Blue Jays: An International Prospect not Named Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Toronto Blue Jays are no strangers when it comes to exploring the international free agent market. One of the best pitching prospects in the organization coming into 2019, Eric Pardinho is looking to make his mark in his second professional season.
Hailing from Luceila, Brazil, Eric Pardinho reached an agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017 once the free agent signing period began on July 1. The two sides would eventually agree on a $1.4 million dollar bonus, with the Blue Jays being the favourite to sign the hard-throwing Brazilian. Not a bad payday at 16 years old.
Ranked as the #14 international prospect in 2017 by Baseball America, Pardinho was the only Brazilian born player ranked within the top 50 prospects. With his signing bonus, he became the highest paid Brazilian born prospect to be signed by an MLB team through the international free agent system. So not only is he rich before he plays one game of professional baseball, but he also has a record.
Pardinho was an interesting prospect because he was one of two pitchers who was ranked within the top 25 international prospects in 2017, with all the rest of the players being position players.
One thing that does separate Pardinho from the other international prospects is his use in high leverage situations. At 15 years old, the Brazilian would represent his national team at the World Baseball Classic, pitching in the 6th inning during a qualifying game against Pakistan. He would give up a hit and a walk, but would not allow a run over the inning. Quite impressive for a kid who should just be starting high school.
When the Blue Jays signed him, they sent him to begin his professional career in Bluefield in the Rookie Appalachian League in 2018.
As a 17-year-old, this was quite a step considering he would be considerably younger than his counterparts, with the average age differential for pitchers compared to the Brazilian was roughly estimated at 4 to 5 years and 4.6 for batters per Baseball-Reference. He was essentially a teenager pitching against men and he was impressive.
In his first year of professional ball, he would pitch to a 4-3 record and a 2.88 ERA. He would start 11 games and would pitch in 50 innings, giving up 37 hits over 16 walks and 64 strikeouts. Like I said earlier, very impressive for a 17 year old playing his first year of professional baseball.
The upside with Eric Pardinho is his arm strength and his ability to control his secondary pitches. He currently sits in the low 90’s with his fastball but has reached 94-96 MPH on the gun. His best secondary pitch is his curveball, but in 2018 he also added a slider to complement a curveball and a changeup, fully completing his arsenal.
When you watch video highlights of Pardinho, the first things you notice are the torque in his body and the extension of his leg when he fires to the plate. Even when he is in the stretch, he still gets full body movement from his lower half and can get so much velocity behind the ball.
When his windup is slowed down, you can see how the arm angle is just in the perfect slot and rotation, and just helps add to his velocity. With the torque and pushing off with his lower body, the movement just becomes natural and adds to the velocity on his fastball and some deception on his secondary pitch delivery.
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His control of both his fastball and secondary pitches is also quite impressive, which can be seen in his line in that he pitched 50 innings only giving up 16 walks. He also only hit 1 batter during his time in Bluefield.
During his first professional year, you can imagine that he was on a pitch count to limit the amount of wear and tear on his body. The highest he would pitch in the season was 85 pitches, and his last four games were between 70-80 pitches in each outing. This makes sense on the organizations part, as Pardinho is in his first professional season and is likely still adjusting to pitching in the United States.
He is also only a teenager and still has an opportunity to add some weight and some muscle that could easily add some MPH to his pitches across the board, making him even more deadly than he already is.
Now here comes the bad news, because no prospect in the Jays organization can make it through unscathed.
He has not pitched in 2019 due to elbow soreness in his right elbow (which is his throwing arm). Pardinho has been assigned to the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts but has yet to appear due to the injury and started the season on the 7-day injured list.
While you obviously do not want to assume the worst, I am hopeful that this is just a minor injury and will not lead to a long layoff like TMJ (I’m not even going to fully write it out just to be safe). There hasn’t been any recent news on the injury front, so we will have to wait and see what will happen with the right-hander.
An 18-year-old Brazilian flamethrower sits in the depths of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system and has the potential to be ace material in the major leagues. In the near future, Eric Pardinho will hopefully join a star-studded team of homegrown prospects, and he just may be the one leading the charge in the starting rotation (he and Nate Pearson can fight over it).