International News and Notes: February 12

A.J. Jimenez
A.J. Jimenez

 

Since there really isn’t much coming out of the Blue Jays in recent days, I’m going to write about some international stuff that’s been in the headlines lately.

 

 

Right now we’ve got some exciting events happening on the international front. With Cuban infielders Yoan Moncada and Hector Olivera officially hitting the free agent market, scouts have been attending showcases in the Dominican Republic. Angelo Bastardo reported that he didn’t see any Blue Jays personnel down there scouting these two free agents.

 

I’ve already written about what I think is going to happen with Moncada. Reports are that the Blue Jays already have an agreement in place with Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to sign with the Jays on July 2 for about $3.2 million and if the Jays actually were to sign Moncada, they would not be able to make any signings over $300,000 in the next two years, nullifying their agreement with Vlad Jr. The Jays would also have to pay a huge penalty (100%) on anything above and beyond their bonus cap for 2014 on the signing bonus to Moncada and his bonus is going to be so high (possibly in the $30 million range) that for the Blue Jays to pay out up to $60 million just in signing bonus money and penalties would be way beyond anything that the team has ever done and could be expected to do.

 

Olivara, however, is an intriguing player who I wish the Blue Jays would at least scout. He’s 29 years old which means that whatever signing bonus he gets won’t be included under the international signing bonus cap. Ben Badler was extremely enthusiastic about Olivera and most people think that he’ll get more money than Rusney Castillo did ($72 million over six years) because scouts believe that he’ll be able to make an impact as an above-average major leaguer right away. Obviously, the $12 million per year price tag and the six-plus year commitment is going to be what drives the Blue Jays away. They’ve said that they’re happy with what they’ve got at second base although I think the fans beg to differ.

 

I was hoping the Jays would be in on Jung-Ho Kang as well (I got my hopes up there for a second) and it looks like the Blue Jays are going to miss out on some good international talent at the keystone position.

 

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Speaking of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., click the link. Ben Badler of Baseball America posted a Vine of him swinging the bat and . . . I like it. The swing is a bit long and he takes a long time to load but I love how he gets extension and rotates. He’s only 15 right now and, if reports are true, he’ll be coming to the Blue Jays in July and will be on the baseball field (probably in Florida) in 2016. I wonder if the Blue Jays signed Vlad Sr. to that minor league deal a few years back to curry favour in getting his kid to sign on in 2015 . . .

 

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Finally, Matt Eddy of Baseball America (yep, they have the best international coverage out there) posted a list of 12 players who had big winter league seasons that could carry them over into 2015. Coming in at #8 is our friend A.J. Jimenez, the “catcher of the future” for the Blue Jays for a few years. While he hasn’t really developed with the bat as much as we’ve hoped, the 24 year old is just on the cusp of the big leauges, having spent 2014 in Buffalo and New Hampshire, hitting a combined .249/.289/.351. His numbers in Buffalo, in 237 plate appearances, were actually better, coming in at .260/.295/.356 with 13 doubles, a triple and two home runs and he threw out 42% of potential base stealers.

 

In the Puerto Rican Winter League, Jimenez played 32 games and finished fifth in the batting race with a .311/.372/.437 line, hitting eight doubles, a triple and a home run. He went 3/7 with three singles and a walk in the Caribbean Series. Now the biggest knocks that I have on Jimenez’s winter is that the PWL is probably a good step below the better winter leagues in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela so the competition level isn’t as high. Also, while Jimenez is showing very good contact skills (only nine strikeouts), he’s not showing much power. There’s probably some decent gap-to-gap power in there but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect even a double-digit home run total from Jimenez in the majors some day. The most encouraging thing about his winter, however, is his walk rate which is much higher than his 5-6% rate in the minors.

 

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There’s a reason we’ve been so quiet over here of late. We’re fervently working on the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook that will be released around April 1 this year! Additionally, we’re prepping this site for some major changes that will begin to be incrementally rolled out around March 1. Stay tuned for more!

 

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