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Perez among 5 prospects added to Jays' 40-man

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their final preparations for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Tuesday night by adding five Minor League prospects to the 40-man roster.

Toronto selected the contracts of right-handers Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Patrick Murphy, Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack. Right-handers Jordan Romano and Jackson McClelland, left-hander Travis Bergen and outfielder Forrest Wall were among the notable omissions.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their final preparations for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Tuesday night by adding five Minor League prospects to the 40-man roster.

Toronto selected the contracts of right-handers Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Patrick Murphy, Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack. Right-handers Jordan Romano and Jackson McClelland, left-hander Travis Bergen and outfielder Forrest Wall were among the notable omissions.

Teams had until 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night to add Rule-5 eligible players to the 40-man roster, which was the only way to guarantee their safety before next month's Rule 5 Draft at the annual Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

Perez is the Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and was a lock to be protected. Murphy's 2.64 ERA over 26 starts at Class A Advanced Dunedin made for an easy decision, while Thornton (No. 22) was essentially guaranteed a spot after he was acquired in Saturday's trade for infielder Aledmys Diaz.

Waguespack, who was acquired in July's trade of Aaron Loup, also made the final cut. At age 25, and with a full season under his belt at Triple-A, the Blue Jays clearly determined he was ready to contribute in the near term and could not be left exposed. Yennsy Diaz earned the other spot after going 10-5 with a 3.05 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts) between Class A Advanced and low Class A.

Tuesday's deadline exposed the roster crunch the Blue Jays have been preparing for the last several months. Toronto used its remaining five spots on the 40-man roster and yet, some promising prospects had to be left exposed simply because there wasn't enough space.

The Rule 5 Draft includes players who have been in the Minors for at least four or five years, depending on when they signed. Teams pay $100,000 per pick, and the player must remain on the Major League roster for the entire season barring injury. If he doesn't, the prospect has to be offered back to the original club for $50,000.

Toronto's lack of space on the 40-man roster is a good problem to have, but it also comes with clear downfalls. Opposing teams likely will take a long look at Bergen, who was left exposed after posting a 0.95 ERA over 43 appearances in the Minors. The 25-year-old opened the year at Dunedin and later advanced to Double-A New Hampshire, where he struck out 43 over 35 2/3 innings.

Romano and catcher Max Pentecost were left off the Blue Jays' 40-man roster a year ago and experienced the same fate again on Tuesday. Pentecost, a former first-round pick, appeared in a career-high 89 games this year for New Hampshire, but also struggled at the plate with a .684 OPS. Romano posted a 4.13 ERA for New Hampshire and will be viewed as a reliever in the Rule 5 Draft.

Wall, Toronto's No. 24 prospect, was acquired in the deal for Seunghwan Oh. He has a lot of potential, and the Blue Jays don't want to lose him, but he's also still only 22 and has yet to complete a full season at Double-A. It's probably a stretch to think he will be ready for the Majors by the end of March.

Other Blue Jays prospects left exposed include right-handers Corey Copping (acquired in July for John Axford), Jon Harris (first-round pick in 2012) and McClelland (a 15th rounder in 2015), who has reached triple digits with his fastball out of the bullpen.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Hector Perez, Jacob Waguespack

Prospect Conine receives 50-game suspension

Son of former Major Leaguer violates Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Blue Jays prospect Griffin Conine has been hit with a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Major League Baseball announced on Monday afternoon that Conine tested positive for ritalinic acid, which is a banned stimulant under the drug prevention program. Conine will not receive any pay for the duration of his suspension.

TORONTO -- Blue Jays prospect Griffin Conine has been hit with a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Major League Baseball announced on Monday afternoon that Conine tested positive for ritalinic acid, which is a banned stimulant under the drug prevention program. Conine will not receive any pay for the duration of his suspension.

The Blue Jays selected Conine in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. The son of former Major Leaguer Jeff Conine is ranked Toronto's No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he has been considered one of the club's top power hitters in the Minor Leagues.

"Today it was announced that I tested positive for a banned stimulant in a test that was conducted during the 2018 season, and will be serving a 50-game suspension as a result," Conine wrote in a statement shared on social media. "I have spoken with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and my family, and I conveyed my utmost embarrassment for the careless decision that led to my suspension.

"I fully respect and support the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and I will not challenge the specific findings in my case. I will accept the consequences and do everything in my power to earn back the respect of the Blue Jays organization."

The 21-year-old outfielder appeared in 55 games for Class A Vancouver in 2018, and he slashed .238/.309/.427 with seven home runs, 14 doubles and two triples. Prior to that, Conine spent three years at Duke University, where he became the first Blue Devil since 2009 to hit 15 or more home runs.

"We are disappointed to learn of Griffin's suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Drug Prevention and Testing Program and believe it continues to help the game of baseball," Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim wrote in a statement. "We've spoken to Griffin, and he understands the mistake he made. We are confident that he has learned from this experience. We will continue to support him in his development and work together to maximize his potential going forward."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Where does Blue Jays' infield stand after trade?

Toronto determining Vlad's readiness, Drury's status, Tulo's role
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' crowded infield received a little bit more clarity following Saturday's trade of Aledmys Diaz, but make no mistake about it, this group is still in a state of flux.

More changes should be expected in the weeks ahead as the Blue Jays figure out a role for Brandon Drury, contemplate Troy Tulowitzki's future and determine whether a former All-Star first baseman should be made available through trade.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' crowded infield received a little bit more clarity following Saturday's trade of Aledmys Diaz, but make no mistake about it, this group is still in a state of flux.

More changes should be expected in the weeks ahead as the Blue Jays figure out a role for Brandon Drury, contemplate Troy Tulowitzki's future and determine whether a former All-Star first baseman should be made available through trade.

