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.

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Morelvis: Blue Jays Favourites to Sign Dominican SS Martinez

The Blue Jays are said to be the front-runners in the Orelvis Martinez sweepstakes, the Dominican SS who will likely receive the highest bonus on the July 2nd opening of the international free agent signing period.

Martinez will likely command a bonus of more than $3 million, soaking up much of the Blue Jays’ $4.75 million bonus pool allotment.  This is the first year of new rules regarding exceeding pool limits.  In the past, teams could blow past their limit, and pay a penalty, and have their bonuses limited the following season (as the Jays did when they signed Vladimir Guerrero Jr). A hard cap is now in place.  Teams can increase their pool through trades, or by competitive balance means.

Ben Badler of Baseball America was in the Domincian Republic this week to catch MLB’s Showcase of top international talent, who notes Martinez:

 Has fast hands and a calm, easy swing that generates power and loft from right-center over to his pull side.

At 5’11″/180, the 16 year old still has plenty of room for growth, and is not projected to stay at SS in the long term.  His bat and body seem to indicate an ultimate landing at 3B.

The Blue Jays have shown a preference over the past two years for toolsy, athletic players, with make up being a key component – “the 6th tool” as Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim has termed it.

Martinez’ 6.98 time in the 60 isn’t exactly slow, but it’s not a time you would expect from a natural SS, again lending support to the idea that he’s moved off of the position eventually.  His bat will likely be his calling card, anyway.

Blue Jays Linked to Top 2018 IFA SS

Ben Badler of Baseball America attended the showcase of top prospects for next July 2nd in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, and in an article today suggested that the Blue Jays are the odds-on favourite to land 15 year-old SS Orelvis Martinze next summer.  Martinez is expected to command the highest bonus of all IFAs when he signs.

Fresh off this past July 2nd, when the club signed 5 of the top 40 ranked prospects, including Brazilian P Eric Pardinho, the Blue Jays appear to be very competitive in the IFA market.

Martinez showed well in pre-game batting practice and drills during the event, which was held by Major League Baseball.  Having not played in several months, he was rusty at the plate, however.  And his below average 60-yard times suggest that the 5’11″/175 youngster will eventually grow off of the position.

At the plate, Martinez already shows smooth mechanics.  His bat takes a short path to the ball, and he gets good extension on his swing.  He barrels up ball consistently with excellent bat speed.  His motions are fluid and swift.  In the field, he doesn’t show actions that are as smooth, and that coupled with his relative lack of speed lend support to the idea that he may shift over to 3rd. His hit tool is the strongest element of his toolkit.  With the loft he gets on his swing, it’s easy to project some power down the road.

Of course, it’s highly unofficial that Martinez will sign with the Blue Jays.  As we have learned in the past, however, where there’s international prospect smoke, there’s usually fire.  Pardinho was linked to the Jays well in advance of this year’s July 2nd signing date, as was Vladimir Guerrero Jr two years ago.  Credit goes to Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, and Director of Latin American Ops Sandy Rosario for their work.  Despite bonus limits imposed last year by signing Vladdy Jr the previous one, the Blue Jays got good value from the players they did sign in 2016, despite not being able to offer a bonus beyond $300K.

Martinez is expected to sign for a bonus in the neighbourhood of $3 million. Cuban RHP Oseil Reodriguez, who hit 96 at the showcase, will likely be the top IFA Pitcher.