For Blue Jays fans that like to dream about the future, there is plenty to get excited about at the moment in the lower runs of the minor league system.
Although the Blue Jays have one of the oldest rosters in baseball this season, there are still plenty of talented young pieces amongst the veterans. The rotation features young, top of the rotation types in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, and the closer, Roberto Osuna, is among the AL’s best and is still just 22 years old.
Jose Bautista is the elder statesman on offence at 36, but Russell Martin is 34, Kendrys Morales is 33, Troy Tulowitzki is 32, and Josh Donaldson is 31. They’ve all got plenty to offer in their MLB careers before they’re done, but with a median age over 30, the lineup won’t stay together forever.
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As much fun as the present is with the Blue Jays (and it’s been great, as they’ve won 8 of their last 10, getting themselves back from the brink of irrelevance), I get almost as excited to check the MiLB box scores every night, as I regularly keep tabs on two of the brightest offensive stars the Jays have had in years. What’s even more intriguing about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, is they’re both second generation pro ball players.
For those that somehow missed it, yes, Vlad Jr. is the son of future Hall of Fame, Vladimir Guerrero (Sr.). “Vlad the Implayer” was a 9-time All-Star in his 16 career from 1996-2011, and finished with a career slash line of .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 RBI, and 59.3 WAR throughout his career in Montreal, Anaheim, Texas, and Baltimore (and a brief MiLB signing with the Blue Jays). He received 71.4 percent in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and would appeared poised for enshrinement next year.
Like his father, Vlad Jr. can absolutely mash, and is destroying the Low-A ranks this season to the tune of a .327/.422/.500 slash line with 4 home runs, 28 RBI, and 14 doubles in 162 at bats…. as an 18 year old. He moved up to #16 on Baseball America’s prospect listing, after beginning the season in the 20th position. A hat tip to yahoo.com’s Jeff Passan as well for his great article on Vlad Jr. yesterday, discussing the similar potential he’s displaying at a young age.
He’s got quite a bit of work to do before he’ll be ready for the big leagues, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to see him get a cup of coffee as a 20 year old. The question will be whether he sticks at third base, ends up moving either across the diamond to first, or to a corner outfield position. Regardless, when you hit the way he does, then the organization will find a place for you one way or another. Again, at just 18, he’s got plenty of time to figure out where he fits best.
His prospect status and the excitement around him are not a new story, but it’s pretty encouraging to see the consistent performance he’s logging at such a young age. He’s also displaying plate disciple that’s pretty unheard of for a teenager, walking 25 times against just 23 strikeouts.
Like Guerrero, Bo Bichette is both a second generation pro ball player (he’s Dante Bichette‘s son), and has displayed unbelievably encouraging ability for a 19 year old. Bichette and Guerrero are teammates with the Lansing Lugnuts, and he is punishing opposing pitchers even more than Vlad Jr. The shortstop sports a ridiculous .381/.458/.619 slash line with 6 home runs, 32 RBI, 18 doubles in 168 at bats.
The junior Bichette was listed at #93 on the prospects rankings update on May 11th, having shown enough to catch the attention of pretty much anyone that keeps tabs on Minor League Baseball. He’s been that good.
Add in the other bright offensive prospects like Anthony Alford, Bradley Jones, Rowdy Tellez, and more, and it suddenly feels a lot more palatable to have one of the MLB’s oldest rosters. Knowing that those reinforcements are on the way allows the front office to alter their approach, like the 1 year deal (guaranteed) Jose Bautista.
As I said, thankfully the Blue Jays are back to being competitive and worthy of excitement again, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop checking up on the future too. When you’ve got guys like Guerrero and Bichette raking in the lower levels, it’s pretty fun to dream about what the future holds.