General manager Ross Atkins began his offseason by flipping Diaz to the Astros for right-hander Trent Thornton. Even after the move, Toronto has infield depth to spare and could make a similar deal in the not-so-distant future. Here's a closer look at where things stand in the wake of Toronto's recent trade:

If the season started today
The Blue Jays would have a projected starting infield of Justin Smoak at first, Devon Travis at second, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at short, Drury at third and Richard Urena in a backup infielder role. Prospects Rowdy Tellez, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio would then offer the first line of defense for injuries as they continue their development in the Minor Leagues.

Video: TOR@BOS: Travis starts an inning-ending double play

The Vlad factor
The Blue Jays will gain an extra year of control if they leave top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Minors until the end of April. At least publicly, Toronto has not ruled out the possibility that Guerrero will break camp with the team, but based on the financial ramifications, it's essentially a foregone conclusion that he will start the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

Guerrero's eventual arrival is where things get complicated. Toronto knows Drury wants to play third, but that starting job will belong to the top-ranked prospect in baseball. That means Drury will have to shift to second base or settle into a part-time utility role, with starts all over the field. Guerrero's arrival also would push one of the aforementioned infielders -- Travis or Urena -- off the roster.

What could change?
The crop of free-agent first basemen is pretty weak. Daniel Murphy is the headliner, and the group lacks depth with Logan Morrison, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Adams representing some of the reclamation projects. What does this have to do with the Blue Jays? Well, they just happen to have a reliable first baseman on an affordable $8 million expiring contract.

Video: Chisholm on Smoak's return, Solarte being odd-man out

Toronto isn't expected to deal Smoak this winter, but if approached with the right offer, the club has to listen. Tellez has spent the past two years at Buffalo, and a strong run as a September callup means the rebuilding Blue Jays have a ready-made replacement at first. A midseason deal still seems more likely, but one phone call could change all of that.

If the plan is for Drury to receive at-bats at second when Guerrero makes his debut, Travis becomes expendable. The Blue Jays could look to deal the 27-year-old, but it's worth noting that Travis has options remaining and the club could just as easily stash him at Buffalo. Yangervis Solarte has yet to be mentioned in this piece, and that's because he's expected to be non-tendered and won't factor into the club's plans for 2019.

What about Tulo?
Tulowitzki is the Blue Jays' highest-paid player, yet his future role is unknown. The 34-year-old hasn't appeared in a Major League uniform since July 28, 2017, thanks to a series of ankle and foot injuries, but all indications are he intends to make a comeback next spring.

Video: PHI@TOR: Tulowitzki ruled out for remainder of 2018

There's not much Toronto can do about the $38 million remaining on Tulowitzki's contract, but even finding a spot for him on the roster may prove challenging. In an ideal world, the Blue Jays would use this season to see whether Gurriel can handle everyday duties at shortstop or whether Bichette is a better long-term fit. The issue is that Tulowitzki has previously stated multiple times -- and as recently as late August -- that he won't switch positions.

All of this could lead to a standoff in Spring Training. If Tulowitzki isn't ready for Opening Day, Toronto can push the decision to a later date. But if he wants to play, the Blue Jays will have to decide whether they want to accommodate him at short, pay out the remainder of his contract or move him into another role and see if he really is prepared to walk away.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Brandon Drury, Troy Tulowitzki

Blue Jays swap Diaz to Astros for righty prospect

Thornton expected to compete for Toronto rotation spot
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added more depth to their pitching staff on Saturday morning by acquiring right-hander Trent Thornton in a deal with the Astros for shortstop Aledmys Diaz.

Thornton was ranked Houston's No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and he's coming off a season in which he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA at Triple-A Fresno. The 25-year-old typically hits 93-95 mph and tops out at around 97. His repertoire also includes a curveball and an improved slider.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added more depth to their pitching staff on Saturday morning by acquiring right-hander Trent Thornton in a deal with the Astros for shortstop Aledmys Diaz.

Thornton was ranked Houston's No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and he's coming off a season in which he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA at Triple-A Fresno. The 25-year-old typically hits 93-95 mph and tops out at around 97. His repertoire also includes a curveball and an improved slider.

Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects list

The early expectation is that Thornton will have a chance to compete for one of the final two spots in Toronto's rotation. The Blue Jays need to plug a couple of starter holes, and they are expected to add more depth in the near future, but the current candidates include Sam Gaviglio, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Julian Merryweather and now Thornton.

"Trent is someone that we've targeted for some time and are confident that his deep repertoire and strike-throwing ability allows him to be a factor for our Major League rotation in the near term," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins wrote in a text message to local reporters.

It should come as no surprise that Diaz was flipped to another team, because the Blue Jays had been openly talking about swapping an excess infielder or two for help on the mound. Toronto had too many infielders for too few spots, and a move was required to help alleviate the logjam.

Even after dealing Diaz, the Blue Jays still have Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, Richard Urena and the injured Troy Tulowitzki to consider for three infield spots. Add in prospects like Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, and Toronto has plenty of infield depth.

Video: Justice breaks down Blue Jays sending Diaz to Astros

Diaz was initially acquired last offseason in a deal with the Cardinals for Minor League oufielder J.B. Woodman. Diaz was expected to be a utility infielder for the Blue Jays, but long-term injuries to Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson changed all of that. Diaz essentially became an everyday player, and he responded with one of his best years at the plate.

The 28-year-old Diaz hit .263/.303/.453 with a career-high 18 home runs and 55 RBIs over 130 games. That helped re-establish his value following a 2017 season in which he posted a .682 OPS. Diaz remains under club control through the 2022 season, while Thornton has yet to make his Major League debut.

"He's got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. We're dipping into prospect depth, but one area we probably have some surplus, it's in the upper-level pitching area."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Aledmys Diaz

Blue Jays facing tough calls before Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have some difficult decisions to make in advance of Tuesday's deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Toronto has until Tuesday to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster, which is the only way to guarantee their safety on Dec. 13, the day of the Draft. With too many prospects for too few spots, the Blue Jays are at risk of losing someone for the first time since 2011.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have some difficult decisions to make in advance of Tuesday's deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Toronto has until Tuesday to add Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster, which is the only way to guarantee their safety on Dec. 13, the day of the Draft. With too many prospects for too few spots, the Blue Jays are at risk of losing someone for the first time since 2011.

