Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit his second home run in as many games since being recalled to the big leagues, and he’s already reminding us he belongs at the highest level.
It’s no secret that the Blue Jays are going through a rebuild right now, and that the 2019 season will be more about developing their future stars at the highest level than worrying about the win-loss column.
With that comes plenty of things to consider. We have to remember that these young players will go through ups and downs as they adjust to the big leagues and as the league adjusts to them. We saw that happen to varying degrees with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. last year with the Blue Jays as he broke the rookie record for consecutive multi-hit games. We also saw the other side prior to his demotion to Buffalo a month and a half ago.
It wasn’t just his cold bat that landed him in Buffalo back then, as it was more about his troubling defence (a case of the “yips”), but thankfully he turned things around while in AAA. He ended up slashing .273/.305/.479 in 30 games and 121 at-bats. More importantly, he got his confidence back on defence, both in the infield and also by working on brushing up his skills in the outfield.
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With a loaded infield and plenty of other talented keystone prospects in the system, Gurriel Jr. will have to do two things in order to fit in with the Blue Jays in the long term. First, he’ll probably have to offer the defensive flexibility that we’ve witnessed so far this year. If he can develop into a Marwin Gonzalez type of player, he’ll be very valuable spelling teammates all over the lineup while playing on a regular basis.
Secondly, he’ll have to hit, especially if he’s going to be considered for one of the corner outfield jobs. Fortunately for the Blue Jays and the talented young Cuban, he’s already reminding us why having patience with prospects is important, and why he should still be considered as a big part of the future in Toronto.
I don’t think that he’s going to challenge for the home run crown even at his best, but Gurriel Jr. made sure that American League pitchers know he’s back by hitting a home run in each of his first two games back with the Blue Jays. He doesn’t have to hit 40 home runs a year to be a threat in the lineup, and we saw that last season as he thrived throughout his rookie-record hit streak.
While his teammate and fellow call-up Cavan Biggio has gone 0-6 with three strikeouts so far, Gurriel Jr. has had the luxury of not having to deal with the pressures of a big league debut. For the 25-year-old, it’s more about carving out a role on this team, both now and going forward. It’s hard to say if that’s going to be as an outfielder, an infielder, or a utility man, but as long as he produces then Charlie Montoyo will find a spot for him one way or another.
The encouraging part is that even after two games, Gurriel Jr. is already reminding the Blue Jays and their fans that he belongs at the highest level.