The kids have plenty of growing to do at the highest level, but home runs from Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are a good reminder of how much young talent there is in Toronto, and how much power could be with the next generation.
For several years earlier this decade, the Blue Jays spent way too many nights living and dying by the home run ball. When you had lineups that featured sluggers like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and plenty more, it worked often enough that it was hard to see as a problem until it was a little too late.
With that in mind, Ross Atkins and the rest of the front office have repeatedly talked about getting younger and more athletic with the roster over the last few years. They’ve certainly achieved the “younger” part of that mantra in the early stages of the rebuild, and naturally there is more athleticism with this group as well.
This is far from a finished product as a rebuild of course, but it’s not hard to see how power is going to play a significant factor for the Blue Jays with the way this roster is starting to develop. In fact, and then is a ridiculously premature prediction, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team hit even more home runs as a group in a few years than the playoff teams of 2015 and 2016 did.
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Allow me to explain what I’m talking about before you scoff too hard at the idea.
I’ll again admit that I don’t know who is going to stick with this team long term and neither does anyone else. However, we are starting to get an early idea of at least a few faces that should be around for the next five years or so, especially with rookie-contract eligibility, which comes with control for the franchise and likely a lot of pretty great bargains.
The Blue Jays are very fortunate because they’ll have a homegrown core that should include Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Rowdy Tellez, Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and eventually others like Bo Bichette. Add the recently extended Randal Grichuk and you’ve theoretically covered seven of the nine positions on the field already, and each of these seven has a high-potential ceiling, especially for hitting.
Let’s say that Biggio becomes the second baseman of the future and Gurriel Jr. sticks in left field. That means that the Jays will need to fill one more outfield spot, and then either first base or designated hitter, which could also be split with Tellez depending on where he ultimately settles. It’s also possible that someone like Jordan Groshans or Kevin Smith could eventually push Vlad Jr. over to first someday, which would fill that spot with another in-house candidate.
However they decide to fill that last spot, the Blue Jays should have enough money to bring in whatever their lineup is lacking. If that means they need a speedy leadoff hitter to play centre field and they move Grichuk to right, that’s fine. If they want to bring in another big swinger to play in the corner, that would theoretically work too.
However the last pieces are put together (and again, we don’t know if all the players I’ve listed above will stick for the long term), already there is 30 home run potential around the infield with Guerrero Jr., Tellez, Biggio, and eventually Bichette. 30 might be a low number for a couple of those guys, but it could the high end for someone like Bichette, who profiles are a potential leadoff type. In the outfield, I would suggest that Grichuk has 30 home run potential, and Gurriel Jr. strikes me as someone who could hit 20 or more as a utility guy. I don’t know that Jansen is going to win a Silver Slugger award, but he should an asset too.
The reason I could see the future group being even more prolific as power hitters than the last generation is that the young guys could offer power across the board. The 2015-16 Blue Jays had Devon Travis at second base, and light-hitting outfielders like Kevin Pillar and Ben Revere to round out the starting nine.
Having a well-rounded team will be important, but the big prospects of the Blue Jays future aren’t just home run hitters. Guerrero Jr. pushed for a .400 average last season in the minor leagues, Bichette won a batting title, and Biggio won an MVP. These kids can flat-out hit, and as they continue to develop and more of them arrive, it should be fun to watch the rebuild turn into a contender. And I’m sure we’ll have our fair share of chances to catch a home run ball too.