|WBC Baseball photo|
A bit of a throwaway at the end of an excellent analysis of the top Blue Jays prospects by Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs was this tidbit about a rising International Free Agent prospect:
I’ve also heard the team mentioned as a potential suitor for Brazilian righty Eric Pardinho, who will be eligible to sign with a club in July
It took me a few hours to remember it, but I knew that name, and had seen him pitch before. At the tender age of 15, Pardinho became the youngest player in WBC history when he pitched in the 6th inning of his native Brazil's 10-0 whitewashing of Pakistan in a WBC qualifier last October. Prospect hunters like myself had tuned in to watch Toronto's 2016 2nd round pick, Bo Bichette, suit up for the Brazilians.
In truth, the Pakistani team was overmatched against Brazil. The athleticism was there, but the lack of baseball experience was painfully obvious. Pardinho acquitted himself well just the same, surrendering a hit (up 1-2, he hung a breaking ball) and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Pardinho's first pitch clocked in at 94 mph. He was half the age of some of the hitters he was facing.
Eric Pardinho hails from Bastos, a town in the state of Sao Paolo with a significant Japanese heritage. His mother, in fact, was born in Brazil to Japanese parents, and Pardinho spent part of his childhood in Japan. He entered Brazil's famous CT Yakult Academy at the age of 12, and spent three years there, using "traditional Japanese training techniques." He first gained international acclaim at the U16 Pan Am championships in Panama last year, fanning 14 and giving up just one hit against a prospect-laded Dominican Republic team. Pardinho has also spent time at the MLB Elite Camp which is housed at the Yakult complex.
At 5'10"/165, there are some concerns about Pardinho's size, but the Blue Jays have a starter in the rotation who has easily dispelled that notion. One look at his parents suggest that he won't get a lot bigger, but there is still plenty to like about him. Pardinho has hit 95 with his fastball, but usually sits at 93. There's ample room for added velocity there. He has a clean, drop-and-drive delivery which he consistently repeats, and has a solid lower half, which should mean that despite the speed his teenage elbow has been subjected to, his health history is likely clean.
In addition to his fastball, Pardinho's curve is said to be his best secondary pitch. Pardinho pitched at a Perfect Game World Showcase earlier this year, and this report was filed on him:
Medium, athletic frame with square shoulders, very nice build with present strength throughout, strong lower half and core which are incorporated into delivery. Primary righthanded pitcher, lots of tempo, rhythm, and balance to delivery, high leg lift up past belt, gathers over rubber well and and shows a long and fluid arm stroke through the backside working to a high three-quarters arm slot. Advanced ability to repeat delivery, especially for age, and remains on line with lower half directionality. Very low effort delivery and release, able to generate plane on fastball and showed advanced command of fastball that lived comfortably in the 90-93 mph range. Worked either side of the plate with fastball with intent, curveball shows downer life and 12-6 shape with late, tight bite at 79 mph, slider was just as tight at 81 mph with solid finish to the glove side.
Calling him "A special kid," Carlos Santos-Silva, coordinator of international game development for MLB said:
His size is not too striking, but the ball just explodes out of his hand. There is a lot of potential. Not just to be a player, but to also be a spokesperson for the game in Brazil.
Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian to play in MLB, making his debut with the Blue Jays in 2012. Since then, Padres P Andres Rienzo and Royals OF Paulo Orlando have joined him. Brazil has long been viewed as a fertile, untapped market of prospects. Hall of Famer Barry Larkin has helped lead MLB's efforts in the South American country, Managing the WBC entry last fall, and helping to establish MLB's first Brazilian complex. Pardhino may become the first of many signings from that country over the next few years.
2016 was a hangover year for the Blue Jays in terms of International signings. Having broken the bank for Vladimir Guerrero Jr the year before, Toronto could not sign a prospect to a bonus of greater than $300 000. Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish was understandably tight-lipped about the club's plans for this year's July 2nd signings ("I'd prefer to talk about our strategy on July 3rd," he said in an interview), but it's no surprise to hear that the Blue Jays have targeted one of the highest profile IFAs this year. Pardinho has reportedly been scouted by the Mets, Giants, Reds, and Padres, and had workouts this spring in Arizona for the Angels and the Indians. According to Longerhans, though, the Blue Jays have the inside track. We hear rumours of teams being involved with players all the time, but where there's International smoke, there's usually fire. Guerrero was widely said to have a pre-July 2nd agreement (unofficially, of course) with the Blue Jays long before he actually signed on the dotted line.
Pardinho does have some red flags: his age, his relative lack of size, and despite his delivery and training (he wasn't allowed to throw breaking balls until he was 13), there has to be some concern about his elbow with that 90+ FB. At the same time, many MLB organizations would love to get their top prospects into their respective folds by 16, not 18. In addition, when you look at the number of decent pitchers under 6', it's actually a pretty impressive list. As far as the elbow is concerned, most teams would have to be cautious, but it's pretty hard to pass on that velocity. There is much to suggest that there is huge upside here.
It won't be a big surprise to see the Blue Jays land Pardinho on July 2nd.
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