Blue Jays: Gurriel Jr’s struggles could accelerate other prospect timelines

SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Cavan Biggio #26 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: AFL West All-Star, Cavan Biggio #26 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Blue Jays demoted Lourdes Gurriel Jr on Monday, and while they called up Eric Sogard for now, we could see some other prospects get a shot as a result.

In an ideal scenario for the Blue Jays and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the talented 25 year old will spend a few weeks in Buffalo regaining his confidence and then will be able to re-join the big league team. When it comes to dealing with the “yips”, making a game plan is a fool’s errand, and the Jays will just have to see how he responds and hope the setback is temporary.

Right now it sounds like they want to ease him back into playing even in Buffalo and will likely give him a few games as the designated hitter so he doesn’t have to worry about fielding right away. He will have to get back on the horse at some point though, and how he responds to that challenge could go a long way in determining the futures of a few other talented Blue Jay prospects.

The club elected to promote Eric Sogard to Toronto to take Gurriel Jr’s spot, and that decision makes sense for the time being. Unfortunately they were unable to bring Richard Urena back until he’s been back in Triple-A for at least ten days, so if they wanted to send Gurriel Jr. down then they needed a replacement. Sogard is a veteran and will hopefully provide some stability for now, if nothing else.

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My assumption is that Sogard and Urena (when he’s eligible to return) will be tasked with filling in for the time being, and it might also mean that Alen Hanson gets a longer look with the Blue Jays as well. However, in a season that the Blue Jays want to use for development and evaluation, I don’t think they’re going to stick with their temporary solution for long. Ideally, Gurriel Jr. will be able to come back in a month or less, but if he can’t then I think Ross Atkins and company start taking a more serious look at other scenarios.

First, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to be promoted to Toronto sometime in the not so distant future. He’s already terrorizing the pitchers in Triple-A, and there’s no doubt that the Blue Jays could use the offensive boost that he should provide, even as he adjusts to the big leagues for the first time. When that happens the Blue Jays will have another option at second base in Brandon Drury, who will have to vacate the full-time duties at third after the phenom’s pending arrival.

Drury hasn’t exactly set the world on fire either though, and we don’t know a lot about when Devon Travis will be back from the IL just yet. While there are a lot of variables and moving parts, I can’t help but think that Atkins and the front office have to be paying close attention to the hot hitting from Cavan Biggio in Buffalo, and to a lesser extent from Bo Bichette.

Biggio has started his 2019 absolutely on fire with the Bisons, in his first season at the Triple-A level. He was the 2018 Eastern League MVP in Double-A, and while he’s not as highly rated as Guerrero or Bichette, he’s also arguably more advanced at 24 years old, and might be the type of contributor that the Jays hoped Gurriel Jr. could be this year. He’s got experience at second base, third base, first base, and also recently added the corner outfield to his resume.

My guess is the Blue Jays would like to let Biggio play the majority of this season at Triple-A since he’s new to that level, but he feels like the type that could be worth a look, and at less risk to his development as guys like Guerrero Jr. or Bichette, who are three and four years younger. They also don’t have to worry about the service time issues in the same way with him, which has been a frequent topic of discussion, especially in Vlad Jr’s case. We are past the point where that matters for this season, but there are some folks who believe that Bo Bichette won’t see the big leagues until next year, partly because of that reason.

The other factor for Bichette is the great play of Freddy Galvis thus far, who has been arguably the best player on the offensive side of the ball so far. That said, it’s entirely possible that Galvis could be traded later this season if the Blue Jays feel they can get a solid return, and the fact that Gurriel Jr. may not be around to take over at shortstop could work in Bichette’s favour for later in the season. I’m sure he’s not cheering for his former, current, and future teammate’s struggles, but it may accelerate Bichette’s big league timeline if Gurriel Jr. can’t get back on track in the next month or two.

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It’s not something the Blue Jays are going to have to deal with immediately, and with Vlad Jr’s pending promotion coming they’ll have Brandon Drury to help at second base as well. However, things could definitely change as the season wears on. As I said, ideally Gurriel Jr. will be able to get his confidence back and return to Toronto before the Blue Jays have to do more than put a bandaid on the situation, but you just never know how long it’s going take, or what else could happen before then.