Blue Jays: The International Prospect who is not a household name
In 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays made news by signing international free agent and 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to $3.9 million dollars. What you may not know is that the Blue Jays also committed $3.5 million to another Dominican prospect in 2018, and he may be just as talented as Guerrero Jr.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. dominating headlines across major league baseball (for both good and CBA related bad reasons), the international free agent market is a gold mine when it comes to finding players with raw talent and lots of years of control.
Enter Orelvis Martinez.
For two years the Toronto Blue Jays scouted and watched Martinez, eying him over those years until he reached the age of 16 and could finally be drafted through the international free agent process. He would fetch $3.5 million dollars from the Blue Jays through the process and was ranked as the 7th best international prospect by Baseball America before being signed.
When the dust was settled, only Victor Victor Mesa would garner more signing bonus money at $5.25 million by the Miami Marlins, which makes sense considering he was the #1 ranked international free agent prospect in 2018 and significantly older (he defected from Cuba).
When the Blue Jays signed Martinez, they were focused on his bat speed and his ability to hit for both contact and power. The organization felt that his bat and his arm were worth the signing bonus money, in that many scouts compare Martinez to fellow Dominican Adrian Beltre, which is very high praise for a young prospect.
As of right now, Orelvis Martinez is slated as a shortstop (as are all other infield international prospects in the free agent market), but there is a greater chance that he will move to 3B as he grows and fills out more. His stance at the plate also includes a high leg kick and incredible bat speed, something that may change as he begins to play professional baseball in the Blue Jays organization.
When you watch video highlights of Martinez, you can see just the raw power he possesses just through his swing through the batter’s box alone. When he moves his legs and turns his body into the ball, it just looks like poetry in motion.
His fielding at shortstop also looks to be pretty solid, as he attacks the ball and throws over to first. The power out of his arm does make him a more ideal candidate for third base, and I kind of wish he could be tested on the hot corner just to see how quickly he could get the ball over the diamond. Time will tell if we see a positional change in the near future.
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What makes an international free agent so mysterious is the age in which they sign. When Martinez was signed, he was only 16 years old and had never played in a ‘professional’ baseball game. When he signs with the Jays, he will move over and train in their Dominican complex and may see some time in the rookie leagues in 2019 or 2020. With no real game experience and with mentors/trainers guiding the young prospects in their respective countries, it takes a lot of guts (or stupidity, depends who you ask) to fork over so much cash on a prospect who is barely shaving.
There is a significant amount of risk when a team spends a significant amount of money on a prospect that has not been scouted like an American collegiate or high school player. There is a risk that Martinez will not be able to play and perform just like he did in the Dominican Republic when he comes over stateside.
This is where the Blue Jays development team has to help the player learn and grow in a new league, and hope his baseball instincts and talent help move him along towards the big leagues.
Hopefully, with training from the Blue Jays farm system and the raw talent of the player, there is a chance that in 3-4 years, there will be another infield prospect being held in Buffalo with some injury that clears up around mid-April. You know how spring training can be.