The Rule 5 Draft involves players who have been in the Minors for at least four or five years, depending on when they signed. Teams pay $100,000 per pick and the player must remain on the Major League roster for the entire season. If he doesn't, the prospect is offered back to the original club for $50,000.

The Blue Jays currently have four spots available on the 40-man. Additional space could be created by parting ways with players such as Yangervis Solarte, Dalton Pompey or Mark Leiter Jr., but Toronto also needs room for free agents and trade targets. The roster crunch is a good problem to have, but it also creates a dilemma.

Here's a closer look at the Rule 5 candidates:

RHP Hector Perez: Perez is the Blue Jays' top-ranked prospect on this list, coming in at No. 11, according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old was a key part of the Roberto Osuna trade and it's pretty much a lock that he'll be added to the 40-man. Last season, Perez posted a 3.76 ERA with 133 strikeouts over 115 innings in the Minors. Command remains a concern, but he possesses an electric arm with upper-90s velocity, so he's probably not going anywhere.

RHP Patrick Murphy: The Blue Jays are looking to acquire young, controllable pitching -- not subtract -- so losing Murphy would sting. The 23-year-old took a big step forward last season by going 10-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 26 starts for Class A Advanced Dunedin. Toronto could leave Murphy exposed because of his inexperience above Class A, like it did with Jordan Romano a year ago, but odds are Murphy makes the 40-man roster.

LHP Travis Bergen: The 25-year-old put himself on the Blue Jays' radar in 2018 by posting a 0.95 ERA over 56 2/3 innings for Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. Bergen has yet to pitch in Triple-A, but there's always room for lefties, and if Bergen is exposed, there's a good chance he goes to another team. Toronto recently parted ways with Jose Fernandez, which could be one indication that it will protect Bergen.

RHP Jordan Romano: Romano was left exposed in 2017, but with no experience above Class A, he went unclaimed. Romano has since made 25 starts with New Hampshire, but a 4.13 ERA caused his stock to drop just a bit. It seems unlikely another team would take a chance on him as a starter, but he's the type of arm a lot of teams would consider stashing in their bullpen. At age 25, a jump to the big leagues is realistic, and leaving him exposed would be a risk.

RHP Jon Harris: Harris is a former first-rounder who is coming off a disappointing season for New Hampshire. In 25 starts, Harris went 12-5 but posted a 4.75 ERA while striking out just 6.5 batters per nine innings. His mid-90s velocity might play better out of the bullpen, and the pedigree alone will cause teams to give him a look.

RHP Jackson McClelland: McClelland is one of the most intriguing names on this list. Toronto's been taking an extended look at the 24-year-old in the Arizona Fall League and he remains a tantilizing arm with a fastball that hits triple digits. Command is still an issue, with 4.3 walks per nine innings in the Minors and nine walks over 12 innings in Arizona. McClelland is high-risk, high-reward, and the Rule 5 Draft allows teams to make cheap gambles.

OF Forrest Wall: MLB Pipeline ranked Wall the No. 24 prospect on Toronto's list. The 22-year-old was acquired in the Seunghwan Oh trade and he's coming off a season in which he posted a .746 OPS in the Minors. Wall needs more time, so he likely goes undrafted, but a team that lacks outfield depth might want to take a chance.

Worth mentioning: RHP Yennsy Diaz went 10-5 with a 3.05 ERA over 27 appearances this year in Class A. The talent is undeniable, but at age 22 it seems unlikely a team would take a chance on him this early ... RHP Jacob Waguespack was the return for Aaron Loup and with a full season at Triple-A under his belt he might be ready for the next step ... RHP Corey Copping was acquired for John Axford and posted a 2.39 ERA across two levels in 2018 ... C Max Pentecost appeared in a career-high 89 games for New Hampshire but he slashed just .253/.283/.401.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Vlad Jr., Pearson flash velocity in Fall Stars win

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A pair of Blue Jays top prospects created quite the buzz with the velocities they produced on the mound and at the plate for the West team in Saturday's Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. The West beat the East, 7-6, on a walk-off single from Royals prospect Meibrys Viloria.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A pair of Blue Jays top prospects created quite the buzz with the velocities they produced on the mound and at the plate for the West team in Saturday's Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. The West beat the East, 7-6, on a walk-off single from Royals prospect Meibrys Viloria.

:: 2018 Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game ::

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, posted the event's top exit velocity when he scorched a 117 mph double off the left-field wall in the fifth inning. For context, only 15 Major Leaguers have registered hits on balls hit 117+ mph since Statcast™ debuted in 2015.

The double was the lone hit in five trips to the plate for Guerrero, who also reached via a walk and an error. The 19-year-old phenom has been one of the Arizona Fall League's top hitters so far, as he entered the game with a .393 average through 15 games after slashing .381/.437/.636 and reaching Triple-A during the regular season.

Nate Pearson, meanwhile, showed elite velocity in his start for the West. Specifically, the Blue Jays' No. 4 prospect (No. 90 overall) touched 104 mph with a fastball that never registered below 101 mph as he struck out two in his lone inning.

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

"The highest I've ever hit before today was 102 mph," Pearson said. "I saw 104 mph and I was kind of skeptical if it was actually real, but everyone in the dugout was freaking out, so I guess it was pretty legit. I knew I was only going one inning, so I was just going to let it go …really try to throw as hard as I can and give the guys my best stuff."

Blue Jays No. 9 prospect Cavan Biggio also swung the bat well in the contest, hitting a 102 mph single to right field before adding a 97 mph lineout to shortstop later in the game.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Toronto Blue Jays

Stat projection already sees Vlad Jr. as elite

No. 1 prospect in baseball could be on verge of historic rookie season
MLB.com

We've all heard and read the superlatives when it comes to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. But the Blue Jays phenom and son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero is projected to not only thrive when he gets to the Majors in 2019, but also to be among the best players in the game.

