Eric Pardinho is 16 years old and a Toronto Blue Jay pitching prospect, but he’s already an international superstar.
Eric Pardinho’s notoriety is not hard to notice. Simply Google his name; what would typically result in a few pages from Baseball Reference and MLB.com instead turns up articles on how Pardinho is the highest-paid Brazilian baseball prospect ever and, halfway down the page, an illuminating headline — “Pardinho, 16, emerging as Brazil’s face of the game.”
And that article was published more than a year ago, before the then-15-year-old Pardinho ever entered Toronto’s sports bubble.
Yes, even before the Blue Jays signed Eric Pardinho to a record-setting $1.4 million deal in early July of 2017, he was a superstar in Brazil. Just over a week before the Blue Jays signed Pardinho, the Associated Press published a short feature on the pitcher, showering nothing but praise on the potential starter.
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“The young Brazilian’s changeup and slider have also earned praise from local coaches,” the article reads, “who already see him as a potential national star when baseball returns to the Olympics in 2020 at Tokyo. At the moment, Brazil has only one player in the majors, Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes.”
But praise doesn’t just come from external sources; Toronto’s own assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish told Ben Nicholson-Smith in August that he had “never seen a kid at this stage with this kind of fastball command and overall fastball effectiveness.”
The reasoning behind the advance praise is clear when considering the details of Pardinho’s play. He maintains four main pitches — a fastball that can reach 95 MPH, a slider, a curveball and a change-up — and was given a scouting score of 50 overall by MLB Pipeline at the end of the 2017 season. His fastball, which earns him the most acclaim, was given a score of 60.
Prior to his signing with the Blue Jays, Pardinho was ranked as the fifth-best international prospect, and was the only pitcher within the top 20.
One potential roadblock in Pardinho’s future as he anticipates playing his first games in the Blue Jays system in 2018, is his height. At only 5’9″ (or 5’10”, or 5’8″, depending who you trust), the prospect’s size concerns some scouts as to how he may fill out in the coming years, although the general consensus is that, on the whole, Pardinho is good enough to overcome the disadvantage.
The Associated Press article reads:
"“Some time ago there was an issue with shorter players, but now there are teams that don’t care,” [Pardinho] said. “It matters more that I have a safe fastball and two more good options, including a curveball that I control well.”Other major league hopefuls agree: Facing Pardinho is a huge challenge.“Pardinho’s curveball is amazing, he is more than fast,” said third baseman Victor Coutinho, also 16. “His height doesn’t matter because his arm can do wonders.”Heitor Tokar, who is also a pitcher, practices with Pardinho every day and believes in his friend’s future in the sport.“Pardinho doesn’t feel any difference when he throws against players taller than him, he destroys them all,” Tokar said."
Said Tinnish about Pardinho’s height: “We’ve got a right-handed pitcher who’s relatively short here and he does all right. You don’t necessarily have to be big to throw hard and throw strikes.”
Pardinho’s repeatable delivery and experienced approach on the mound is yet another factor in his favour as a top prospect.
Pardinho has experience competing internationally, playing in the 2015 U14 Pan American Championship, 2016 U16 Pan American Championship and the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers for Brazil. In the WBC Qualifiers, Pardinho was four years younger than the second youngest player on the team.
While substantiated concerns about Pardinho’s size rightly give some scouts and executives cause for concern, there is little he can do to lower his value. While he isn’t expected to reach the major league level until the early 2020s, Pardinho’s age is on his side, and Toronto may have a star on their hands — even if it is a long time coming.