Last week the Jays made headlines by signing seven amateur free agents.
It seems like a great move, as these are all highly touted youngsters who could have a big career ahead of them. It’s also refreshing to see the Jays perhaps back on the leading edge of international player scouting, much as they were back when Dominican Republic first became a hotbed of potential MLB players back a few decades ago.
Only thing I’ll say, is that while it’s a great signing, some of these men are only 16 years old. While it’s nice to project and dream what they might become, it’s hard to make any sort of accurate prediction before they are even adults.
That being said, allow me to fly even further off course and pose the question, how young is too young when it comes to scouting international talent? Like many other baseball fans, I eagerly tuned in to this year’s Little World Series coverage. As a minor baseball coach myself it’s always a pleasure to see the game being played at such a high level by young kids.
Over the years this tournament has produced tons of top talent at the 12 and 13 year old age group, some of which ends up going on to play the game professionally, while the vast majority likely never make anything of their baseball career.
That being said, I couldn’t help but be blown away by the talent of a young shortstop on the Venezuelan team, Yonny Hernandez.
Most times the dominant players in the LLWS are simply those who have hit their growth spurt before their peers and are just physically more dominant. That was certainly the case with Hernandez too, as he was the largest player on the field, but he had undeniable natural skills, too.
Now, yes, I realize this kid is only 13 years old, but just watching the way he played the game, both defensively and offensively, I was just overwhelmed with the thought that he is a future big leaguer.
In a game against Canada, he had three hits, including two homeruns, but what was more impressive to me was his play at shortstop. He had the footwork and hands of a seasoned professional vet and he took command in the field like he’d been playing shortstop his whole life.
It’s funny, because you watch teams from Canada and even the US play and sure, they have great players, but in many cases, you don’t get the sense that these are the types of kids who have devoted their life to playing baseball. Maybe the Canadian kids play hockey in the winter, maybe the American kids are football players, you never know. When you see a star player from Venezuela, however, you get the sense that even at the tender age of 13, all their eggs are in the baseball basket. That is quite possibly their only ticket to a better life.
So, back to the question, how young is too young? I’ve never really heard of major league scouts necessarily paying too close attention to the LLWS, but would anything stop an organization from making some sort of understood agreement with a young player like this, perhaps giving him a role as team batboy and his family various jobs in Canada, until he is old enough to play pro ball and be signed? All the while giving him private instruction from professional coaches?
I suppose immigration services might have something to say about that and it’s likely a foolish idea, but really, if such a thing were possible it seems a small risk with a potential big upside, no?
Anyway, just food for thought. Maybe it’s just a hairbrained idea, but for now I’ll keep this on public record, so if Yonny Hernandez does end up becoming a big star, I’ll look pretty smart.