Blue Jays: Pros and cons of a long big league leash

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a single in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on March 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Danny Jansen #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a single in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on March 30, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

While many of the Blue Jays’ young big leaguers have struggled so far, their leash will be pretty long before they’re sent back to Buffalo, for a few reasons.

As much as a new season brings hope, optimism, and excitement, the Blue Jays have already managed to bring their fan base crashing back to reality pretty early this season.

To be fair, I think most of us expected that the young club would struggle at times this year, and likely finish near the bottom of the American League standings. However, I’m not sure that any of us predicted that the offence would completely sputter like this, with pretty much everyone across the board struggling at the plate with the exception of Freddy Galvis, and the seven hits in 15 at bats that Richard Urena has managed so far.

As a club they’re slashing just .191/.270/.331 so far, and most games it’s been a struggle to even collect a hit. They’ve already been in legitimate danger of being no-hit three times in the first ten games, and scary part is that most of it has come against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, who are both expected to be pretty bad in their own right this season.

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It’s definitely been frustrating to watch so far, but I don’t think it’s going to last all year by any means. Justin Smoak will hit better than .200, and Randal Grichuk will see his average climb a great deal from .182, but we know that because of their recent track record. We don’t know a lot about most of the young players on this roster, at least in terms of ability at the highest level, and even the front office and coaching staff have to be in constant evaluation mode at the moment.

I have nothing but faith in guys like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and even Rowdy Tellez. However, that doesn’t mean that any of them are ready to stick in the big leagues for good yet, and the next couple of weeks are going to be important for a number of reasons. It’s going to be important to each of their respective developments, but it’ll also be interesting to see how Atkins and the Blue Jays’ coaching staff handle things.

Let’s look at two specific examples in Danny Jansen and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. so far. Combined the two of them have just two hits a piece in their first 51 at bats, and you could throw Billy McKinney in the same pile, as he’s got just four hits in 26 at bats. Normally when a young player struggles like this in the big leagues, the common route is to send them back to Triple-A to work on whatever they’re struggling with, and ultimately to gain some confidence back.

The Blue Jays are in an interesting spot, especially with Jansen and Gurriel, as they’ll not only have to decide what’s best for their development, but also figure out the depth chart beneath them if they are demoted for a while.

In Jansen’s case, I would expect that the leash is a little longer for him, mostly because catchers have the added responsibility of handling a major league pitching staff. That has to be the priority for the young backstop, and it’s not uncommon for young catchers to struggle at the plate while they adjust to their defensive responsibilities in the big leagues. Still though, if he can’t snap out of the funk at some point then the Blue Jays will have to entertain giving him a breather. I would assume that Luke Maile and likely Reese McGuire would handle the duties in that case, but hopefully the Blue Jays won’t have to go there.

For Gurriel Jr., it’s a little more complicated in the short term. The Blue Jays do have a few options they could use if they wanted to send him back to Triple-A, but if they wanted to use Eric Sogard for example, they’d have to add him to the 40 man roster. If Devon Travis was healthy right now the solution would be a little more straight forward, however he’s on the 60 day IL, and won’t be available or quite some time. It’s possible the Blue Jays could send Gurriel Jr. down to Buffalo when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. eventually arrives (with Brandon Drury playing more second base), but that’s not an imminent move yet either.

Next. Blue Jays employing the same tired approach at the plate. dark

More likely, the Blue Jays young players will be given every opportunity to snap out of their funks at the plate, and hopefully that will begin today. As much as we can expect this team to struggle at times this year, there’s too much talent for the performance at the plate to be this bad, and hopefully a long leash will work out for the best. Otherwise things get really interesting.