Blue Jays signings: Get to know SS Jiovanni Mier


In shortstop Jiovanni Mier, the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to breathe life in to a fallen star prospect.

The Toronto Blue Jays added shortstop Jiovanni Mier to the organization on Monday on a minor league contract including an invitation to spring training. Alongside David Adams and veteran first baseman Casey Kotchman, who we profiled here earlier today, Mier is expected to bolster the Blue Jays thin depth at the AA and AAA levels.

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Whereas a player like Kotchman represents a more steady and known commodity, Mier’s wildcard attribute leaves him as the most intriguing addition of the three. Mier is former first round pick of the Houston Astros, 21st overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, one spot after the Blue Jays selected Chad Jenkins and four spots ahead of where the Angels selected Mike Trout. Entering the 2010 season, Baseball America ranked Mier as the number two prospect in the Astros organization and number 76 in all of baseball.

Standing at 6’2″, 180 pounds, Mier is a right-handed hitting and throwing shortstop, though he has recently seen limited time at second and third base. Despite topping out with AAA Oklahoma City at age 23 in 2014, his most recent minor league season was spent with AA Corpus Cristi in the Texas League. Mier has spent his entire professional career with the Astros organization.

“We thought he was the best baseball player in this Draft,” said Bobby Heck, the Houston Astros general manager in charge of scouting after selecting Mier in 2009.

The Distant Past:

Mier was a rarity coming out of the MLB Draft: a High School shortstop projected to remain at the position longterm with little opposition. While his speed was never viewed to be a plus tool, his defensive instincts, positioning, fundamentals and arm talent were all projected to possess a high ceiling. “Wiry” is the term you’ll come across in old scouting reports of Mier, and more than once, you’ll find a Nomar Garciaparra comparison. 

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His first step in pro ball was extremely encouraging, playing 51 games with Greeneville in the Appalachian League as an 18-year old. That season, Mier posted a slash line of .276 / .380 / .484 with seven home runs. This added some belief to his power tool, which was originally viewed as limited. Over the next few seasons, Mier would struggle while bouncing between A and Hi-A before again sparking his prospect status in 2012 with the Advanced-A Lancaster JetHawks of the California League.

In that season, Mier would post an .805 OPS over 46 games, and a subsequent strong showing in the Arizona Fall League would see him promoted to AA Corpus Cristi to begin the 2013 season. Hope was still dwindling, but not entirely dead yet.

The Recent Past:

The AA and AAA levels have been wholly unkind to Mier. That 2013 season with Corpus Cristi saw him post a .194 average over 406 plate appearances, producing just 10 doubles and taking most of the remaining air out of his prospect status. A .225 average split between AA and AAA in 2014 would deepen that sentiment, and in an organization with as much young talent as the Astros, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

In a full year of AA this past season, Mier posted a line of .258 / .350 / .372 with seven home runs, 18 doubles and 57 RBIs. A serviceable campaign by all means, but as a 24-year old coming from the prospect status of Mier, it was largely dismissed.

What Mier Offers:

Now at 25 years old, Mier’s potential hasn’t completely evaporated. This does make him a slightly volatile projection for 2016, but as a natural shortstop, there will be plenty of opportunity. Mier has not consistently played up to his defensive potential with the Astros, but maintains the ceiling of a plus defender when his fundamental game is sound and focused.

At the plate, 10 home runs over a full season of at-bats is likely the power ceiling, but what Toronto will hope to bring out in Mier is a line-drive attribute that would lead to more doubles. Still, with his frame, some mechanical changes to his swing could squeeze out a little more power. This needs to be helped along by some increased contact rates, and if Mier can barrel up the ball more consistently, his offense could bloom late.

Next: Three intriguing Blue Jays middle infielders to watch in 2016...

Where Mier Fits:

Whereas Kotchman seems to be a plug-and-play AAA starter, Mier’s case has far more variables. The major league roster isn’t part of this conversation by any means, but if he’s able to impress in spring training and earn a regular spot with the AAA Buffalo Bisons, that should be viewed as an overall success. Still, the possibility remains that he does not open the season at that level.

The intrigue with Mier lies in the hope that something remains of his potential. It’s good to have a balance of Kotchman types and Mier types in the upper minors, so keep his name bookmarked in your mind as a reclamation project to track throughout 2016.