FanGraphs Steamer projections for 2019 were released on Friday, ranking each player in the game according to several categories. The projections have Guerrero, who has yet to make his highly-anticipated MLB debut, as the 14th-best player in baseball based on Wins Above Replacement. The 19-year-old's projected 4.7 WAR puts him on par with elite players like the Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, both perennial candidates for the Most Valuable Player Award in their respective leagues. It also ranks higher than players like Trea Turner, Josh Donaldson and Jose Altuve.

We've all heard and read the superlatives when it comes to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. But the Blue Jays phenom and son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero is projected to not only thrive when he gets to the Majors in 2019, but also to be among the best players in the game.

FanGraphs Steamer projections for 2019 were released on Friday, ranking each player in the game according to several categories. The projections have Guerrero, who has yet to make his highly-anticipated MLB debut, as the 14th-best player in baseball based on Wins Above Replacement. The 19-year-old's projected 4.7 WAR puts him on par with elite players like the Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, both perennial candidates for the Most Valuable Player Award in their respective leagues. It also ranks higher than players like Trea Turner, Josh Donaldson and Jose Altuve.

The players ahead of Guerrero on the list are Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, Jose Ramirez, Anthony Rendon, Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich, Manny Machado, Justin Turner, Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa. Talk about heady company for a player that has yet to play in a big league game.

Video: Guerrero Jr. goes 3-for-5 in Fall League debut

Guerrero is projected to hit .306/.368/.511 with 22 home runs in 138 games next season. He has surged through every level of the Minors, most recently at Triple-A Buffalo, where he slashed .336/.414/.564 with six homers in 30 games. That was following a midseason promotion from Double-A New Hampshire, where he posted a .402/.449/.671 slash line with 14 homers in 61 games.

The third baseman was named MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year, leading the Minor Leagues in batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.636) and OPS (1.073). Until an Arizona Fall League game on Thursday, Guerrero hadn't had back-to-back hitless games since July 20-21, 2017. In his first three AFL games for the Surprise Saguaros, he hit .643 and drove in six runs to earn AFL Player of the Week honors.

Video: Guerrero Jr. discusses potential callup, Fall League

"I can just control what I can control," Guerrero said through a translator on Oct. 16. "I am going to come next year and have fun with the guys and let the team decide when and how I am going to get to Toronto."

It's only a matter of time until Guerrero is called up to the big leagues, and his MLB debut will be among the most highly anticipated ever. If the Steamer projections are any guide, Guerrero's could be a rookie season for the ages.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays

Guerrero named AFL Player of the Week

MLB's top prospect continues hot hitting in desert
MLB.com

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, entered the Arizona Fall League as the player to watch.

One week in and he has lived up to the hype. It was announced Tuesday that Guerrero won the league's Player of the Week after batting .643 and recording six RBIs in his first three games with the Surprise Saguaros. Baseball's top-ranked pitching prospect, Astros right-hander Forrest Whitley, was named the league's Pitcher of the Week.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, entered the Arizona Fall League as the player to watch.

One week in and he has lived up to the hype. It was announced Tuesday that Guerrero won the league's Player of the Week after batting .643 and recording six RBIs in his first three games with the Surprise Saguaros. Baseball's top-ranked pitching prospect, Astros right-hander Forrest Whitley, was named the league's Pitcher of the Week.

Through the first week, the 19-year-old Blue Jays third-base prospect led the Fall League in batting average, hits, doubles and on-base percentage. He was second in slugging (.929) and OPS and had three hits in each of the three games he played, in which the Saguaros went 2-1.

Whitley named AFL Pitcher of the Week

Guerrero is coming off an outstanding season, in which he batted .381 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs while playing across four different levels, primarily Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. In his 61 games in New Hampshire, Guerrero batted .402.

Guerrero's prowess in the box makes him a can't-miss prospect. He was the first player to ever receive an 80 hit tool grade by MLB Pipeline, which he received prior to his breakout 2018 season, in which he won MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year award.

Guerrero's hitting is well documented, but his ability at third base is still somewhat unknown. He has improved his fielding percentage each of the three years he's been in the Minors, with a career-best percentage of .945 in 2018.

Video: Guerrero Jr. goes 3-for-5 in Fall League debut

While he's on the cusp of breaking through to the big leagues, it's not something he thinks about.

"I can just control what I can control," said Guerrero through a translator. "I am going to come next year and have fun with the guys and let the team decide when and how I am going to get to Toronto."

Guerrero has enjoyed his time in the desert so far and looks forward to continuing to build relationships with the players.

"I'm just trying to come here, get to know the guys. Have a good time with them. There's some people who I've never played with or faced in the league," Guerrero said.

Guerrero started his second week of play Monday night by going 1-for-4 with a walk, as Surprise beat Scottsdale, 2-1. He has struck out just once in 20 plate appearances in the Fall League.

Drake Dunaway is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Toronto Blue Jays

Vlad Jr. continues torrid AFL start with 3-hit night

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, has started the Arizona Fall League season much like he concluded his Minor League season.

Hot.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 1 overall prospect, has started the Arizona Fall League season much like he concluded his Minor League season.

Hot.

After collecting three hits in his AFL debut on Tuesday, the 19-year-old Blue Jays third baseman collected three more for the Surprise Saguaros in Wednesday night's game against the Salt River Rafters at Salt River Fields.

Video: Guerrero Jr.'s double vs. Salt River in Fall League

Gameday

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

In his first plate appearance, Guerrero hit a double that nearly left the park. On the ninth pitch of his first-inning at-bat against Salt River starter Luis Reyes, a Nationals farmhand, Guerrero belted a long fly ball to left field for a two-bagger.

After hitting 20 home runs and posting a 1.073 OPS in 95 games between Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A New Hampshire this season, Guerrero is 6-for-9 with four doubles through his first two Fall League games.

Wednesday's Arizona Fall League roundup

"I'm just trying to come here, face every team and have fun," Guerrero said through an interpreter.

