Unheralded minor league signee lighting up Triple-A for the Blue Jays

New infielder starts off with eight-game hitting streak, five home runs
Gabriel Cancel plays second base for the Kansas City Royals in a Spring Training game against the Seattle Mariners.
Gabriel Cancel plays second base for the Kansas City Royals in a Spring Training game against the Seattle Mariners. / Ralph Freso/GettyImages

If it is true you only get one chance to make a first impression, then Gabriel Cancel is batting 1.000 with the Bisons.

The 27-year-old infielder signed a minor-league deal at the end of June and was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo. Since joining the Bisons on June 26, Cancel has started off with an eight-game hitting streak that includes five home runs, three doubles and nine RBI. In his eight games with Buffalo, Cancel is hitting .400 (12-for-30) and has an on-base percentage of .500, and an OPS of 1.500 in 36 plate appearances.

Cancel started the 2024 season with the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League. In 53 games with the Dirty Birds, Cancel went 55 for 195 (.282), with 17 home runs, 10 doubles, 50 runs, 39 RBI, 43 walks, and 30 stolen bases. He had an OBP of .414 and an OPS of 1.019 in 239 trips to the plate.

Cancel apparently figured something out. Since the Kansas City Royals made him a 2015 seventh-round draft pick, he has spent eight seasons in the minors and one season playing in the independent league American Association. He posted average numbers for the most part, challenged by striking out too much. But there were some peaks along the way too.

Cancel was an organization All-Star with the Royals according to MiLB in 2019, but still couldn't crack a major-league roster. Inconsistency struck again, as in 2022 with the Triple-A Omaha Royals, Cancel posted a .638 OPS in 78 games. He joined the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association in 2023, which saw him produce a better OPS of .838.

But in 2024, Cancel got stronger over the offseason and changed his swing, which Charleston coaches credited for his improved production.

The Puerto Rican also plays multiple positions, such as shortstop, first, second and third base, and each of the corner outfield spots. He even pitched a third of an inning for the Bisons, allowing a hit and retiring the other batter he faced.

Although he's not a prospect anymore, Cancel should be a name Blue Jays fans remember. Toronto has struggled to find consistency at the plate and on the mound, and that's with the guys who aren't injured. This has led to a train of Buffalo Bisons players coming up north, so the chance of Cancel wearing Blue Jays blue in the future is a possibility.