The Blue Jays are reported to have deals with nine top international pool players already on day 1 of the international signing period
July 2nd is the first day of the new international signing period. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams have a minimum of $4.75 million to spend on signing international free agents who are at least 17 years old (or will turn 17 by the end of their first contract year)
It is common for teams to have discussions with players before July 2nd, so there is frequently a rush of deals announced on the first day. This year has been no exception, with more than half of the top prospects reported as finalizing deals so far.
The Jays have been particularly active, reportedly agreeing to terms with six of the top prospects (and it is only 2 pm EST as I write this!). Players with whom the Jays are said to have deals (the numbers after the name show the player’s ranking by Baseball America and MLB.com):
*Note- the team signed three more players (Jhon Solarte, Jose Rivas, and Erickvi Celedonio after this article was submitted for review.
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Eric Pardinho, rhp, Brazil (BA #14, MLB.com #5) – reported $1.4 million deal
Much has been written about Eric’s overpowering performance in the Pan-American Championships (6 IP, 14K, 1BB) and how he pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Brazil at the age of 15. He is one of the best pitching prospects (if not THE best) in this year’s international class.
Baseball America is particularly high on Eric, saying that:
"No 16-year-old pitcher this year has a better combination of present stuff and pitchability than Pardinho. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and can reach 94. He throws a sharp, tight-spinning curveball with true top-to-bottom action that already flashes plus and gives him an out pitch. Pardinho throws with minimal effort from an easy delivery with smooth arm action and good extension. He repeats his mechanics, throws strikes at a high rate and has feel to pitch well beyond his years."
The knock against Eric is his size: he is 5’9″ or 5’10” (depending on the source) and 155-160 lbs. But at only 16 years old, he still has room to grow – and even if he doesn’t, HDMH.
Miguel Hiraldo, ss, Dominican Republic (BA#23, MLB.com #17) – reported $750,000 deal
Miguel is one of the best pure hitters in this year’s draft class, with a powerful, short swing and good plate awareness. Mlb.com says that:
"This much is certain: Hiraldo is a hit-first prospect and he has a chance to be a special player on offense. Scouts like Hiraldo’s approach and his swing. He’s a mature player with quick hands, a plan at the plate and he can hit the ball hard to all fields"
Many scouts believe that it is unlikely that Miguel will remain at SS, believing that 3B or a corner OF position is a more likely end destination. But if Miguel realizes his offensive potential, the Jays are certain to find a position for him.
Alejandro Melean, rhp, Venezuela (BA #32)
Alejandro is an interesting prospect in that he does not have an overpowering fastball (though his curve has plus potential), but instead relies on a three-pitch mix, a clean delivery, and a feel for pitching. He impressed at the International prospects showcase, and Baseball America notes that
"Melean has been up to 92 mph with his fastball, which has solid sinking action, and he does a good job throwing his fastball for strikes. His curveball is among the best in the class, a mid-to-upper 70s pitch with sharp break and good depth to miss bats or freeze hitters, giving him a potential out pitch"
Leonardo Jimenez, ss, Panama (BA#36)
Leonardo is an excellent natural athlete who (like most 16 year olds) is still learning the game. He is an intelligent hitter and has good “game awareness”, but probably lacks the crazy-good reflexes required to stay at SS at the major league level. One writer puts it this way:
"A natural athlete, Leonardo Jimenez will garnish a lot of publicity for what he could become one day. In terms of right now, I see someone with a lot of moving parts in their swing. Jimenez overcomes all of his mechanical flaws in batting practice due to his natural ability to make contact. He’ll have great upside if the right team can get their hands on him."
Alberto Rodriguez, of, Dominican Republic (BA #38)
Scouts are divided on Alberto. Some feel that his hit tool lacks the power for him to play at a corner OF position, and say that his road to the majors depends on his ability to stay in CF. They express concern that his speed, rated as plus in 2016, was only rated as average in the MLB International Showcase in February. Other writers are more optimistic:
"Rodriguez stood out to me while watching film as someone who has a great swing, good power and a sturdy frame. The fact that Rodriguez has very good speed is only a bonus. I think this guy is going to be an under the radar steal."
The Jays made an additional deal for Rainer Diaz, a SS from the Dominican Republic.
The bottom line
Before you get too excited, remember that these are 16-year-olds whose baseball careers are just beginning. They might turn out to be the next Roberto Osuna (international signing, 2011), but they could as easily be a Jesus Gonzalez, drafted in the same year. On the whole, though, I like the Jays’ reasoning – if there is no single Vlad Jr. available, sign a couple of the top 20 and a handful of lottery tickets and hope for the best.