The Blue Jays have a ton of talented young players, so much so that someone like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. gets lost in the discussion. That won’t last for long.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays just completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles to start the second half, I’d say they got the best news of the month earlier this weekend. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had hit the seven day DL a week ago, but cleared all of his concussion protocol tests and was allowed to return to the lineup.
Concussions can be a tricky thing, as we’ve witnessed with guys like Aaron Hill and Justin Morneau in the past, and I’m thankful that it looks like Gurriel escaped this situation with minor issues. That’s great news for both the player and the organization, as the talented utility player is quickly becoming one of the most exciting names around this team these days.
The Cuban import has impressed at the plate for the most part, and has been swinging a hot stick lately. Sunday’s multi-hit performance was his fifth, making him the seventh rookie to accomplish that feat in team history.
The solid performance also raised his slash line to .281/.299/.412 in 24 games as a big leaguer, which is probably more than the front office expected from him at this early stage of his career. It would be nice to see his on-base numbers go up a bit, but so far he’s shown that he’s not intimated by big league pitching, and should continue to improve with the more experience he gets.
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I’m hoping he gets just that for the remainder of the 2018 season, and the Blue Jays get an extended look at the free agent they signed back in the winter of 2016. They agreed to a seven year, 22 million dollar pact, and are in the midst of the second year of that agreement. They knew he was an unfinished product when they signed him, but also saw the immense potential that justified a contract like that. So far, I’d say things are looking like they’ll work out very well in the Blue Jays’ favour.
Despite some occasional hiccups in the field earlier this season, Gurriel has proven to be an asset on defence whether he’s playing shortstop or second base, and has been worth an overall mark of 0.1 dWAR. Chances are he could play a more than adequate corner outfield as well, but for the Blue Jays I’m not sure that’s necessary. For the time being, I’d like to see him get regular playing time at one of the keystone positions, especially as Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins do a deep evaluation of their roster and consider which pieces are going to make sense to keep around. Maybe guys like Aledmys Diaz and Devon Travis fit into that long term picture as well, but if I’m running the front office, I’d like a long look at Gurriel over the next few months.
With guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Kevin Smith, and many more coming to muddle up the infield picture in the next few years, figuring out Gurriel’s position, and more importantly his ceiling, could be an important factor to the second half for the Blue Jays. Just 24 years old, his talent is definitely still raw, but it’s obvious even to those of us that aren’t certified scouts.
His brother Yuli Gurriel once said “he hits better than me, runs better than me and plays better than me defensively” in an interview with MLB.com, which is solid praise coming from an accomplished MLB player. Yuli won a World Series ring with the Astros in 2017, and is slashing .305/.334/.436, good for 1.9 bWAR in 79 games played this season. Add in Lourdes’ ability to play at a premium defensive position, and that’s an exciting ceiling to think about.