Blue Jays: What does Bo Bichette have to do to force Atkins’ hand?
Earlier this spring Bo Bichette mentioned that the hopes he can force the Blue Jays’ hands with his promotion, and so far his play is doing just that.
We’ve been getting a strong taste of the future of the Blue Jays so far in Grapefruit League play, and that’s even the case without the presence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
That’s because of the fantastic showing by guys like Anthony Alford, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and arguably the most exciting of them all, Bo Bichette. There are plenty of others that are performing well on both sides of the ball, but Bichette and his young teammates are the talk of camp right now, and with good reason.
The second ranked prospect in the Blue Jays’ organization is slashing .387/.424/.806 through 14 games, picking up 12 hits in his first 31 at bats, including four home runs to his credit. He has struck out seven times already, but an OBP of 1.206 has a way of popping off the page, regardless of how small the sample size is.
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The reality is, Bichette is almost certainly destined to start the year in Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons, a stop on the minor league food chain that he has yet to experience. He spent last year in Double-A and ended up slashing .286/.343/.453, also collecting 43 doubles, 11 home runs, 74 RBI, and 32 stolen bases in 43 attempts. The only reason any of that feels underwhelming is because of Guerrero Jr’s 2018 performance, and how closely linked the two were in 2017.
Right now Bichette is making waves of his own, with or without his future “Bash Brother”, and he’s making quite a strong case for his inclusion on the Opening Day roster. As I said, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but his play has me wondering if the Blue Jays will try to keep his in Triple-A for the entire season, or if they’ll eventually be forced to call him up.
That decision could be at least partially decided by the health of the other middle infielders. Right now Devon Travis is on the shelf, but the rest of the big league options are healthy for the time being. The list of shortstop options could include Gurriel Jr. Freddy Galvis, Eric Sogard, and Richard Urena, so they have others on the depth chart before injury will force their hands.
More likely, if Bichette is rolling his way through Triple-A in the early part of the season, it’s possible the Blue Jays could promote him after the July 31st trade deadline, especially now that Major League Baseball is going to a one deadline system. It’s no guarantee that they’ll trade Galvis before that deadline expires, but on a one year deal there’s a good chance he’ll be put on the market. Gurriel Jr. is expected to play all over the diamond, Sogard will likely serve as Triple-A depth, and Urena is a lesser ranked prospect who is fighting for a place in the organization.
Once the path to everyday at bats is clear at shortstop, then I could see the Blue Jays making room for him on the big league roster, but for now it probably doesn’t matter how well he performs during Grapefruit League play. To be fair, I’m sure he’ll benefit from spending at least a portion of the year in Triple-A, but hopefully the Blue Jays will remain open to the idea of calling him up if he continues to show the promise he has this spring. Right now, he certainly looks ready for the challenge.