By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
While most Canadians think of July 2 as the day after Canada Day, it has importance in the world of Major (and Minor) League Baseball as the day that 16-year-old international players are eligible to sign with big league teams.
The Blue Jays made a huge splash in 2015, signing Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and, after a year in the penalty box for exceeding their allotted bonus pool (when they couldn't make any signings for over $300,000), they waded back into the international pool last year, signing Brazilian pitcher Eric Pardinho among other prominent players including Miguel Hiraldo and Leonardo Jimenez. Players signed in this signing period are unable to play until 2019 but will likely head to the Jays' facility in the Dominican Republic to train.
In 2018, the Blue Jays have signed one of the top rated international players, getting shortstop Orelvis Martinez for a bonus of $3,500,000 and both MLB.com and Baseball America say that this bonus will be the highest bonus for any single player in this year's international class. MLB.com ranks Martinez as the No. 4 international prospect in this year's class and Baseball America has Martinez ranked at No. 7.
So who is Orelvis Martinez? MLB.com says that scouts see similarities between Santo-Domingo-born Martinez and Rangers' third baseman Adrian Beltre at the same age. He is a "hard-hitting infielder with a good projectable body and a strong arm. . . . At the plate, Martinez has a good rhythm and a short, compact swing with plus bat speed. He has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average power." They also say that some scouts think he'll move to third base from shortstop and can be an above-average defender.
Baseball America notes that Martinez, who trains with Rudy Santin who produced last year's No. 1 international prospect Wander Franco, "stood out for his ability to drive the ball with impact from an early age" and despite some bat wrap, he has "quick hands and keeps them inside the ball well. He has a calm, relaxed swing that generates loft and easy power from right-center field over to his pull side, with the physical projection to develop plus power." Like MLB.com, Baseball America's write up notes that Martinez "projects better at third base."
The Blue Jays have also signed catcher Javier D'Orazio from Venezuela and Amell Brazoban from the Dominican Republic, neither of whom have bonus figures attached (according to Baseball America. The Blue Jays have a bonus pool of $4,983,500 with which to work and it's not expected that the Blue Jays will sign any more players to large bonuses, signing players for smaller amounts as the days and weeks unfold.
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The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available!