Look at the Toronto Blue Jays’ overall record in 2019, and it would be grossly misleading to call this season a “success.” Statistically, the club is putting the finishing touches on one of their five worst seasons in franchise history. The Blue Jays haven’t been this bad as a team in 40 years.
Along with those abject failures come a few success stories. The development and growth of some of their core players have made this team at least watchable in 2019. Wins and losses aside, the kids have taken over this team. Rookies have run rampant on the 25-man roster.
Most of the organization’s highly touted prospects arrived in 2019. Many of them flourished, some of them struggled, but this wave of young players was the focal point of a youth-driven Toronto Blue Jays team.
It’s easy to find the failures, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find these feel-good stories from the Blue Jays’ 2019 campaign.
1. Cavan Biggio’s breakout campaign
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 18, 2019
This was supposed to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s breakout season. Instead, it was Cavan Biggio’s. The 24-year-old made his big-league debut in late May and by season’s end, Biggio transformed into one of the club’s most impressive hitters.
Among his personal highlights, Biggio became the third hitter in Blue Jays history to hit for the cycle. He also leads all American League rookies in plate discipline categories like total walks and walk percentage.
His patience at the plate is unparalleled, he’s an astute baserunner, and he’s showing improvement in the field as a second baseman. Biggio leads all Blue Jays position players in Wins Above Replacement and finishes 2019 as one of the team’s biggest contributors.
Of the Blue Jays trifecta of super-prospects, Biggio received the least amount of hype this year, but his ceiling is arguably the highest for the 2020 season and beyond.
2. Bo Bichette arrives better than advertised
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 6, 2019
Bo Bichette was the last of the Blue Jays’ big three prospects to make his debut in 2019. After the club traded Eric Sogard, Bichette earned his long-awaited promotion and hit the ground running with the Blue Jays.
Here’s just a small recap of the club records he set this season: a nine-game hit streak to start his MLB career, the fastest Blue Jays rookie ever to hit 10 home runs, and he set a new MLB record with doubles in nine consecutive games.
Much like Biggio, Bichette lived in the shadows of Guerrero Jr., but in some regards, Bichette posted even more impressive numbers than his rookie counterparts. Guerrero Jr.’s freshman season felt a little underwhelming, but Bichette came better than advertised.
The fact that he played all but one of his first 46 games in the leadoff spot tells you everything you need to know about how much confidence the Blue Jays have in Bichette. He will be a pillar of this Blue Jays franchise for the next five years, at least.
Bichette proved he’s the complete package on the field. He can hit, field, throw, run and look good while doing it with his long-flowing mane. The future looks extremely bright for the Blue Jays’ rookie shortstop.
3. Trent Thornton displays true starter potential
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 12, 2019
To date, the Blue Jays have used 22 starting pitchers through the 2019 season, the most in franchise history. Of those 22 names, only one has lasted the entire season and thrown north of 100 innings: Trent Thornton.
The 25-year-old came over to Toronto as part of the Aledmys Diaz trade last year and Thornton immediately impacted this Blue Jays team, scoring a spot on the Opening Day roster.
His 2019 campaign hasn’t been without its valleys; he struggled during stretches in 2019, but of all the Blue Jays’ young starting pitchers, he made the biggest impact on the team this year.
4. Lourdes Gurriel’s seamless transition to the outfield
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) June 23, 2019
Earlier this year, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a difficult start to the season. As he struggled at the plate, he took those woes into the field and had difficulty on defense. The low point was his removal from a game on April 14 after he botched a routine throw to first base.
Gurriel was demoted to triple-A the following day and began his arduous climb back to the big leagues. He experimented in the infield and the outfielder, re-emerging with the Blue Jays as an outfielder in left field.
At times, Gurriel looked uncomfortable playing second base for the Blue Jays, but he looked like a total natural in the outfield. Coincidentally, his bat came around and he developed into one of the Blue Jays’ hottest hitters after the quarter-pole of the 2019 season.
He may not see the infield ever again, but this year, Gurriel proved he should be pencilled in for one of the Blue Jays’ starting outfield jobs next year.
5. Jansen and McGuire: Toronto’s young catching tandem
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 6, 2019
Finding an effective catching tandem — one where each player compliments each other — is extremely rare in baseball. Only a few teams boast an effective 1-2 punch behind the dish. After struggling for years to cultivate homegrown catchers, the Blue Jays finally have their own promising catching tandem.
After the Blue Jays traded Russell Martin this past offseason, the club gave the reigns to Danny Jansen, who caught the bulk of the team’s games through the first two-thirds of the schedule. But Reese McGuire emerged as an astute backup to Jansen as the perfect compliment to his counterpart’s weaknesses.
Jansen’s calling card is his bat, but McGuire is a stellar pitch framer and receiver. Jansen bats right-handed and McGuire bats left. In an age where catchers rarely play over 130 games behind the plate in a season, the Blue Jays have discovered an ultra-talented duo.