As the talented young roster in Toronto continues to gain big league experience, we’re bound to see more offensive breakouts. Here are a couple of strong candidates.
The first half of the season may not have provided Blue Jays fans with a ton of excitement but it allowed them a catch a little glimpse of the future with all the rookies the team had pencilled in the lineup most nights.
Rookies Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Danny Jansen all ranked in the top ten among prospects at their position heading into the year, including Guerrero at number one and Jansen at number five.
Guerrero Jr’s first game was one of the most anticipated debuts in recent years and Jansen’s role as the everyday catcher was also highly anticipated within the organization as he slashed .247/.347/.432 with a 0.9 fWAR during a 31-game stint last year. But in the first half it’s been Biggio who’s looked most comfortable, as shown by his .362 on-base percentage and 113 wRC+.
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However, Jansen was on absolute tear at the dish heading into the All-Star break, going 22-for-73 (.301) with six home runs, five doubles, one triple and a whopping wRC+ of 153. He was the Blue Jays best offensive player during that stretch aside from Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
While it would be difficult to continue at that pace, we are finally seeing Jansen for who he is and the guy the Blue Jays brass decided to give the chance to hold down the catcher’s position for the future. While it took some time, it seems the pressure has been taken off Jansen and his confidence in the box is back to where it was late in 2018.
If the Jays could see Jansen hit .250 down the stretch and give them some reassurance that he’s ready to run with the job behind the plate it would be a big win for the club heading into 2020.
Vlad Jr. is another rookie that could take off in the second half and return to the player that everyone fell in love with during his minor league career and Monday’s Home Run Derby. That being a young kid who can hit tape-measure home runs, almost on command at times it seems.
The most worrisome part of his first-half wasn’t the fact he wasn’t clubbing balls over the Rogers Centre wall, but rather that he didn’t seem comfortable at the plate all that often, or with the strike zone. During his minor league career he walked more times than he struck out and we just haven’t seen that approach yet from Vlad in the majors.
When that comes, so will the power and the rest of his offensive game. He was loose, relaxed and having fun during the Home Run Derby and if that side of him comes out over the next two and a half months, pitchers in the AL East should be on the lookout.
It’s easy to say Vlad will turn things around in the second half as you have to assume he will at some point, but if he doesn’t then it will go down as a rather disappointing freshman campaign for the 20-year-old.
Of course no hope will be lost should Guerrero’s struggles continue, but for the future outlook of the Blue Jays and piecing together their starting nine in next few years, it will be a very important few months for Jansen.