JFtC looks at Alex Anthopoulos’ final International Free-Agent signing class as General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, as we review the Class of 2015
The Toronto Blue Jays made a huge splash in the 2015/16 signing period when they signed No.1 International Free-Agent Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Even after trading RHP Chase De Jong and 2B Tim Locastro to the Los Angeles Dodgers for additional pool space the Blue Jays went over with the VGJ signing.
It is unlikely that Toronto will make another big signing prior to July 2nd when the 2016/17 signing period begins, as they will look to avoid being further penalized. Clubs that spend more than their allotted IFA pools are subjected to an average penalty of up to 100 percent and subsequent signing restrictions in following signing periods.
As it stands, Vlad Jr’s signing bonus of $3.9M put the Blue Jays over their allotted pool by 15%; therefore, Toronto is required to to pay a 100% tax on the overage and won’t be able to hand out bonuses greater than 500K during the 2016/17 signing period. That means Ross Atkins and Co. will look to find quality in quantity.
The Dominican Summer League Blue Jays had a few young men make their professional debuts after July 2nd; however, there is no signing dates for these guys.
Class of 2015
3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Born in Montreal)
Considered by many clubs as this year’s top hitting prospect, the Blue Jays are extremely excited about his potential. At 17-yrs-old, VGJ stands 6’1, 200lbs, so there is some growth potential in his large frame. Vladdy Junior will start his career as a 3rd baseman, but could see time as a corner outfielder before settling into a 1st base/designated hitter. Many eyes will be on this young man as he attempts to follow in his father’s footsteps.
RHP Dany Jimenez (Dominican Republic)
Dany is entering his age 22 season with only 8.2 innings under his belt. The 6’3″ righty allowed 2 home runs, 5 runs on 6 hits in three August appearances. He held opponents to a .188BA and owned a 1.15WHIP as he only walked 4 while striking out 12. Jimenez should start the year in Gulf Coast League.
RHP Luis Mendoza (Venezuela)
Another 6’3″ right-handed pitcher who made just 3 appearances in August. Luis had two appearances where he faced and retired just one batter. In his other appearance Mendoza allowed 2 earned runs on 3 hits while walking one and striking out 3. Talk about a small sample size. Luis Mendoza will likely return to the DSL in 2016 as he enters his age 20 season.
RHP Orlando Pascual (Dominican Republic)
Did the Blue Jays put out a flier on all 6’3″ right-handed pitchers? Orlando is a bigger 6’3″ than Mendoza and Jimenez, weighing in at 210lbs. Orlando made his debut on August 7th with 3 shutout innings. Pascual had a good month in the DSL with a 2-0 record, 0.68ERA and a save in 4 appearances and one start to close out the year. The 20-yr-old (19 at the time) walked one and struck out 9 and finished with 2.34FIP and a 0.90WHIP in 13.1IP. A return to the DSL with more innings in 2016 is likely in the cards for Orlando.
SS Ronald Concepcion (Dominican Republic)
Not much to say here, Ronald appeared in 2 games, August 1st and August 18th. He struck out in his only at-bat on the 1st and walked 3 times and struck out once on the 18th. The 18-yr-old stands 6 foot even and weighs 170lb and should get more playing with Kevin Vicuna likely heading to the GCL in 2016.
SS Javier Monzon (Cuba)
Signed two days after his 23rd birthday, Javier’s signing doesn’t count against the IFA signing pool. Javier doesn’t look like much or he would’ve been signed long ago. He spent some time playing baseball in Spain and should start the season with the Lo-A Lansing Lugnuts.
Instead of hedging their bets on two or three top ranked international free-agents the Blue Jays went all in to land the big fish. It is possible that AA and Co. were planning this all along, as they stocked up on IFA during the 2014/2015 signing period. Signing IFA is a risky business, with many signings failing to make it to full season A-ball. Could this happen to Vladdy-J, for sure it can. He could end up being too aggressive and struggle to make contact. There are many IFA that succeed after signing with little fanfare and to low bonuses.
Whether they are high risk/high reward or low risk/ high reward the Blue Jays will need to continue to be aggressive to maintain their presence in the Latin American market under new management.
*Featured Image Credit: Patrick CC BY-SA 2.0
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