This is part of Ben Badler’s 2019 international reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 signings: 41
The $5.25 million the Marlins paid for Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa was the biggest bonus of the 2018-19 international signing period. Among the more traditional, 16-year-old international prospects who signed last year, the biggest bonus of 2018-19 went to Dominican shortstop Orelvis Martinez, who signed with the Blue Jays for $3.51 million. Martinez trained with Rudy Santin, whose program the previous year had Rays shortstop Wander Franco (the No. 1 international prospect for 2017), so the Blue Jays and other clubs were following Martinez from an early age.
Martinez isn’t a Franco-level prospect (not many are), but he stood out early on for his ability to drive the ball with ease. There are moving parts to Martinez’s swing, which starts with the bat wrapped behind his head and creates extra length to the barrel path, but he generates easy power with quick hands that he keeps inside the ball well. It’s a calm swing without much effort, generating loft and power from the right-center gap over to his pull side that should be plus. Some scouts had reservations about Martinez’s swing, but the Blue Jays were drawn to Martinez for his combination of power, game hitting ability and plate discipline, which he continued to show after signing in the Tricky League. Martinez has soft hands and a strong arm, so the Blue Jays will develop him as a shortstop. A slightly below-average runner, Martinez is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and projects to add another 30-40 pounds, so with his physicality and range, a lot of scouts expect him to slide over to third base. Martinez is advanced enough that he will make his pro debut this year in one of Toronto’s Rookie-level clubs in the United States.
Toronto’s top Venezuelan signing last year was Gabriel Martinez, who signed when he turned 16 on July 24. After signing, Martinez even got some brief playing time with Zulia in the Venezuelan League, singling in his one at-bat of winter ball. Signed at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Martinez has added strength since then, drawing the Blue Jays’ attention for his righthanded swing and athleticism. He loads up with a leg kick and has a moving parts swing that relies on being on time with his sequencing with an all-fields approach. He’s a 50-55 runner who shows solid defensive instincts in center field, though given his physical projection, he probably ends up in a corner. His uncle, Alirio Ledezma, is a Blue Jays scout in Venezuela. Martinez trained with Hirbert Pirlea. Video of Martinez is below.
The Blue Jays signed Dominican center fielder Amell Brazoban, who trained with Niche, for $200,000 in July. Brazoban, 17, has raw tools that match up well with players signed for bigger bonuses, though his game skills aren’t as advanced. He’s an athletic 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with plus speed, plus arm strength and the bat speed and physical projection to develop plus raw power in the future from the right side. Brazoban doesn’t have as much baseball experience as some of his peers, so there’s still some crudeness to his hitting and defensive instincts that will need more time to develop.
Javier D’Orzario is a 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher the Blue Jays signed from Alexi Quiroz on July 2. He has a lean build (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) that’s starting to fill out and a lot of intangibles that scouts and managers love to have in a catcher. He’s a smart player who has picked up English quickly, projecting to stick behind the plate with potentially average defense and a solid-average arm. He has a simple swing from the right side with a line-drive approach and doubles power.
While the Blue Jays put the majority of their bonus pool money into Orelvis Martinez, they have a few lower-dollar pitchers who could be interesting sleepers. One is Juanfer Castro, a 17-year-old righthander from the Dominican Republic who signed for $35,000 in July. He’s 6-foot-1 with a good delivery and a fastball that reached 91 mph when he signed. More recently he’s reached the mid-90s and could keep adding more velocity.
Righthander Fernando Chacon, a 17-year-old signed out of Venezuela in October, is an aggressive strike-thrower who has been up to 91 mph with starter traits between his delivery, feel for his offspeed stuff (a curveball and a changeup) and pitchability.
Andres Garcia is a Dominican righthander who signed for $40,000 the day after he turned 16 last year in July. He has a smaller frame (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) but is athletic with a fastball that’s reached 91 mph and good spin on his curveball.
See also: 2017-2018 Blue Jays International Review (Notable prospect Eric Pardinho)
See also: 2016-2017 Blue Jays International Review
See also: 2015-2016 Blue Jays International Review (Notable prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.)
See also: 2014-2015 Blue Jays International Review
See also: 2013-2014 Blue Jays International Review
See also: 2012-2013 Blue Jays International Review (Notable prospect Franklin Barreto)
See also: 2011-2012 Blue Jays International Review (Notable prospect Roberto Osuna)
See also: 2010-2011 AL East International Review (Notable prospect Jairo Labourt)