The Blue Jays are well set up for a quick rebuild, and the similarities between their minor league system and the Chicago Cubs’ from a few years ago are pretty interesting.
If I were a betting man, I’d probably put my money on the Chicago Cubs as this year’s World Series champions. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of strong teams and the Cubs are no shoe-in by any means, but I like their chances a lot because of their balance of youthful talent and veteran presence.
It was a similar balance a couple seasons ago when they broke their more than century old championship drought. With young stars like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and the veteran presence of guys like Ben Zobrist and Jon Lester, it was and is a team that’s got a lot of things working for them.
As recently as 2014, the Cubs were a 73 win team, and had to continue to sell fans on the strength of a future core they were developing in the minors. They had Rizzo, who earned MVP votes and an All-Star appearance in 2014, but it wasn’t until the following season that we witnessed their transformation into a true contender.
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Bryant made his MLB debut and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award with a .275/.369/.488 slash line, adding 26 home runs and 99 RBI in 151 games played. He wasn’t alone either, as Addison Russell became a regular in 2015 before earning an All-Star appearance in 2016, which was also the year we really started to see the talent that Javier Baez possessed. Kyle Schwarber also hit 16 home runs and had 43 RBI in just 273 at bats that year as a rookie.
The Cubs believed in this young core enough that they arguably signed Jon Lester a year before they needed an ace on their staff, and brought in other veterans like Zobrist. The balance worked for Theo Epstein in Chicago just as it had in Boston before that, and Joe Maddon‘s touch as the manager might have been the ultimate difference maker. Whatever it was, the Cubs were champions, and set themselves up to contend for a while, just as they have since.
Getting back to the Blue Jays, I see a lot of similarities between the two clubs, and hopefully we’ll see a familiar development in a few years time in Toronto. The young core is talented enough to earn the Blue Jays the #3 ranking in Baseball America’s minor league rankings, and they have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette under contract for the better part of the next decade, and they sit at #1 and #5 respectively on the individual list.
On top of those two, the Blue Jays have exciting young players like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, and several others with a ton of upside. With all minor leaguers, there is no guarantee that they’ll develop into MLB stars, but with the volume of talented bodies kicking around I’ve got a good feeling about the future in Toronto.
Admittedly it’s difficult to stay on the positive side of things when your team is struggling through a season that has them 13 games under .500 with 25 left to play. Next year could be a little painful to watch too, but it should also bring an excitement about the future as we witness the potential in these youngsters first hand.
If Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro can give the talented young core an infusion of veteran talent at the right time in a couple years, there is real potential that we’ll see the Blue Jays back in the playoffs before we know it. Hopefully their minor league system will produce that talented young core, just as we’ve witnessed with the Cubs, and others around the game as well.
This is, of course, the glass half-full view of things in Blue Jay land right now, but considering everything else that’s been going on lately, that’s where I choose to live. Feel free to join me.