On Wednesday, Guerrero went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and two runs scored, as he reached base in each of his first four plate appearances.

After trading three-time All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have an opening at third base, which should soon become a vacancy filled by Guerrero.

Guerrero has received advice from his father, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, to help advance further in his career, but he won't share what he's learned.

"I don't like to talk about that stuff because I think it's personal," Guerrero said.

Christopher Roth is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Toronto Blue Jays

Pipeline names Blue Jays' Prospects of Year

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Vladimir Guerrero's long, talked about Major League debut never came to fruition in 2018, but he did arguably turn into the top prospect in all of baseball.

Guerrero, unsurprisingly, has been named Toronto's Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLB Pipeline while right-hander Sean Reid-Foley took home top pitching honors. Two big pieces for the future, who likely will heavily factor into the Blue Jays' plans next season.

TORONTO -- Vladimir Guerrero's long, talked about Major League debut never came to fruition in 2018, but he did arguably turn into the top prospect in all of baseball.

Guerrero, unsurprisingly, has been named Toronto's Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLB Pipeline while right-hander Sean Reid-Foley took home top pitching honors. Two big pieces for the future, who likely will heavily factor into the Blue Jays' plans next season.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

The 19-year-old Guerrero saw his season start with a bang when he hit a walk-off homer during Toronto's exhibition series against the Cardinals in late March at Olympic Stadium. The game might not have counted for anything, but it was still a signature moment for a player whose father started his Hall of Fame career between those same walls.

"There's no debate that he's on an accelerated time frame," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said toward the end of the season. "He's already eclipsed the time frame that any player would have at his age and his level of experience. He's going to get up here at a very young age. Maybe next April, we're open to that."

Guerrero embarked on one of the most historic offensive seasons the Minor Leagues has ever seen. He posted a ridiculous .402/.449/.671 slash line with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs over 61 games for Double-A New Hampshire. Then he finished the year by hitting .336/.414/.564 with six homers and 16 RBIs for Triple-A Buffalo.

Video: Guerrero Jr. named Pipeline Hitter of the Year

The only downside for Guerrero came in early June when he sustained a strained patellar tendon in his left knee. Guerrero missed a little more than a month but returned to finish the year strong in advance of an upcoming appearance in the Arizona Fall League.

There are prospects and then there are super prospects like Guerrero. There seems to be very little debate that he will become an impact bat at the Major League level, and the biggest question surrounds whether he'll go on to have a similar career to that of his nine-time All-Star father.

Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects 

"This is huge for him going into the Arizona Fall League," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "That will be a great development for him. Next Spring Training will be a great development for him. As he transitions to the big leagues, we're planning on him playing third base."

Reid-Foley, Pipeline's No. 10 Blue Jays prospect, earned Toronto's Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a breakout season for Triple-A Buffalo. The 23-year-old bounced back from a disappointing 2017 season, which saw him go 10-11 with a 5.09 ERA at New Hampshire, to re-establish himself as a big piece of Toronto's future.

Video: TOR@NYY: Reid-Foley fans 10, tosses 5 shutout innings

In 16 starts for Buffalo, Reid-Foley went 7-5 with a 3.90 ERA. That was enough to earn a late summer promotion to the big league roster where Reid-Foley was predictably inconsistent but held his own against some of the league's top hitters.

With 42 strikeouts over 33 1/3 Major League innings, there's a lot to like, but the product of Florida will have to get his walks under control if he's going to take the next step in 2019. Reid-Foley issued 20 walks in seven starts for the Blue Jays in August and September.

"The kid did a good job," outgoing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said at the end of the year. "He still has things to work on, naturally, but I thought he held his own. He's a different style than some of the other guys. ... He has a nice little breaking ball. A little changeup. Yeah, I think [fastball command] is going to be the key for him and how good he becomes."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Sean Reid-Foley

Injuries force Bichette to withdraw from AFL

Toronto's No. 2 prospect dealing with minor elbow, knee soreness
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Blue Jays prospect Bo Bichette has withdrawn from the upcoming Arizona Fall League because of lingering knee and elbow soreness.

The AFL is set to get underway on Oct. 9, and Bichette was originally expected to be one of the top prospects in attendance. Instead, the Blue Jays have decided to replace him with second baseman Santiago Espinal.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Blue Jays prospect Bo Bichette has withdrawn from the upcoming Arizona Fall League because of lingering knee and elbow soreness.

The AFL is set to get underway on Oct. 9, and Bichette was originally expected to be one of the top prospects in attendance. Instead, the Blue Jays have decided to replace him with second baseman Santiago Espinal.

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"Bo Bichette experienced some minor elbow and knee soreness at the end of the Eastern League playoffs that will require a conservative course of treatment and rest," a team spokesman said while reading a statement from the club. "It should not affect his offseason or Spring Training."

Per MLB Pipeline, Bichette is Toronto's No. 2 overall prospect behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and he's ranked No. 9 in all of baseball. The 20-year-old appeared in 131 games for Double-A New Hampshire this season, and he hit .286/.343/.453 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs.

Espinal is a 23-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who was acquired from Boston as part of the midseason deal for outfielder Steve Pearce. He appeared in 42 games for New Hampshire and hit .286 with 12 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs.

Right-handers Zach Jackson, Jackson McClelland and Nate Pearson, left-hander Shawn Morimando, second baseman Cavan Biggio and Guerrero are among those who will be representing the Blue Jays while playing for the Surprise Saguaros, who will be managed by Canadian Stubby Clapp.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Inbox: Tellez Toronto's future first baseman?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from Blue Jays fans
MLB.com

Rowdy Tellez has given me a reason to be excited about the Blue Jays again. Is he going to be the first baseman next year?
-- Francis K., Sudbury, Ontario

Manager John Gibbons put it best on Sunday when he said that Tellez might be the first baseman of the future, but Justin Smoak is the first baseman of the present, and that's unlikely to change before the start of next season. Smoak is all but officially guaranteed to have his $8 million option picked up for 2019, and there's every reason to believe he will be at first base on Opening Day.

