Arrival of Blue Jays' top prospects gives hope for the future

Jul 30 2019, 11:47 pm

They rose through the ranks together. They won titles together. And now they’ve realized their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues together. The future of the Toronto Blue Jays has arrived.

Bo Bichette was the final piece of the puzzle as the club’s “shortstop of the future” made his MLB debut on Monday against the Kansas City Royals. He joined his fellow farmhands Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Danny Jansen.

One year ago, the Blue Jays lineup was littered with seasoned veterans and long-time Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar and Kendrys Morales. In 2018, they had the fourth-oldest lineup in the American League.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Blue Jays boast the youngest set of position players in the American League. At an average age of 26.5 years old, they shaved nearly three years off the average age of their position player core.

It’s been a long time coming. For decades, this franchise failed at drafting and developing everyday position players, let alone All-Star or MVP-calibre players. Now, the Blue Jays might have upwards of five drafted and developed or international signings on their lineup card any night.

It’s a far cry from the same Blue Jays team from one year ago. Gurriel and Jansen were the sole members of this core who broke through to make their big league debuts in 2018. This season has given way for Guerrero, Biggio, and Bichette to join their teammates under the bright lights of the big leagues.

As the team continues to trade away some of their veteran pitchers, this position player core is the most exciting thing about this team right now. A lineup anchored by a 20-year-old Guerrero, a 21-year-old Bichette, a 24-year-old Biggio and Jansen, and a 25-year-old Gurriel has the makings of something special.

Guerrero, Bichette, and Biggio spent most of the last three years making the sojourn from Single-A to MLB together. The trio are sons of big leaguers, so these youngsters know what to expect at the upper echelon of Major League Baseball.

Guerrero, Bichette, and Biggio won a title at Single-A with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2017. Bichette and Biggio won a title at Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2018. These players are familiar with each other and they have experienced success together.

The Blue Jays’ core of young position players continue to undergo varying degrees of success during their rookie campaigns. The amount of hype surrounding Guerrero’s debut was unlike anything the Blue Jays have experienced. He’s struggled this season, but continues to display that monstrous swing of his with that signature light tower power.

Biggio’s peripheral numbers have come back down to Earth, but his positional versatility and plate discipline are among the best on the roster. Gurriel looked lost as a second baseman, completely changed the course of his season and found a new home in left field. And Bichette has taken the reins as the Blue Jays’ next shortstop of the future.

The Blue Jays will sink or swim over the next few years on the backs of this position player core. This team will either succeed because these young players will flourish and develop into bona fide talent, or this team will fail because this youth-driven core isn’t good enough to compete in the American League East.

The success of the 2015 and 2016 Blue Jays was driven by acquiring talent in trade. Alex Anthopoulos made some shrewd moves by acquiring Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, and others. But that’s no way to build a sustainable winner. Cost-controlled, homegrown position players are almost always at the core of a competitive team.

Coincidentally, three of the last four World Series winners captured titles thanks in large part to contributions from homegrown position players. The Houston Astros in 2017, the Chicago Cubs in 2016, and the Kansas City Royals in 2015 (and to a lesser degree, the Boston Red Sox in 2018).

The Blue Jays’ pitching depth could use some work, but the development curve of their position players has reached its peak. All of their highly touted prospects are here on the big league roster, together. Bichette was the last domino to fall, and it’s time to see what kind of damage these players can inflict at the Major League level.

Bichette didn’t receive nearly the amount the fanfare as Guerrero did during his MLB debut, although to be fair, Bichette’s promotion was overshadowed by the Marcus Stroman trade. Out of all the Blue Jays prospects who earned their promotions, Bichette might be the most well-rounded player of the bunch.

The fact that he plays a pivotal position like shortstop thrusts Bichette even further into the spotlight. He has more opportunities than anyone on the field to impact the game. From a player development standpoint, he checks all the boxes.

The Blue Jays’ roster turnover over the past calendar year has been especially high. Fans who once had a Donaldson, Pillar, or Martin jersey might have felt this team was in the midst of an identity crisis.

Not anymore.

This team belongs to Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio, Jansen, and Gurriel. The future is now. This is the new wave of the Toronto Blue Jays. Let the kids play.