The 2017 season for the Blue Jays has not gone as planned. After reaching the American League Championship in back-to-back seasons they are in an unfamiliar position in recent years. They are well back in the Wild Card race and looking ahead to the 2018 season is where fans are now.
Toronto Blue Jays Infield Prospects Preview
With an aging Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson entering the final year of his contract, it is time to see what the pipeline has to offer. Toronto has rarely been a desired destination for top end free agents and to succeed in the AL East you need to field a multidimensional lineup, which this team can not use as a descriptor right now. However, some very bright prospects are only one or two years away from bringing their act to the MLB level.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Third Baseman)
Donaldson is no where near the end of his playing days, but he’ll look to cash in and get a pay raise. He is making $17 million this season and will be arbitration eligible this off-season. Can the Jays afford to pay him $20 million/year, no, and that money can be better utilized.
Enter Guerrero Jr. The eighteen-year old has certainly opened many eyes in his brief stint in the minor leagues. He is ranked as the top prospect in the organization and top ten in the entire league. Guerrero signed a contract with the franchise on July 2, 2015 and is already playing in Advanced-A ball. He began the 2017 season with the Single-A Lansing Lugnuts and in 71 games batted .316 with 21 doubles, seven home runs, and 45 RBI.
This production earned him a promotion to Dunedin and in 28 games their he continues to bat over .300 with five doubles and eleven RBI. Guerrero will likely begin the 2018 season in Double-A, but don’t be surprised to see him take the field in a major league game before his twentieth birthday.
Bo Bichette (Shortstop/ Second Baseman)
Drafted 66th overall in 2016, Bichette has quickly established himself as one of the best middle infield prospects in all of baseball. Beginning the season in Lansing he posted an eye opening .384 average with a 1.071 OPS over 70 games. In that span he also hit 32 doubles, 10 home runs, and 51 RBI. This dominance garnered a mid season promotion to Advanced A ball. In 29 games with Dunedin he continues to impress with a .344 average and seven doubles, with a couple long balls and sixteen RBI.
Bichette, along with Guerrero Jr., could very easily be the identity of the Blue Jays left side of the infield for the 2019 season.
Richard Urena (Shortstop)
This infield prospect is closer to being major league ready than the aforementioned duo. Signed in July 2012, Urena has progressed at a steady pace through the minors, playing 2017 in Double A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He signed his contract at sixteen and the now 21-year-old has played admirably this year.
In 112 games he is batting .247 with 31 doubles, five home runs, and 53 RBI. With the injury to Tulowitzki it should not be overly shocking to see Urena as a September call up this season. Doing so will give Toronto an opportunity to see how far away he is, as well as a showcase to other teams in a way to include him in potential off season trades for a back end rotation member.
Rowdy Tellez (First Baseman)
Tellez is the definition of determination. Rarely does a player taken 895th in the draft make it to Triple-A, but Tellez has done just that. If not for the emergence of All-Star Justin Smoak, Tellez could have easily been playing first base in Toronto this season after an impressive spring training. Although a .222 average does not jump off the page he does have plate presence that Toronto should be excited about. In 103 games with the Buffalo Bisons he has 23 doubles with six home runs and 50 RBI. The September call up discussion will continue to swirl around him for the next couple weeks, but it is best for him to get consistent playing time at finish 2017 with Buffalo and start fresh in 2018 spring training.
These four players will be key pieces to the Blue Jays finding success in the next decade, and even before. This franchise could be one of few to go through a so called rebuild process, while also competing for a division title. Minor league success does not always transfer to the big leagues, but if it’s any indication that they have talent and skills, these players will have fans out of their seats at Rogers Centre on numerous occasions.
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