Rowdy Tellez has given me a reason to be excited about the Blue Jays again. Is he going to be the first baseman next year?
-- Francis K., Sudbury, Ontario

Manager John Gibbons put it best on Sunday when he said that Tellez might be the first baseman of the future, but Justin Smoak is the first baseman of the present, and that's unlikely to change before the start of next season. Smoak is all but officially guaranteed to have his $8 million option picked up for 2019, and there's every reason to believe he will be at first base on Opening Day.

Could that change? Sure. The Blue Jays are in asset-building mode, and if another team makes a competitive offer this winter, it's something Toronto obviously would consider. But the club is not going to force a deal just to make room for Tellez. A more realistic scenario would see Smoak start the year in Toronto and then become a trade candidate midway through the season.

Let's also not forget that Tellez, the Blue Jays' No. 29 prospect, is just 23 years old. There's room for improvement with the .765 OPS he posted in 112 games for Triple-A Buffalo, and repeating that level for another couple of months is not a bad idea. Tellez provides protection if Smoak or Kendrys Morales gets hurt, and he would be in position to take over later in the year if the numbers justify it.

:: Submit a question to the Blue Jays Inbox ::

What do you think the starting rotation is going to look like next season?
-- Pierre C., Gatineau, Quebec

Spring Training is shaping up to be a good old fashioned competition for the back end of Toronto's rotation. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and in all likelihood, Ryan Borucki will enter camp with guaranteed jobs, and it's realistic to expect that the Blue Jays will add another starter through trade or free agency this offseason. That would leave one job up for grabs and there will be a whole slew of arms in the mix.

Sean Reid-Foley, Sam Gaviglio, Jacob Waguespack, Thomas Pannone and the soon-to-arrive Julian Merryweather should all get a look in camp. David Paulino seems destined for the bullpen, but he could receive some consideration as well, while other top prospects such as T.J. Zeuch and Jordan Romano should start the year in the Minors and could become options later in the season.

Considering the rebuild, doesn't it make sense to trade Sanchez and Stroman this offseason? Toronto waited too long to trade Josh Donaldson, I hope they don't repeat the same mistake.
-- Will L., Mississauga, Ontario

It seems almost inevitable that Stroman and Sanchez will eventually be dealt. Both starters have two years of control remaining and the front office is on record talking about a three-year pathway to getting back into contention. The timelines don't match up, and unless there is an unexpected extension in the coming months, this situation should eventually result in a trade.

The odds of a deal this winter, though, still aren't great because the Blue Jays have to believe Sanchez and Stroman are worth a lot more than what their current market values might suggest. Stroman and Sanchez have been limited to 19 and 18 starts, respectively, this season because of various injuries and both have ERAs over 5.00. Trading them now would be selling low on a pair of high-ceiling arms, and their stocks could easily rise with a strong first half.

Do you think Jays will keep Yangervis Solarte next season or will they trade him?
-- @Takito09

The Blue Jays project to have a really crowded infield next season, and it's hard to envision a role for Solarte. Let's assume for a minute that Troy Tulowitzki makes it back next season and begins the year as Toronto's starting shortstop. That would leave Brandon Drury as the Opening Day starter at third, while Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Devon Travis are all candidates for second.

Complicating matters further, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should take over third by the end of April, which would then move Drury into a super utility role. Even if Tulowitzki isn't healthy, with Diaz, Gurriel and Richard Urena all options at shortstop, there's more than enough depth to go around. The Blue Jays have a $5.5 million club option on Solarte's contract for next year, and if that gets picked up it's likely to facilitate a trade. He's probably not the only player from this group who gets shopped, either.

There's a lot of young talent on this roster. Am I crazy to think the Blue Jays might clear .500 next year?
-- @MatthewElmslie

Finishing at .500 seems a little bit optimistic, but I can understand why you would think that. The Rays weren't supposed to do much of anything this season, but they've battled with a young core and entered play on Monday 14 games above .500. Tampa Bay is known for being a scrappy team that often exceeds expectations, and that's something the Blue Jays could strive to become in 2019.

That's the upside, but more growing pains should be expected. Young talent is exciting to watch, but it also comes with a lot of uncertainty, so next year should be a lot of trial and error. General manager Ross Atkins previously said expectations will rise by 2020 with the hopes of becoming a legitimate contender in '21. Next year is all about development and more veteran players could be dealt midway through the season, so while .500 is possible, it's also a little bit aggressive.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Rowdy Tellez

Tellez sets MLB mark with doubles in first 3 PAs

Blue Jays first baseman collects 3 hits, RBI in loss to Indians
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Rowdy Tellez's Major League debut became such a feel-good story around the Major Leagues that it seemed rather fitting the Blue Jays first baseman returned the following day for an encore performance. The second one turned out to be even better than the first.

Tellez made MLB history by doubling in each of his first two at-bats in Thursday night's 9-4 loss to the Indians at Rogers Centre. He became the first player of the live ball era (since 1920) to record extra-base hits in each of his first three career plate appearances. Tellez even added another double in his final at-bat to finish the day 3-for-4 with an RBI. Not bad for a first week on the job.

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TORONTO -- Rowdy Tellez's Major League debut became such a feel-good story around the Major Leagues that it seemed rather fitting the Blue Jays first baseman returned the following day for an encore performance. The second one turned out to be even better than the first.

Tellez made MLB history by doubling in each of his first two at-bats in Thursday night's 9-4 loss to the Indians at Rogers Centre. He became the first player of the live ball era (since 1920) to record extra-base hits in each of his first three career plate appearances. Tellez even added another double in his final at-bat to finish the day 3-for-4 with an RBI. Not bad for a first week on the job.

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The 23-year-old finally has something to celebrate after being on an emotional rollercoaster for the better part of two seasons. Tellez lost his mother in August after a long and arduous battle with cancer, but her presence was felt on Wednesday night after her son came through with a pinch-hit double in his first career plate appearance. After Tellez reached second base, he pointed to the sky and later wrote her name in the infield dirt and admitted after the game it took all his will power not to start crying on the field.

