As the Blue Jays begin a rebuild and their roster gets younger, it’s possible we could see a whole lot of rookies making their big league debut.
Even though the Blue Jays have added some veterans to their roster recently, the focus is still going to be on developing their talented youngsters and working toward their latest rebuild.
We saw several prospects turn into big leaguers in 2018, including Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki, Sean Reid-Foley and more. Chances are the list will be even longer this season, especially after the trade deadline this summer. For now there is plenty of room for the young players to fight for a big league job, and fortunately the Blue Jays have several deserving candidates.
The most obvious choice is probably also the leading early candidate for rookie of the year honours in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. By now if you haven’t heard about this kid, then you’re probably not really interested in baseball anyway, and I’m even wondering how you ended up reading this. Vlad Jr. is going to play in the big leagues, even if we have to wait a few weeks into the season for his debut.
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Gurriel Jr. is no longer considered a rookie, but with just 81 at bats Danny Jansen retains his rookie status. Borucki will no longer be classified as a rookie either, but that’s not the case for Reid-Foley or for Thomas Pannone, who also made a few starts last season. It goes beyond those five though obviously, and the list could get rather lengthy depending on how many trades Ross Atkins and company have in mind this summer.
We’re bound to see Reese McGuire in the big leagues again at some point, even if he’s likely to start the year in Triple-A Buffalo where he can get more playing time. Billy McKinney is just shy of the 130 at bats needed to be considered a rookie as well, so he joins the list even if fans are rather familiar with him. The same goes for outfielders Jonathan Davis, and Anthony Alford, and for first baseman Rowdy Tellez.
The pitching staff is where I expect we’ll see the most opportunity for young players, and that’s often the case, especially in the bullpen. There’s a chance the Blue Jays will stick with 19 year old Elvis Luciano to make the team out of Spring Training, otherwise they’ll have to return him to the Royals because of Rule 5 draft rules. I expect that Tim Mayza will have a very good chance to make the team as well, and the two of them could be the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to pitching staff needs it’s often a reflection of health, and with an injury-riddled staff that includes Aaron Sanchez, Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker and more, there could be plenty of opportunity. Don’t be surprised if we see any or all of Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Patrick Murphy or Hector Perez throughout the year.
On the position player side it’s much harder to predict what’s going to happen. There won’t be much more of this silly holding Vlad Jr. back in Triple-A, but it remains to be seen how long it’ll be before Bo Bichette makes his big league debut. He’s looked very strong this spring and could probably make a realistic challenge for a middle infielder’s job now. However, he’s yet to play a game above Double-A and with the Blue Jays having a number of options in their middle infield picture, it might be a while before we see him. That could change with a few injuries of course, or a trade or two later in the year.
I’d also throw Cavan Biggio for later on in the season as well. The 2018 Eastern League MVP has turned himself into a versatile defender, and that could certainly work in his favour for a call up later in the season. He’s a natural infielder, but he’s been working toward adding the outfield to his resume and he’s had reasonable success at the gig so far. While I ultimately think Bichette has higher upside than Biggio, I do believe the latter will make his MLB debut first.
A lot could change throughout the course of a 162 game season, which means we could see a whole host of others, and maybe even some that aren’t even in the organization yet today. One way or another, the Blue Jays’ roster is about to get a whole lot younger than it’s been in years.