effort in which he gave up only one earned run, and more importantly, he didn’t give up a walk.

 

DSL Blue Jays Season Underway

Hiraldo
Miguel Hiraldo

The Blue Jays entry in the Dominican Summer League started play yesterday, and was on the wrong side of a lopsided 17-0 score to the Reds’ affiliate.

 

The Blue Jays DSL entry has been quite successful the past two seasons.  The 2016 entry graduated position players McGregory Contreras, Yorman Rodriguez, Luis de los Santos, and pitchers Elio Silva, Maximo Castillo, Alvaro Galindo, Randy Pondler, and Orlando Pascual to stateside ball.  The 2018 entry does not promise to be as full as prominent names as the past two years have been, however.

One name that does stand out is that of SS Miguel Hiraldo, one of the top ranked bats in last year’s IFA class.  The expectation is that Hiraldo will eventually move to 3B, but the bat will play, according to Baseball America:

A righthanded hitter, Hiraldo has a compact swing, setting up with his hands at his ears and coming straight down to the ball. Despite the lack of separation in his stroke, Hiraldo is able to generate plenty of bat speed with the explosion in his hands. Some clubs had concerns about Hiraldo’s ability to adjust to secondary stuff and use the opposite field, but he’s a good fastball hitter who makes frequent, hard contact in games, with strong legs and forearms to drive the ball with average raw power.

OF Alberto Rodriguez was thought to be one of the top IFAs for 2017, but had an up and down season that saw his stock dip.  There’s athletic potential there, but there’s a lot of swing and miss to his swing, and a line drive approach that doesn’t translate to much power down the road.

RHP Ronald Govea was mentioned in a conversation with Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish last fall.  Govea was not on many top prospect lists, but Tinnish says he has, “sneaky upside.”  Govea offers a clean, repeatable delivery, an ability to spin a breaking ball, and room for further velo.  Tinnish says he throws, “a ton of strikes.”

Venezuelan SS Jose Rivas was called a “sparkplug,” by Tinnish, and BA agrees:

A high-energy, hard-nosed player, Rivas has a tablesetter profile, managing his bats well with a knack for getting on base as a line-drive hitter with gap power. Rivas is a slightly above-average runner who will probably develop as a shortstop but might ultimately fit best at second base.

The league’s Opening Game was broadcast live on YouTube.  We’ll update if a schedule is released.

Short Stop Becoming A Blue Jays Position of Strength

Warmoth
Logan Warmoth – Clutchlings Photo

Last year, with the emergence of Danny Jansen, the acquisition at the previous year’s trade deadline of Reese McGuire, and the drafting of Hagen Danner and Riley Adams, Catching became the deepest position in the Blue Jays organization.

This year, the team has built on that depth at Short Stop.

Leading the way is Bo Bichette, who lead the minors in hitting last year, flirting with .400 in early June.  This year at AA, Bichette has been challenged by the higher level pitching for the first time in his pro career.  Still, he’s hit safely in 23 of the 27 games he’s appeared in, and while he’s yet to Homer this season, Bichette has started to tap into his power with 12 extra base hits.  In addition, Bichette has taken great strides to quell concerns about his defence, with most evaluators this year agreeing that he has the skills to play Major League SS.  Bichette was ranked the Midwest League’s #3 prospect, and the Florida State League’s #2 prospect after a whirlwind 2017, and shows all the tools of a future MLBer.

Behind Bichette is a growing wealth of talent.

Logan Warmoth was Toronto’s 1st round pick in last June’s draft, and he had a solid pro debut, leading Vancouver to the Northwest League title,  being named the loop’s 6th-best prospect in the process.  Skipped over Lansing to High A Dunedin this year, Warmoth had his struggles at first, but is hitting .275 over his last 10, and making a lot of hard contact according to reports.  Warmoth does not have one overwhelming tool, but does a lot of things well.  Like Bichette, there were initial concerns about his long-term prospects at SS, but he’s shown the range, footwork, and arm strength to handle the position.

