After the acquisition of Brandon Drury, several Blue Jays are set to lose some playing time in the infield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. should not be one of them.
The Blue Jays added another solid piece to their infield picture this week when they acquired Brandon Drury in exchange for J.A. Happ. The second baseman/third baseman/corner outfielder came along with Billy McKinney in the trade, who heads to Triple-A Buffalo, and is bound to get some semi-regular playing time with his new club.
John Gibbons will have an interesting task in front of him when it comes to integrating Drury into an already crowded picture. The Blue Jays have an infield that features Justin Smoak at first base, and then any combination of Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Devon Travis, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. occupying second, third, and shortstop on a given night.
Adding Drury to that picture will have an effect on everyone’s playing time to a certain degree. And if and when Josh Donaldson returns to the Blue Jays lineup, that’s another player that will need a full-time spot, which complicates things further. It’s also possible that the Blue Jays make another trade before Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline, or even in the month of August, but for now the depth chart is pretty full.
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While I know Gibbons will need to get everyone some regular playing time, I hope there’s one priority above all else with the group, and that’s keeping Gurriel Jr. in the lineup with regularity. The 24 year old has flashed immense potential this season, especially over the last couple of weeks. In addition to his strong defensive tools, he’s starting to really put things together at the plate. On Friday he became the first Blue Jay rookie to ever have nine straight multi-hit games, adding to his own franchise record in style with two home runs.
As Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins look to the future, evaluating young players like Gurriel has to be an important task. They mostly already know what they have in guys like Diaz, Solarte, and Travis, as each of them have a pretty solid big league resume. Gurriel’s career is just getting started, and with all due respect to the rest of the infielders, I don’t think any of them have anywhere near his upside.
Granted he’s on a pretty special run right now, but to me Gurriel looks like a potential star in the making, and at the very least a likely piece to the next generation of Blue Jays. He’s pushed his batting average up to .308 with Friday’s three hit performance, and he’s looked really solid at shortstop recently. I would suspect that’s where the bulk of his playing time will come going forward as well, especially because Travis/Drury/Solarte all play second, and the latter two play third base as well.
To me, installing Gurriel as the near-everyday shortstop makes too much sense, even if it comes at the expense of Diaz’s playing time. When he’s not at short, give him the odd game at second as well, but most importantly keep him in the lineup with regularity. The experience will be huge in developing the toolsy Cuban, and could be an important step in the rebuild of this roster.
Not to mention the fact that since he returned to the big league roster, he’s been arguably the best player on the team. He’s hit in 14 of 15 games, and has nine straight multi-hit games, as mentioned above. It looks like he’s for real, and the Blue Jays need to do everything they can to keep him in the lineup, infield logjam or not.