"It still doesn't feel real being here," Tellez said on Thursday night. "Childhood dreams are achieved and it's a great feeling. I'm ecstatic to be here. It's a great clubhouse and makes it really easy to be here and very comfortable."

Video: CLE@TOR: Gibbons on McGuire's debut, Tellez's success

The only thing missing from the memorable debut was Tellez's father, who was not in attendance for the series finale against the Rays because of a delayed flight to Toronto. Tellez instead picked his father up at the airport later that night and he was in attendance on Thursday as his son made history. First it was a single to left-center field in the second inning, then it was a double off the wall in left-center field during the fourth inning.

Tellez's playing time is expected to be somewhat limited over the final three weeks of the season. Justin Smoak is the starter at first and Kendrys Morales will still get regular at-bats as the designated hitter, but the Blue Jays felt it was important to reward Tellez for a strong season at Triple-A Buffalo and to begin acclimatizing him to the big leagues. The decision has been met with some immediate benefits and should pay off at some point next year when Tellez gets a longer look.

"He's the new cult hero in town," manager John Gibbons said of Tellez. "A great night at the plate. How many doubles does he have now? Four? He's already in the record books."

Outside of Tellez, the only real bright spots on offense for the Blue Jays came during a four-run fourth inning off Indians right-hander Shane Bieber. Teoscar Hernandez had a two-run double and Aledmys Diaz brought home another run when he reached first base on an error. Bieber picked up the win despite allowing the four runs, three earned, on seven hits and a walk while striking out six.

Video: CLE@TOR: Hernandez smashes a 2-run double to center

Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio was charged with the loss. He was staked to a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning, but he then allowed three consecutive hits in the fifth before getting chased from the game. Gaviglio allowed five runs on six hits while striking out four over 4 1/3 innings. Toronto has now lost three of its last four games at home, but what's clear is that the youth movement is in full effect.

"It definitely makes it more comfortable, easier to adjust to the level," Tellez said in reference to making his debut alongside a lot of other September call-ups. "I've pretty much played with half of these guys at some point. It's a pretty good group of guys and they make everything lax and easier for us young guys."

MAKING HISTORY
Catcher Reese McGuire made his Major League debut behind the plate and right-hander David Paulino made his Blue Jays debut out of the bullpen with a scoreless eighth inning. With the latest additions to the roster, Toronto has used a franchise-record 62 players this season. The Blue Jays have gone through 36 pitchers this season, which surpasses their previous high of 34 in 2012. The only roster record left to break relates to the starting rotation. The club has used 14 starting pitchers this season, which is tied for the most in franchise history. Toronto also used 14 starters in '17. More >

Video: CLE@TOR: McGuire smashes double off wall for 1st hit

Paulino was part of the return package in the deal that sent closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. The 24-year-old allowed a leadoff infield single to Edwin Encarnacion, before retiring the next three batters he faced. Paulino flashed a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup, and he even found a way to work in a couple of curves and sliders. He struck out Melky Cabrera and Yonder Alonso in the impressive inning of work. McGuire picked up his first Major League hit in the ninth inning with a double.

"Really good first inning," Gibbons said. "He has a very good changeup. I saw some good breaking balls. Those big, tall, lanky guys, it's never a comfortable at-bat. They'll let one fly every now and then. It's tough to zero them in. ... Real good stuff and it was good to get him back out there, because he had been banged up for a while."

Video: CLE@TOR: Paulino fans Alonso for 1st K with Blue Jays

SOUND SMART
Outfielder Billy McKinney led off the game with a single to left field, which extended his on-base streak to 15 games. That is tied for the third-longest such streak to start a career for the Blue Jays. Dave Martinez had a 24-game streak in 2000, Roy Howell did it for 18 games in 1977, while David Segui (1999) and Shea Hillenbrand (2005) both did it 15 times.

UP NEXT
Veteran right-hander Marco Estrada (7-11, 5.43 ERA) will take the mound at 7:07 p.m. ET on Friday as the series against the Indians continues at Rogers Centre. Estrada has been plagued by a lingering back issue in recent starts and it played a role in his previous outing, which saw him allow six runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Marlins. Cleveland will counter with righty Carlos Carrasco (16-8, 3.52 ERA).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Rowdy Tellez

McGuire enjoys fine MLB debut for Blue Jays

Rookie catcher logs double, throws out runner at second base
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Reese McGuire became the latest Blue Jays rookie to enjoy a successful debut when he doubled during the ninth inning of a 9-4 loss to the Indians on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

McGuire was officially promoted from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day, but his family had advance warning and was able to schedule a trip in time for his first big league game. They were rewarded by getting to see McGuire start behind the plate and close out his night with a double off the wall.

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TORONTO -- Reese McGuire became the latest Blue Jays rookie to enjoy a successful debut when he doubled during the ninth inning of a 9-4 loss to the Indians on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

McGuire was officially promoted from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day, but his family had advance warning and was able to schedule a trip in time for his first big league game. They were rewarded by getting to see McGuire start behind the plate and close out his night with a double off the wall.

View Full Game Coverage

The positive day wasn't limited to his performance in the batter's box, either. McGuire was tested early in the game by the speedy Jose Ramirez, and McGuire responded by throwing out the potential American League MVP Award candidate at second base.

Video: CLE@TOR: McGuire cuts down Ramirez at second

"It's crazy," McGuire said. "I was drafted by Pittsburgh, and so the whole route there, I'm thinking PNC Park and that's going to the debut. With the trade to Toronto, the whole vision kind of changed and then it became here at the Rogers Centre. It's everything I dreamed of, except the win. I'm just happy to be here."

McGuire said the moment he will never forget from this game happened shortly before first pitch when he noticed his family in the stands. He had just enough time to run over for a quick hug and hello before it was time to get down to business alongside Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio.

