The Lansing Lugnuts gave First Baseman Balbino Fuenmayor his release yesterday.
Fuenmayor received a $750 000 bonus from the Jays as a 16 year old in 2007. In 7 minor league seasons, none of which were above Low A ball, the Venezuelan hit .248/.293/.396. He was hitting .208 with 4 HR and 17 RBI in 108 AB with Lansing this year.
Originally signed as a third baseman, Fuenmayor eventually outgrew the position, and was moved across the diamond to first in 2009. He was the Jays player of the year with the Gulf Coast Jays in 2008, when he hit .307/.360/.458. That was probably the high point of his career.
Fuenmayor is a big kid, and he probably became too big. There are several reports of him losing weight, gaining weight, etc. Other reports suggest he was a batting practice monster. Obviously, he has huge holes in his swing. At 23, he's still young enough to catch on with another organization.
$750K, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that much to pay for an elite player. When it goes to a 16 year-old Internationl signee, though, one has to wonder. Predicting future success for high school and college grads is hard enough. It's hard to believe its possible at that young age. Kids develop at varying rates, and a standout at 16 could be an org guy at 20. The Blue Jays have been as aggressive as anyone in the IFA sweepstakes in the past few years, going after the high risk, high reward prospects they seem to have a preference for. Maybe it nets them a Jurickson Profar, or more likely a Mario Martinez.
As for Fuenmayor, hopefully he can catch on with another MLB team, or maybe a Caribbean team. At 23 years of age, he's devoted the last 7 years of his young life to his dream of reaching the gigs, but time is running out. We hope he's invested his bonus wisely.