The Blue Jays signed international free agent Eric Pardinho in 2017, and at 17 years old, he’s already showing scouts why there was so much interest in him.
The Blue Jays have one of the most exciting minor league systems in baseball, and most of the interest is around position players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette. There are plenty of others like Cavan Biggio, Anthony Alford, Kevin Smith, and more, which adds up to a potentially exciting future for the Blue Jays lineup card on offence.
There hasn’t been nearly as much talk about the future of the pitching staff, mostly because there aren’t as many premium prospects. There is definitely talent in the system, but no one that jumps off the page like Guerrero with his 80 hit tool rating. At least not yet.
There are talented arms to be optimistic about to be sure. Ryan Borucki has been very good lately, and lowered his ERA in Triple-A Buffalo to 3.27 after throwing seven shutout innings on Tuesday, and could be the next man up if the Blue Jays have an injury in the rotation, or trade away someone like J.A. Happ or Marco Estrada. There’s also Nate Pearson, although the excitement about him was dampened a bit when he suffered a broken ulna on a come-backer earlier this year.
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The one arm in the system that Blue Jays fans should arguably be most excited about is a long way from pitching for the big league club, but he could be on a fast track at a very young age. Eric Pardinho is still literally a kid, but he’s already impressed Blue Jays scouts and coaches enough to warrant making his pro debut, at just 17 years old.
He made his first appearance for the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Rookie Appalachian League on Wednesday, and didn’t look out of place at all against much older competition. He got the start against the Johnson City Cardinals, and while he took the loss, he was pretty impressive. He managed to go four innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run, striking out five against two walks. The Blue Jays just opened their season on Tuesday, as the Rookie League is a short season schedule.
He was only allowed to throw 65 pitches in his first outing, which makes sense given how young he is. He did throw 39 of them for strikes, and the Blue Jays have to be encouraged by the fact that he struck out five while walking just two batters. A 60% strike ratio isn’t ideal, but it’s definitely a great starting point for the young hurler.
Pardinho is already a bit of a cult hero in his native Brazil, and was the first player to receive a signing bonus of more than one million dollars from his country. The Blue Jays signed him as an international free agent last summer, and handed him a 1.4 million dollar bonus in the deal. While it may seem like a lot to hand a 16 year old, this isn’t an ordinary teenager.
Pardinho impressed scouts and baseball fans everywhere with his appearance in the World Baseball Classic at just 15 years old, and has been ranked as a top five international prospect on several lists already. He’ll need some some to mature and develop into a big league arm, but he’s definitely got the stuff to dream on as a Blue Jays fan, and there’s a good chance he’s not close to done physically maturing.
So while we’re all patiently waiting for the likes of Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio, and more to terrorize AL pitchers someday, know that there are some pretty darn good arms in the minor league system too. Pardinho might be the best of them all, even if it’ll be awhile before he makes the final jump to the big leagues.