A 60-game season could end up being either a great thing for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and the Blue Jays, or it could go the other way altogether.
This is going to be a fascinating MLB season to watch for a wide range of reasons, and maybe even more so for a talented young team like the Toronto Blue Jays. With no fans in the stands, new division alignments, expanded rosters and more, there will be a lot of changes to get used to, and we can throw most of the typical expectations out the window.
That said, that doesn’t mean that it’s all negative by any means, and for some players there could be some interesting benefits. For example, for a notoriously streaky hitter like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., this shortened 60-game schedule has the potential to work in his favour. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of time to right the ship if he starts things off a little cold.
Gurriel Jr. was one of the players profiled yesterday by MLB.com’s Keegan Matheson, and for good reason. Matheson pointed out that Gurriel Jr’s streakiness has often been the cause of injuries throughout his short career, and I can’t argue with him there. The 26-year-old played just 84 games last year, and 65 the season before after getting called up midway through the campaign.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
However, he’s also shown himself to be a bit of a streaky hitter, even when he has been healthy. Last season was an example of extremes, especially before his demotion and position change in April, when he was hitting just .175/.250/.275, and was badly struggling on defence. When he returned, he hit .393/.414/.964 over 28 at-bats in May, and followed that up with a very strong slash line of .337/.381/.683 in June, adding 10 home runs and 20 RBI.
While he did battle injuries later in the season, that wasn’t the case for the month of July when he cooled off and hit .255/.317/.457, also slowing down with just four home runs and 10 RBI across just ten less at-bats than he received in June. We saw the same sort of thing during his rookie season as well, as he went nuts with a .423 batting average over 73 plate appearances in July, only to come back to earth with a .256 mark in September after getting healthy again.
As Matheson pointed out, the first step to finding consistency for Gurriel Jr. will be staying healthy, something he’s struggled with a bit through his first season and a half. That said, if he can stay on the field in his new position and focus on his work at the plate, don’t be surprised to see him putting up some big numbers. He’s the type of streaky performer at the plate that has shown himself to be worthy of “AL Rookie of the Month’, as he was in July of 2018, and also the Blue Jays’ “Honda Player of the Month” as he was last summer.
After seeing Gurriel Jr. flash his raw talent over the last couple of years, there’s no doubt in my mind that the potential for greatness is there. To me, the greatest question for his career is about his consistency, especially over the course of a 162-game season. That won’t be a test he has to pass in 2020, and if the cards fall in the way for the Cuban-born young man, don’t be shocked if he’s among the American League leaders in several offensive categories.