International Reviews: Toronto Blue Jays
Baseball America's annual
International Reviews begin today in the American League East, with
scouting reports on every team's top international amateur signings from
the 2012 calendar year, as well as a look at any notable signings from
the Cuban market.
See also: 2011 American League East International
Toronto Blue Jays
SS Franklin Barreto, Venezuela, $1.45 million.
Urena (Dominican Republic), LHP Jonathan Torres (Venezuela), RHP Yonardo
Herdendez (Venezuela), LHP Oscar Cabrera (Dominican Republic), RHP Jose
Brito (Dominican Republic), OF Andres de Aza (Dominican Republic), SS
Ronniel Demorizi (Dominican Republic), LHP Wilfri Aleton (Dominican
The Blue Jays were one of the most aggressive teams in Latin America
around July 2. Many sources believed they were going to sign Venezuelan
righthander Jose Mujica, who ended up signing with the Rays instead for
$1 million. When they couldn't sign Mujica, they instead signed
Venezuelan shortstop Luis Castro for $800,000, but that deal fell apart
when Castro had problems with his physical and he ended up signing with
the Rockies for $50,000.
Several teams had Venezuelan shortstop Franklin Barreto
ranked as the No. 1 international prospect eligible to sign on July 2,
when the Blue Jays landed him for $1.45 million. Barreto, 16, is one of
the most decorated players to ever come out of Venezuela. He has
excelled during international tournaments since he was 10, winning MVP
honors at the Pan American 12U tournament and leading Venezuela to a
Criollitos de America championship in 2008 en route to becoming the
Corporacion Criolltos of Venezuela athlete of the year. After winning
another MVP at the 14U Pan American championship in 2010, he exploded at
the 16U World Championship in Mexico in 2011, hitting .515/.568/.978 in
33 at-bats and tying for the tournament lead with three home runs (two
of which came against Team USA) while going 8-for-8 in stolen bases.
Barreto, who trained with Ciro Barrios, has two standout tools: his bat
and his speed. He's a potential plus hitter with quick hands and a
compact stroke from the right side. He has good pitch recognition and is
willing to work deep counts, but he's an aggressive hitter in the
strike zone and doesn't swing and miss much. His hands work well through
the zone and he hits hard line drives to all fields. The concerns
scouts have about Barreto's offense are his power ceiling because he's
not a big man and relatively physically mature for his age at 5-foot-9,
175 pounds, but he's strong and can go over the fence in games, so he
could have average power.
Barreto will start off as a shortstop, but most scouts believe he will
end up at either second base or center field. Barreto's above-average
arm is plenty for shortstop, but his footwork and actions with the glove
both need a lot of work to be able to stay in the infield. High-end
comparisons range from Shane Victorino to Rafael Furcal. Barreto could
start in the GCL, but he's advanced enough that he could follow the path
of top 2011 international signing Roberto Osuna and begin his career in
the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
One of the reasons the Blue Jays may be tempted to push Barreto to the
Appalachian league is their enviable depth of young Latin American
shortstops at the Rookie ball level. They will have to find playing time
for Barreto, Dawel Lugo, Rolando Segovia and Richard Urena
), a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop who signed on July 3 for $725,000.
While Barreto may ultimately move off the position, the 6-foot-1,
160-pound Urena projects as a true shortstop. Urena, who is from San
Francisco de Macoris, trained with Decarte Corporan and played in the
Dominican Prospect League. Urena has several average tools that play up
because of his baseball instincts. He drops his hands when he swings,
but he has an otherwise sound lefty stroke. He has good rhythm at the
plate, solid plate discipline and sprays line drives with gap power. An
average runner, Urena has clean hands, good footwork and an
above-average arm. He's advanced enough to be pushed to the GCL, but
with an abundance of shortstops at the Rookie level, it's possible he
could spend a year in the DSL.
The Blue Jays raised some eyebrows with the signing of Venezuelan lefthander Jonathan Torres
whose $520,000 bonus was the biggest of the year for a Venezuelan
player signed before July 2. Like Barreto, Torres also trained with
Barrios, but since Torres signed before July 2, his bonus doesn't count
against Toronto's 2012-13 international bonus pool. Torres, who turned
18 in December, made four starts in 11 appearances last year in the DSL,
where he posted a 4.29 ERA, struck out 24 and walked 21 in 21 innings.
The Blue Jays say they saw Torres up to 93 mph before signing but that
he came down with an arm issue after signing.
In December, the Blue Jays signed 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Yonardo Herdenez
for $283,000. Herdenez touched 88-89 mph and impressed the Blue Jays
with his fastball command. He's 6-foot-1, 165 pounds with a changeup
that's more advanced than his breaking ball. Shortly before signing
Herdenez, the Blue Jays also added Dominican lefthander Wilfri Aleton
for $100,000. Aleton trained with Edwin Sabater and played in the DPL,
where he showed a fastball up to 91 mph. Aleton has a loose arm and room
to fill out his 6-foot-3, 170-pound body. He throws with some effort
and will need to iron out his mechanics to improve his control. His
slurvy curveball flashes as a solid pitch, though it could eventually
morph into a slider. He also throws a changeup, his third-best pitch.
Dominican lefthander Oscar Cabrera
originally signed with the Angels for $150,000 in November 2010, but
the deal fell apart after MLB has issues with Cabrera's paperwork during
the investigation process in part because he was missing paperwork on
his mother's side. He signed with the Blue Jays last year in January for
$275,000, then stood out as one of Toronto's top prospects in the DSL
by posting a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings with 45 strikeouts and 16 walks.
Cabrera, who turned 18 in May, is 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and touched 89
mph before he signed with the Angels, but most recently he's been as
high as 93. He throws strikes and flashed an above-average curveball,
while his changeup has also shown some promise.
Toronto made a few other six-figure signings before July 2 as well. Dominican righthander Jose Brito
signed for $160,000 in April, made four appearances in the DSL, then
got hit with a 50-game suspension due to a positive test for Stanzolol,
an anabolic steroid commonly sold as Winstrol. Brito's trainer, Lucas
Garcia, also trained Erick Hurtado, a lefty whose $150,000 deal with the
Cardinals was terminated and received a 50-game suspension after he
tested positive for Stanozolol, then later signed for $50,000 with
Houston. Brito, who turned 18 in December, is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and
threw 92-96 mph before he signed. After his steroid test, his velocity
dropped, so the Blue Jays will have to hope his velocity will return
Josue Herrera trained Dominican outfielder Andres de Aza
who signed for $150,000 in February. De Aza, who turned 18 in November,
hit .227/.294/.371 with three home runs in 109 plate appearances in the
DSL. De Aza is a physical, righthanded-hitting right fielder at
6-foot-4, 200 pounds with intriguing power potential that comes from his
size and strength. He'll need to improve his approach at the plate to
be able to tap into that power, however. He's a below-average runner
with an average arm.
Dominican shortstop Ronniel Demorizi
signed for $105,000 last year in January. A switch-hitter who turned 17
in July, Demorizzi struggled in the DSL by hitting .178/.282/.233 in
152 plate appearances. A native of San Francisco de Macoris who trained
with Basilio Vizcaino (known as "Cachaza"), played at the Under Armour
All-America game at Wrigley Field with Rangers outfielder Ronald Guzman
in 2010, but his offensive game hasn't developed as quickly as some had
hoped. He has a chance to stick at shortstop but he's gotten thicker
since signing, so he may have to repeat the DSL.