The International Free Agent Class of 2017 may turn out to be a very fruitful group with three within the Blue Jays Top 20 Prospect List
Last week’s ‘Blue Jays ’17 Draft and the 2020 Fisher Cats Infield’ post, which looked at how 2017 draftees Cullen Large, Ryan Noda, Kevin Smith, Kacy Clemens, and Logan Warmoth will be shaping New Hampshire’s infield, lead me to take a closer look at the 2017 International Free Agent Class.
Not all IFA signees progress through the minor leagues as quickly as former 2015 IFA signee Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Most IFA signees typically require a lot of patience. According to Baseball America “International Reviews: Toronto Blue Jays” (full post), the Toronto Blue Jays made 38 International Free Agent signings. The Blue Jays top signing that year was 5-foot-9 starter Eric Pardinho for $1.4M. Pardinho is currently one of Toronto’s top 10 prospects despite an elbow injury costing him most of 2019.
As a member of the A-Ball Lansing Lugnuts, the promising righty went 1-1 with a 2.41ERA, 3.65xFIP, and a 1.25WHIP in 33.2IP (7 starts). The 19-yr-old finished with 8.02K/9 and 3.48BB/9, generating a 44.1GB% while holding opponents to a .236BA. Pardinho is expected to join the A-Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays in 2020 where the training staff can keep a close eye in his elbow. If healthy, he is expected to push his K/9 back up to 10+ with a tidy sub 3.00ERA. Once Nate Pearson loses his prospect status will challenge Alek Manoah and Simeon Woods Richardson for the title of the Blue Jays top pitching prospect.
The next highest signing the Blue Jays handed out in 2017 was Leonardo Jimenez. The slick-fielding shortstop out of Panama received an $825K bonus. Through two seasons (95GP), Jimenez has yet to leave the yard. Jimenez posted a healthy .354wOBA with a .298BA, 8.6BB%, and a 17.1K% as a member of Bluefield (Rookie-Ball). The 18-yr-old finished the year with the Lansing Lugnuts, appearing in two games. An excellent fielder, Leonardo Jimenez committed just one error in 2019. He has a chance to start the 2020 season with Lansing where his bat will be put to the test. His prospect ranking is highly variable. Fangraphs graded the light-hitting infielder with a 20/50 hit tool, 20/40 GamePower, and 40/45 RawPower while ranking him as the clubs 12th best prospect. I’ve seen him ranked 20-ish on other lists.
Dominican infielder Miguel Hiraldo received a $750K signing bonus. He was considered one of the top hitting prospects in the 2017 class. Since turning pro, Miguel Hiraldo has shown off a quick bat which allowed him to hit .300+ in his rookie season (2018) and 2019. As a member of the Bluefield Blue Jays, Miggy finished with a .372wOBA, .300BA, 5.5BB%, 14.1K%, and a .181ISO in 56 games. Hiraldo played more 2nd base in 2019 but could see time at 3rd base in 2020 when he joins the Lansing Lugnuts. The 19-yr-old is currently on the cusp of cracking the Blue Jays top 10 prospect list. I’m hoping Hiraldo will reach double-digit home runs with a .300-ish batting average.
The righty was signed out of Venezuela for $750K. Baseball America raved about Melean’s “fluid, athletic delivery and quick arm speed, throwing 88-92mph, upper 70’s curve, which flashes above-average with tight spin”. Melean spent 2019 with Bluefield, posting a record of 1-1, 5.57ERA with a 4.85xFIP. Alejandro made 6 starts, throwing 21IP while striking out 10.71/9IP and walking 6.43/9IP. Alejandro Melean induced a lofty 47.2GB%, allowing 2 home runs. In 2020, Melean has a chance at bypassing the Vancouver Canadians to join the Lugnut’s rotation and primed for a breakout season. You might find his name in the mid to upper 40’s on really deep Top Prospect Lists.
The outfielder was signed for $500K out of the Dominican Republic. The 19-yr-old had a good 2019 being named to the GCL Post-Season All-Star team. In 47 games, Rodriguez batted .301BA with a .373wOBA with a 9.7BB% and 16.4K%. Rodriguez swiped 13 bases in 15 attempts and hit a pair of home runs with a .121ISO. His strong 2019 likely earned him a spot in the C’s outfield in 2020.
The Blue Jays signed the Dominican shortstop for $350K. In two years since turning pro, Nunez hasn’t impressed. He struggled as a member of the GCL Blue Jays with a .260wOBA, .173BA, and a 20.9K%. Nunez posted a 7.8BB% with a .113ISO and 3HR in 39GP. Rainer might need to repeat the level.
Rivas signed for $280K out of Venezuela. Jose spent 2019 as a member of the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays where he batted .284 with a .377wOBA and .128ISO. The 19-yr-old infielder is expected to join the C’s infield in 2020.
Signed for $200K from the same program in Venezuela as Alejandro Melean, Govea was considered a ‘prolific strike-thrower’. Ronald had an excellent rookie season with a 2.30ERA and 3.72xFIP. Govea finished with a 6.44K/9 and 1.99BB/9 in 13 starts. Ronald Govea started the year in the GCL Blue Jays bullpen but only made two appears in June. Unfortunately, Govea missed a month (June 26th to July 26th) and finished with just 5 appearances and 4.2IP. We can expect Govea to return to the GCL.
INF Jose Zepeda
Signed out of Mexico, Zepeda played 27 games for the GCL Blue Jays in 2019. Zepeda drew 21 walks and struck out 14 times while stealing 6 bases. He batted just .225 with 4 doubles and a HR.
Signed out of Venezuela, Jimenez played just 15 games (mostly in August) in 2019 for the GCL.
OF Jhon Solarte
The switch hitter has put up back-to-back solid seasons. In 49 games, Solarte hit .275 with a .373OBP while hitting 3HR for the GCL Blue Jays. He walked 26 times and struck out 41 times.
LHP Adrian Hernandez
GCL- 3-2, 8.02ERA in 16 appearances (21.1IP).
RHP Williams Moreno
GCL- 3-3, 4.05ERA in 14 appearances (20.0IP).
RHP Eliezer Bello
GCL- 0-2, 10.97ERA in 13 appearances (10.2IP).
RHP Jose Brito
GCL- 0-2, 13.97ERA in 13 appearances (9.2IP)
RHP Miguel Olivo
GCL- 1-0, 0.69ERA in 11 appearances (13.0IP)
RHP Alexis Carmona
GCL- 1-1, 5.81ERA in 3 appearances and 5 starts (31.0IP)
RHP Santos Moreno
GCL- 1-1, 3.41ERA in 5 appearances and 3 starts (34.1IP).
RHP Juan Acosta
Bluefield- 3-2, 7.49ERA in 16 appearances (33.2IP)
*Featured Image Courtesy Of Ryan Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.