Up next is another prospect that few non-Jays fans may have heard of, and someone who could really move quickly up our top 50 boards during the next few years. Yet another big international investment from Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays, he is none other than…
No. 49: Jesus Gonzalez
Right Fielder / 17 years old / 6′1″ 190 lbs
Born: in Venezuela
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Academy: Ciro Barrios, Venezuela
Signed By: The Toronto Blue Jays for $1,400,000
Jersey Number: n/a
- Worked at the same Academy as fellow Jays international signees Wuilmer Becerra (OF) and most recent (Nov. 3rd, 2011) Jays Venezuelan signee Jesus Tinoco (SP).
- Not to be confused with other Jesus Gonzalez baseball players, such as the one with a middle initial G who the Jays had in their organization through 2009 (a first baseman who only made it as high as HiA Dunedin) or the catcher that played this winter for Boston in the Liga Paralel in Venezuela.
Extra Information and previous experience:
There is no doubt that as you peruse our top 50 Jays prospects list, you will see a few names that have international flair and are so young that it’s hard to get any great amount of information on them. Gonzalez is one of those players, as he was one of many players signed after the Jays failed to lock up top draft pick Tyler Beede to a contract last summer. Now, some say that the Jays spent “Beede money” to go after the top guys they wanted from Latin America, while I simply say that they followed through with a smart investment which they researched thoroughly.
Baseball America (BA) lists the best available international free agents prior to the signing period each year and attempts to guess which will have the largest signing bonus. They also tie them to some MLB teams that have scouted them the most in order to provide some prediction as to where they may sign. They tend to be fairly accurate in doing this simply because they can ask around as to which scouts these prospects have been talking to the most. The Jays evidently scouted Gonzalez heavily, as BA tied him to the Blue Jays when they listed him 21st on their top 40 contract size international free agent list, meaning that they thought he’d get the 21st biggest bonus of the bunch based on the information they had on him.
The fact that the Jays wound up spending more to sign Gonzalez, $1.4 million, than they did to sign Wuilmer Becerra and Dawel Lugo who received $1.3 million each, tells you just how highly the Jays rate him in the scheme of things. However, what is interesting is that altogether, those 3 players added up to exactly $4 million – the total bonus amount reportedly sought by Tyler Beede in order to sign. And the theory lives on… Despite both Becerra and Lugo being rated as the likely receivers of the 5th and 6th highest bonuses respectively by Ben Badler of BA, Gonzalez collected more. Perhaps it’s the lesser risk perceived in Gonzalez, since the Jays have many positions to try him out at based on his best tool: his arm.
Gonzalez trained with Ciro Barrios in Venezuela, an Academy named after Cyrus Barrios, who is also one of the trainers. He joins Wilmer Becerra (Sr), Franklin Prado, Jose Betancourt, Edmundo Martinez, Kerby Fuentes, Angel Hernandez, Gregorio Mendez Tovar Amador, Jean Garcia, Luis Garcia and Galindo Rainier amongst the staff of the establishment. Beccera stated this about the coaching staff Gonzalez has been learning from (translated from this Spanish article):
"“The whole coaching staff is here with the provision of educating these kids to have the opportunity to jump to professional baseball, we work every day with the intention of strengthening the tools for each of those players that reach us from every corner the country”"
The players who participate in this Academy’s program have 2 dominant issues in mind: earning the opportunity to play baseball for a living, and signing the largest possible bonus when doing so. The professional help and 1 on 1 attention they get within this Academy is likely responsible for much of their success in getting players to sign with MLB clubs with large bonuses, and so we have to assume that this staff is doing a great job and have prepared Gonzalez and others signed by the Jays by making the very best of their abilities to this point. Now it’s up to Jays hired staff to continue the development.
Here’s what you need to know about Gonzalez: he’s very young and raw, has a cannon of an arm that Badler calls a “true plus tool“, which is why he is said to fit best in right field, although catcher and third base could also be fits if he is agile enough. Having a strong arm won’t always result in players playing RF, as Anthony Gose will attest to, but it is likely the landing spot for Gonzalez if he hits and generates as much power as some predict he will.
One note about Gonzalez is that he is still growing, as a young 17-year old, and how much he grows could have an impact on his speed in the OF. He is currently rated as having average speed, which should be plenty for him to man RF. However, if he bulks up and slows down as a result, C, LF or 1B could be where he winds up as he climbs the minors ladder.
When it comes to his bat, there’s a clear divide in how scouts rate his power. Some believe he can only display his power in batting practice, while others believe it will translate into games. I say let the coaches settle that argument and hopefully make the necessary changes to use the bat speed he does have most effectively. If the Jays have hired the right people to teach him the ropes in the DSL, and he has the skills and smarts to make the best of his abilities, chances are he’ll make a good transition to the U.S., as fellow Venezuelan Jays prospect Santiago Nessy has proven can be done.
Gonzalez joins Nessy, Beccera, Tinoco, Adonys Cardona, Manuel Cordova, Henderson Alvarez, and many other Venezuelan baseball players within the Jays organization. The Jays have invested heavily into the Venezuelan market since J.P. Ricciardi decided to make it a priority during his tenure at the helm. Therefore, Gonzalez and the latest round of Latin American signees will have plenty of homeland and Spanish speaking team mates to go through the hurdles of the minors with, leaving no excuses behind for lack of progression due to how well they fit in. This will be particularly true when Gonzalez makes the leap to the mainland.
The reason Gonzalez is listed here at No. 49 is the same reason most other international signings begin low on our list: risk. You just never know how Latin American players, particularly those signed to big contracts, will react when they make the jump to playing baseball in the U.S. and therefore have to patiently wait for results to point to how well they adapt. For now, judging from the bonus the Jays provided him with, we have to feel satisfied in knowing that the Jays truly believe he could become something special.
Expected 2012 team: DSL Blue Jays
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: A power-armed right fielder who can hit for some power.
While I can understand the Jays investment in Gonzalez due to his arm and power potential, I feel that they may have many more compelling international prospects within the organization. Where Gonzalez stands out from the usual Jays international investments under Alex Anthopoulos is in the position. He’s likely to be a corner outfielder or first baseman when all is said and done, while the Jays have invested heavily in middle-of-the-field players (C/P/SS/2B/CF) who can be switched to other positions later on if the situation warrants it. So, the risk is particularly high in the case of Gonzalez.
If he can’t generate enough power or make enough contact to play RF or 1B, the Jays could have a sunk cost on their hands. This is why we still have Gonzalez behind some of the other 2011 signees, despite his higher signing bonus. We still look forward to seeing what he can do and hope the investment pays off for the Jays!