After McGuire doubled in the ninth inning, he was able to get his hands on the ball. He said it's something that will be displayed in his home for years to come. The memories from this night might never fade.

"It was just awesome to see them here," McGuire said. "Knowing that they skipped out of work and popped on a plane. They weren't too bummed about that."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Reese McGuire

17-year-old Brazilian on path to being Jays' ace

Right-hander Pardinho excelling in first year of pro ball
MLB.com

There's an international prospect in the Blue Jays' system who could be a household name one day. He's just a teenager, but he's famous back in his home country, and has been for years. Toronto believed in him so much that it made him a millionaire at 16.

Right-handed pitcher Eric Pardinho, 17, started his professional career this summer at Bluefield, the club's Rookie-level team in the Appalachian League, just like top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did as a 17-year-old in 2016. And while Pardinho, the club's No. 7-ranked prospect, is still a few years away from his Major League debut, he is already a rising star in an organization loaded with talent at the Minor League level.

There's an international prospect in the Blue Jays' system who could be a household name one day. He's just a teenager, but he's famous back in his home country, and has been for years. Toronto believed in him so much that it made him a millionaire at 16.

Right-handed pitcher Eric Pardinho, 17, started his professional career this summer at Bluefield, the club's Rookie-level team in the Appalachian League, just like top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did as a 17-year-old in 2016. And while Pardinho, the club's No. 7-ranked prospect, is still a few years away from his Major League debut, he is already a rising star in an organization loaded with talent at the Minor League level.

Pardinho, the new face of baseball in Brazil, has the potential to be an ace, too.

"What stands out about Pardinho is his passion and his competitiveness, and how off the field, he's an unassuming, genuine, very nice young man and very respectful," said Gil Kim, Toronto's director of player development. "On the mound, he's a bulldog. He wants to beat you. He can get emotional. He's intense, and that's one of the best qualities he has as well."

Pardinho was No. 6 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list when he signed with the Blue Jays on July 2, 2017, for $1.4 million. It didn't take long for the organization to realize that he was too advanced to begin in the Dominican Summer League, so they sent him to the United States for his first pro season.

Video: Top Prospects: Eric Pardinho, RHP, Blue Jays

It's worth noting that Guerrero Jr. made the leap from Bluefield to Double-A New Hampshire after two seasons. Infielder Bo Bichette, the organization's No. 2 prospect, began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League at 18 in 2016, and started this season at New Hampshire.

The club will have a better of idea of where Pardinho will start 2019 in the offseason.

According to Kim, "The first questions that comes into our minds in terms of the optimal placement for him is how consistent is he with his routines? How solid is his work ethic? How selfless is he as a teammate? How mentally resilient would he be to handle a challenging level?

"While all those things are important, the last part -- of having the mental toughness to face challenges and not lose sight of the importance of process and focusing on getting better every day -- that's probably the most important one.

"In Pardinho, in Vladdy, in Bo Bichette, we saw guys that we had a pretty good level of confidence in that, whether they succeeded or struggled performance-wise, that they would be able to continue their work, they would stay positive, and it would be a good learning experience for them."

Overall, Pardinho has posted a 2.88 ERA and a .199 BAA with 64 strikeouts over 50 innings in 11 starts. He has given up one or no runs in three of his past four starts, including an outing Saturday, when he was charged with one earned run on three hits with seven strikeouts over four innings of a no-decision.

Pardinho's fastball touches 96 mph. He also throws a slider, a curveball and a changeup, and he mixes them well.

"It's been a very positive experience. I have learned a lot of new things, and I feel like I'm progressing," Pardinho said. "I'm really focused on working hard to maintain my health and listening to my coaches. The food and the bus rides are much different from my life in Brazil, but it's been fun and I'm adjusting."

Pardinho was born and raised in Bastos, a small municipality in Sao Paulo settled by the Japanese, to Evandro Pereira Pardinho and mother Rosa Reiko Taniguchi, who was born in Brazil to Japanese parents. He trained at the CT Yakult Academy for baseball and used Japanese baseball techniques and strategies that focused on fastballs, pitch location and mechanics. Pardinho trained with a rubber ball until he was 12, and he didn't throw any secondary pitches or lift weights until he was 13.

The teenager has literally come a long way to get to this point.

The journey from Pardinho's home in Bastos to his current place in Bluefield started with a six-hour drive to the airport in San Paolo. The flight from Brazil to Washington, D.C., is another 12 hours, and then there's the four- or five-hour drive to West Virginia, depending upon traffic.

Trips from Brazil to the Blue Jays' academy in the Dominican Republic, where the club sent Pardinho after he signed, took his father 18-20 hours total, with layovers in either Panama or Colombia. In February, Evandro made the long trek from South America to see his son in the D.R. and was surprised to find out when he landed that the club had shipped him to Florida to train. The father spent the week as a tourist on the island while his son worked about a thousand miles away.

"Eric is really mature for his age, and that's because he left our home early following his dream to be a baseball player," Evandro said from his home in Brazil. "He's the same kid he has always been -- maybe he talks a little bit more -- but this is a new experience for all of us."

Pardinho, who is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, is also working on learning English. He said his primarily language is baseball, and he speaks it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pardinho does make time for daily chats with his family, video game play and chatting with friends on social media.

Video: Pardinho hopes to help baseball grow in Brazil

In many ways, Pardinho is already a baseball hero in Brazil. He was 15 when he pitched for the country's World Baseball Classic qualifier in 2016, and if all goes according to his plan, he'll make history and join Cleveland's Yan Gomes-- who in 2012 became the first player from Brazil to play in the Major Leagues - -- Braves pitcher Luiz Gohara, White Sox pitcher Thyago Vieira and Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando on the exclusive list of Major Leaguers from the country. There are 16 players from Brazil currently in the Minor Leagues.

"I think baseball in Brazil is going to grow a lot in the next 10 years and be a big producer of talent," Pardinho said. "I know MLB has invested a lot of money and resources for success in our market. I'm happy to play my part. "

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Toronto Blue Jays