2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Toronto Blue Jays
When the Blue Jays have taken a big swing in the Dominican Republic in recent years, the returns have been good. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reached the big leagues as a 20-year-old, while Orelvis Martinez was the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as a 17-year-old after his pro debut in 2019. They added another high-end hitter from the Dominican Republic in their 2020-2021 class with shortstop Manuel Beltre, boosting a farm system with promising international prospects at all levels of the system, including a Top 100 prospect in catcher Alejandro Kirk and another potential future Top 100 prospect in catcher Gabriel Moreno.
Top Of The Class
The headliner of Toronto's international signing class is Manuel Beltre, a shortstop who was one of the best hitters in games from the Dominican Republic. Beltre is an indefatigable baseball rat, chronicling his daily training and highlights for years on his Instagram account of nearly 70,000 followers. He has ample game experience, including regular travel to the United States for tournaments, and it shows in his instincts and advanced understanding of the game for his age. Beltre doesn't have one tool that jumps out as plus, but his game skills and pure hitting ability do. His swing is short and simple with a direct path to the ball, with an understanding of his swing mechanics that's rare for a 16-year-old hitter. Beltre hits well in games, making frequent contact with a good eye at the plate and the ability to control the strike zone. He has good leverage in his swing and can drive the ball out to his pull side, but his offensive game is built more around his on-base skills than slugging. Beltre has transformed his body as he's grown to 5-foot-11, 165 pounds with more strength and athleticism than he showed early on. He's an average runner who should play somewhere in the middle infield, where he's a fundamentally sound defender with soft hands, good footwork and a chance for an average to a tick better arm with good accuracy. Beltre is also a fluent English speaker who is already a leader among his teammates. He trained with Jaime Ramos.
The Blue Jays also signed Martin Gimenez, a shortstop from Venezuela who trained with Alexis Quiroz. Gimenez has a long, skinny build at 6-foot-3, 160 pounds with a ton of space to fill out. His value still depends a lot on that long-term physical projection, with some scouts believing he could develop into a power hitter with a good swing and approach, though others had reservations about his pure hitting ability translating against live pitching. Gimenez has a strong arm for the left side of the infield, and while he's going to start out as a shortstop, he seems likely to outgrow the position and slide over to third base, with some chance he could end up in an outfield corner down the road.
Names To Know
Yhoangel Aponte, OF, Venezuela: Aponte could end up one of the better values of the 2020 class, signing for a mid-level price with talent commensurate with some of the top outfielders available. He has a chance for five average or better tools that play up because of his instincts, especially in center field. With solid-average speed and arm strength, Aponte is a diligent, focused worker when it comes to his defensive craft and it shows in games. He's not a burner, but he reads the ball well off the bat, has a quick first step and glides to balls in both gaps with efficient routes and diving catches. He has performed well against live pitching too, making frequent contact with good strike-zone judgment, a lot of line drives and surprising power from his 5-foot-11 frame.
Luis Garcia, SS, Venezuela: Garcia stands out in the field, where he's a slick defender who projects to stick at the position with plus speed and a strong arm that projects to be another plus tool. Garcia, who trained with Yasser Mendez, is a defensive-minded player who will need to get stronger to develop his offensive game.
Jonathan Peguero, C, Dominican Republic: A lefthanded hitter who trained with Niche, Peguero is young for the class and has started to develop over-the-fence power and an above-average arm as he's added more strength to his 5-foot-11 frame over the past couple of years. He still needs more work on the defensive side but has made considerable progress with his receiving over the past year to be able to stay behind the plate.
Yeuni Muñoz, OF, Dominican Republic: Muñoz, who trained with Hector Evertz, is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and hits with a high hand setup and a toe tap and has a chance to be a strong, physical outfielder who hits for power. He moves around well for his size in the outfield, so he might see time in center field, but he most likely projects as a right field with a good arm.
Venezuelan righthander Neiyerber Obeso isn't a hard thrower now, but has plenty of positive projection indicators. He throws 85-88 mph now, with a long, lean frame that suggests he could one day throw in the mid 90s. Obeso is athletic with a loose arm, a good delivery and extremely tight rotation on a low-70s curveball with spin rates up to 2,900 rpm, giving him a swing-and-miss pitch.