On April 26, 2019 the new presumed face of the Toronto Blue Jays made his debut. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, made his much anticipated debut at the Rogers Centre, in a 4-2 Blue Jays win.
The hype around the third-baseman has remained immense after a productive rookie season, but this is an organization that is armed with much more than one exciting bat.
The Blue Jays have impressive talent developing, not only at the major league level, but the minor leagues as well.
The young big three within the Blue Jays organization are Guerrero, shortstop Bo Bichette and second baseman Cavan Biggio.
At a mere 22 years-old, Bichette figures to be a major part of the Blue Jays lineup for a long time. Despite playing only 46 games in his debut season, Bichette showed the qualities of a future All-Star, batting .311 with 11 home runs.
Bichette’s seven errors are worrisome, but time and development will hopefully curb this issue. Derek Jeter, a four-time World Series champion, a five-time Gold Glove winner and a nearly unanimous (yes, I’m still mad about that) Hall of Fame inductee had 22 errors in his rookie season. Therefore, I doubt Bichette’s defensive issues would plague the Blue Jays success as a team in the long term.
The last piece of Toronto’s big three is Biggio. Biggio’s .234 average is quite pedestrian, but this is another example of batting average being a misleading statistic. Despite having a low batting average and being plagued by strikeouts, Biggio still managed an ultra-impressive .364 on base percentage. Biggio’s .309 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), as well as his .793 OPS, suggest he’s an above average hittier.
In only 100 games, Biggio had 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases, showing he’s a well rounded offensive asset. A lot of the advanced metrics point to Biggio growing into a more productive hitter.
Arguably his most attractive quality is his ability to be a defensive swiss-army knife. Biggio is an effective defensive player all around the diamond. In his rookie year alone, Biggio lined up at four different positions, starting at both corner outfield spots, first base, in addition to his usual home at second. Biggio only committed five errors as a rookie, proving to be reliable wherever the team needed him.
Even more than their infield trio, the Blue Jays outfield is armed with potential. Lourdes Gurriel popped onto the scene and impressed in 2018, but early struggles from second base, along with the emergence of Biggio led to him being sent down and converted to an outfielder. Gurriel ended up being a revelation as a left fielder, leading all major-leaguers at the position with 9 assists, even though he only played 63 games there. Gurriel’s bat continued to impress last season as he hit .277, with 41 extra-base-hits (20 home runs) in only 84 games. At 26 years old and in only 149 games over two seasons, Gurriel has 31 home runs, 85 RBIs and a .279 batting average.
The Blue Jays young developing bats got an unexpected addition on draft day. Vanderbilt outfielder Austin Martin was one of the draft’s consensus two-best players. Many analysts had him ranked as their top prospect. TWSN’s own Tom Seipp had him going second in his mock draft, which was seen as his floor. But the Orioles provided a draft-day surprise, selecting Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad second overall, instead of Martin.
Martin would then see himself slide all the way to the fifth pick, where the Blue Jays would take him, getting a rare steal in the top five. Like Biggio, Martin has the ability to play multiple positions defensively, which is a major plus. Martin has the best pure bat in this class. He may not have the natural power of first-overall-pick Spencer Torkelson, but he’s an exceptional, almost MLB ready hitter, with great bat speed, as well as great baserunning instincts. Martin could be contributing in the MLB by the end of the 2022 season, and if he’s developed at center or right field, he’d fit perfectly alongside Gurriel in the outfield.
Toronto’s rotation is a bit lackluster behind the aging Hyun Jin Ryu, who only signed a two-year deal in the offseason. But the team is armed with two top 100 pitching prospects that should help them in the near future. Nate Pearson is one of MLB.Com’s top 10 prospects (#8), and is armed with a dominant fastball. He’s someone that should be making a contribution in Toronto sooner than later, and with his natural talent has the potential to be an elite starter or reliever.
Along with Pearson, Simeon Woods-Richardson is another right hander in MLB.Com’s top 100 prospects (#98). Woods-Richardson is far away from the majors at only 19. But he has been very impressive in his young career with a career minor-league ERA of 3.48. At only 19, Woods-Richardson is a young impressive arm, who still has plenty of time to harness his craft and rise from his current position to one of baseball’s elite prospects.
The Blue Jays are currently playing catch up behind the New York Yankees in the AL East, but with a nice blend of young batting and pitching talent, likely on team affordable deals, Toronto has the potential to put together one of baseball’s best teams. And who knows, if general manager Ross Atkins builds around his players properly, the Rogers Centre could see its first World Series since the early 1990’s.