It was a very long and difficult first half, but the young Blue Jays talent is already showing significant growth this year, and should have you believing in this rebuild.
Even though we all knew that the 2019 season was bound to be a tough one for the Toronto Blue Jays, it still wasn’t fun to watch the team struggle through most of the first half. Lately it’s been a much different story, and it appears that the youth on this team have already learned and applied some valuable lessons.
After taking three of four from the Kansas City Royals, the Blue Jays lost two out of three to Boston, but the win-loss column probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to the coaching staff at the moment, at least on the offensive side of the ball. This has been a completely different team over the last few weeks, as they’ve averaged seven runs a game over those last two series. If you go back and include when they were swept against the Yankees the average it only drops to 6.7 even with three more losses.
It’s a much different story from the start of the season when this team struggled to even get a baserunner some nights, and suddenly they’ve transformed into one of the best offences in baseball. That’s not likely to sustain itself given the amount of inexperience on this roster, but it’s a great sign for the future of this franchise.
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Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has been absolutely on fire since coming back from Triple-A, hitting 15 home runs in 38 games, and playing fantastic baseball on both sides of the diamond. When you add his hitting heroics to his solid play in left field, including six outfield assists, Gurriel Jr. has earned more WAR than anyone across the big leagues other than Mike Trout during that span, according to a tweet from Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.
He hasn’t been alone either, as Danny Jansen has gone from hitting well below the Mendoza line to becoming one of the hottest hitters in the American League. Last night’s home run was the third consecutive game in which he’d gone deep, and he’s now hit five in his last seven games. He’s also raised his batting average to .208, which is a far cry from the .166 mark he was sporting near the end of June.
Cavan Biggio has been a great addition to the Blue Jays lineup, especially because of the poise well beyond his years in the batter’s box. He’s shown a great eye throughout his minor league career, but the fact that he’s been so good in that department in his first 35 big league games has been very encouraging. His .379 OBP is the number that sticks out the most among a bunch of impressive numbers for the 24-year-old, and his 1.0 bWAR already ain’t bad either.
Freddy Galvis turned his slump around and has been one of the hottest hitters in the Blue Jays’ lineup as well. He’s found his power stroke again and is up to 15 on the season with 44 RBI and a .273 batting average. Add that to his solid defensive play at a key position, and there should be some legitimate interest on the trade market this month if the Jays decide to move him. On that note Bo Bichette continues to tear the cover off the ball in Triple-A and should join his former MiLB teammates at some point this year, perhaps after Galvis and/or Eric Sogard are dealt this month, if that happens.
Rowdy Tellez has had solid streaks this season and should be a nice left-handed power bat for the future as he continues to develop, and there are other prospects having impressive seasons as well, including Griffin Conine. Randal Grichuk has also turned things around after another slow start, and the Blue Jays will hope he can repeat his second half from last season. The list is pretty long, and I haven’t even gotten to the centrepiece yet.
I realize that Vladimir Guerrero Jr‘s rookie season hasn’t been as spectacular as most of us hoped it would be, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should be down on the future around this kid. We often forget that he’s only 20 years old, and most players his age are still working in the lower rungs of the minor league system. When you compare his current slash line of .247/.326/.417 with eight home runs and 12 doubles (in 57 ages) to Ken Griffey Jr‘s rookie season of .264/.329/.420 with 16 home runs and 23 doubles (In 127 games, granted, at 19 years old), then you can see why there’s no reason to worry at this stage. I’m not saying he’s going to be Griffey Jr., but it’s a good example that elite talent doesn’t always happen overnight, especially at that age.
I’m more than aware that the Blue Jays have a ton of work to do in developing their pitching ranks to the same degree, but I don’t think the future is as bleak as some would have you believe. Nate Pearson is going to be a star at some point in the next couple of seasons, and there are other high-end talents like Eric Pardinho, Adam Kloffenstein, and even their first two picks from this year’s draft, Alex Manoah and Kendall Williams. I have high hopes for Ryan Borucki too as he continues to get healthy, and Trent Thornton has been a pleasant surprise in his rookie season, for the most part.
Add it all up (and more talent in the pipeline), and the young core of the lineup is already showing why they’ve been successful throughout the minor leagues as they’ve developed, and why most of them were highly rated prospects. No team hits on 100% of their prospects, and the Blue Jays won’t either, but there are enough reasons to like the future of this team if you’ve been paying attention lately. They’re hitting and scoring runs, playing competitive baseball on a more consistent basis, and they look like they’re finally enjoying the game they way that young players in their rookie season should.
The question is, does this talented lineup have you believing in the rebuild in Toronto? It’s far from a finished product, but I’m feeling more optimistic every day.