Jairo Heredia | RHP
Jairo was born in San Cristobal, DR, but grew up in Santo Domingo, the same Dominican town responsible for David Ortiz, Fausto Carmona, Albert Pujols, Aramis Ramirez, Melky Cabrera and dozens of other major leaguers. The Yanks signed him as a 17-yr old during the 2006 International signing period in early July, and forked over a $285,000 bonus. It was the fourth largest bonus the Yanks handed out last summer, behind Jesus Montero ($1.6M), Carlos Urena ($350,000) and Jose Pirela ($300,000). For some unknown reason he was originally known as “Hairo Heredia” after signing, but it was later corrected to “Jairo,” which is his true birth name.
Jairo began his pro career in 2006 with one of the Yanks’ squads in the Dominican Summer League before participating in Dominican Instructs during the fall. He came to the States in 2007 only a year after signing, which is a move only the very best international talents make that quickly. He made his US debut with the Rookie level GCL Yanks in 2007, working short stints every five days. After a short but rough adjustment period, Jairo went on a tear in July. In 22 IP spread over 5 appearances, he allowed 10 hits and walked only 3 batters (3 ER) against 25 strikeouts. His season high point came on July 10th, went he went 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K against the GCL Indians.
Jairo’s season came to an abrupt end on August 15th, went he left a game with soreness in his throwing shoulder. The Yanks took the ultra-cautious approach they always take and shut Jairo down for the remainder of the season. He finished the year with a 40.2 IP, 31 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 8 BB, 41 K line, and was rated as the 15th best prospect in the GCL by Baseball America. Jairo earned comparisons to Pedro Martinez from GCL Yanks manager Jody Reed (Reed went so far as to refer to him as Pedro Jr.) for his stuff, mound presence and tenacity. Jairo was fully healthy in time to make his second trip to Dominican Instructional League, where he returned to the mound without restraint.
When you talk about Jairo Heredia, you have to start with his feel for pitching. He knows how to work off his fastball, pitch to both sides of the plate, and set up hitters. He pitches at 90-92 mph with his fastball, and he should add a tick or two as he fills out his 6′-1″, 190 lb frame. His fastball plays up because he spots it so well. Jairo’s overhand curve is a quality second offering, and when he is able to get it over for strikes consistently it can be unhittable. His changeup is a usable third pitch, but it’s the weakest of his repertoire. He pounds the zone and confidently challenges hitters.
Jairo pitches like someone 10 years his elder, but his inexperience can still be evident at times. There is such a thing as throwing too many strikes, and Jairo can be guilty of that every so often. He also needs to build up his stamina, as he tended to wear down during his 4-5 inning GCL stints. This is due in part to his max effort delivery, which is a toned down version of the Dontrelle Willis Tornado. He also needs to work on the usual, like fielding his position and holding baserunners.
The Yanks are working on cleaning up Jairo’s mechanics and simplifying his delivery, so he’s likely to start 2008 in Extended Spring Training followed by a stint with Short Season Staten Island. There’s an outside chance that he starts the year with Low-A Charleston, but he’ll need to make major strides with his motion over the winter and during Spring Training.
Well, the Pedro comparisons are both premature and unfair, but you have to like what Jairo brings to the table. I tend to temper my expectations with GCL pitchers because they’ve broken my heart more times than I care to count (Argeni Landaeta and Marvin Moscat anyone?), but I find myself being very optimistic about Heredia. Throwing strikes and learning how to pitch (and not just throw) are two of the biggest obstacles young pitchers face, but Jairo seems to be well on his way to conquering those challenges. The Yanks haven’t developed an impact pitcher from Latin America since Mariano Rivera and Ramiro Mendoza debuted in the mid-1990’s (Cuban vets El Duque and Jose Contreras don’t count), but Jairo looks like he could be the kid to buck that trend. Stay tuned.