Kevin Smith has been in Warmoth’s shadow since being taken in the 4th round last year.  Normally, a college draftee chosen that high would start at Vancouver, but with Warmoth there, Smith was sent to Bluefield to start his pro career.  A glove-first player for much of his college career, Smith showed glimpses of a bat that was still developing, with his power ranked ahead of his hitting ability.  Sent to Lansing this season, Smith has shown every indication that his bat has caught up to projections – Smith has posted a line of .370/.417/.639, and is hitting .459 over his last 10 games.  With the presence of Kevin Vicuna at Lansing, Smith has split time between SS and 3B, but there is little doubt about his skills on the defensive side of the ball.  Smith has plus hands and a strong arm.

Vicuna was labelled a glove-first player when the Blue Jays signed him as an IFA in 2014.  His bat had progressed enough to be sent to Dunedin to fill in for a month last spring before he was sent to Vancouver, where he was named the Northwest League’s 19th prospect.  There is no doubt about his defence, but Vicuna’s bat has shone at Lansing this year, hitting .308/.325/.375.  Vicuna goes up to the plate looking to swing, drawing only a pair of walks so far.  His glove is what will move him up in the organization, but he’s not proving to be an easy out.

Two international players also add to the team’s depth:

-Dominican Miguel Hiraldo was ranked the top bat in last year’s IFA class.  He profiles long-term at 3B, but the Blue Jays wil have him start his career at Short.

-Panamanian Leo Jimenez, who Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish is incredibly high on:

 (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.

In addition, the Blue Jays have been strongly linked to Orelvis Martinez of the D.R. Martinez is ranked the top IFA SS in this year’s class, and may command the highest bonus.

Not all of these players will one day patrol the infield at the Rogers Centre, but the depth gives the team plenty of options and flexibility in the future.  Some could be developed into utility players, while others could be used in trades to bolster the organization’s depth at other positions.  The organization has done a good job stockpiling a supply of athletic players at Short Stop.

Notes on Blue Jays’ IFAs from Extended

The lousy weather that hit much of the northeastern part of the continent meant that there wasn’t a lot of minor league ball to watch this weekend.  However, Jason Woodell (@JasonAtTheGame on Twitter), who scouts prospects in Florida and contributes to several sites as well as his own, took in some Blue Jays Extended Spring Training action, and posted a number of videos.

First, some video and notes about SS Miguel Hiraldo, the top-ranked hitter in last July’s International Free Agent class:

Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees International ops for the club, said in an interview in December that Hiraldo has, “A compact build, sneaky athletic ability, and quick hands.”  The most impressive part of his game, according to Tinnish, is his bat:  “it’s a compact swing, he hits a lot of line drives (and) uses the whole field, is a smart hitter, and there’s a lot of projection there.”

Tinnish said that Hiraldo may eventually outgrow SS and shift over to 3rd.  Woodell’s observations suggest that maybe there’s more there defensively than was originally thought.  The Blue Jays will likely keep him at short until he plays himself off of it.  Hiraldo will begin the season in the Gulf Coast League.

RHP Alejandro Melean was the 32-ranked IFA last year, and was a player Tinnish mentioned as one to watch.  A bit undersized, Melean was impressive at Instructs last fall, sitting 90-94 with his fastball, and an ability to spin a breaking ball.

Melean likely starts in the GCL as well.

C Hagen Danner was not an IFA, of course, but he was a highly regarded two-way prep player who the Blue Jays decided to have focus on Catching last year.  Danner struggled in his first pro season, hitting .160/.207/.248, with a 26.5% K rate.  The news from Florida is encouraging:

Vancouver will probably be Danner’s destination when short season play begins in June.

And finally, while he’s not a Blue Jays prospect, there’s a pretty strong connection here:

Halladay is draft eligible this June, but has committed to Penn State.

Blue Jays 2017 International Review

Pardinho
ESPN photo

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 to 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: