In 2015, the Kansas City Royals did something that would change the landscape of baseball as we know it. Teams started to realize that you needed more than a couple of $20M a year players and stacked free-agent signings to win a World Series. Teams started to make it a point to develop their farm systems and maybe not compete for a title for a couple of years to let young talent grow.
We’ve seen it happen with plenty of teams since then. The Houston Astros, The Chicago Cubs, and more recently the Washington Nationals. Teams are making it a point to load up on young talent and hold on to it, instead of trading it away for veteran superstars that they think will help them win a title. Enter in the Toronto Blue Jays.
While I don’t see the Toronto Blue Jays winning a title this year (or next) with teams like the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the division, this team is in a great spot to take over the AL East, and finally, bring a World Series ring back up north.
Now this isn’t going to be an article like “five reasons why” or anything like that, because in my opinion, there’s only one reason I see the Blue Jays being a contender in the next couple of years, and that is the young talent it has.
First of all, it seems that the Blue Jays have looked at every possible son of a former Major League Baseball player and signed them to a contract. It starts with son of Expos and Angels great Vladimir Guerrero, Vladimir (Vlad) Guerrero Jr. Vlad Jr. was eligible for free agency in 2015, and immediately he was ranked by Baseball America as the top international free agent. He signed with the Blue Jays in June of that year, and started his career in the Rookie Advanced League. In his 4 years in the Minor Leagues, Guerrero Jr. batted an impressive .331, had an OBP of .441, a slugging percentage of .531 and batted in 209 runs.
In 2019, Vlad Jr. had played 9 games in AAA before being called up to the majors. Guerrero became the youngest Blue Jays player to hit a home run against the Giants, at 20 years and 59 days of age. Vlad hit 2 home runs that game, and hit 2 more the following series against the Oakland Athletics, winning him the AL Player of the Week award, becoming the youngest Blue Jay to do so. Then Jr. put on a phenomenal showing in the 2019 Home Run Derby, hitting 40 home runs in a single round, breaking the single-round home run record, and even broke the record for most home runs in an entire home run derby with 91.
Vlad Jr. is already proving himself to be a fantastic hitter with incredible power. Some scouts and baseball analysts question his ability to remain at third base due to his body type, but even as an all-time DH, Vlad Jr. is the future of the Blue Jays.
Another son of a former big leaguer is 22-year-old shortstop, Bo Bichette. Son of former All-Star outfielder Dante Bichette, Bo played high school ball for Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. Bichette dominated in high school, and in his senior year he was named the Gatorade/USA Today Florida Player of the Year, and Florida’s Mr. Baseball. Bichette turned down four offers in order to be drafted by the Blue Jays with the 66th pick in the 2016 draft and was off to a very hot start batting .431 through 18 games. However, Bichette was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix, and despite missing more than half the season, Bichette was still named the Gulf Coast League’s end-of-season All-Star at shortstop.
In 4 minor league seasons, Bichette batted .321/.380/.515 with 37 home runs and 217 RBIs. Bichette’s contract was selected by Toronto and he shortly made his MLB debut against the Kansas City Royals. On just the second major league pitch he saw, Bichette registered his first career hit. Two days later, Bichette hit his first major league home run in a 3 hit effort. Bo became the first MLB player to register 10 extra-base hits in his first 9 career games, and became the first rookie since Ted Williams to have 9 straight games with an extra-base hit. In 46 games in his rookie year, Bichette batted .331 with 11 dingers, 21 RBIs, and a .571 slugging percentage.
Bo has very impressive bat speed and power, but still has solid bat control, something he’s developed in his time in the minor leagues. Many scouts believe Bichette will eventually make the move to second or third base due to his defensive metrics, Bichette made 7 errors in his 42 games at short in his rookie year.
It doesn’t stop with Vlad and Bo though, as the son of (in my opinion) the greatest Houston Astro player ever Craig Biggio is also with the Blue Jays. Cavan Biggio was a four-sport letterman in high school and was drafted straight out of high school by the Phillies, but instead, he refused to sign and chose to attend the University of Notre Dame. In 3 collegiate years, Biggio batted .272 with 15 homeruns, 70 RBIs and 33 stolen bases.
Beginning in the 2018 season, Biggio was sent to the Double-A Eastern League. Cavan ended up becoming the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year and MVP. Biggio was called up to the majors in May of 2019 and registered his first hit and first home run in his third game. On September 17th, Biggio hit for the cycle against the Orioles in Camden Yards, becoming the third Blue Jay to ever do so. His father, Craig Biggio hit for the cycle in 2002, which made Craig and Cavan the second-ever father and son duo to both hit for the cycle, joining Gary and Daryle Ward.
In 100 games, Biggio ended the season with a .234 batting average with 16 home runs, 48 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases. Cavan also led all rookies with 71 walks and finished in 5th place for AL Rookie of the Year honors. In 2019, Biggio made appearances at second base, first base, left field and right field, proving he can be an all-around utility player. Biggio did pretty well at second, holding a .989 fielding percentage with just 4 errors. Biggio also established himself as a player with an incredible eye at the plate, possibly the best on the team.
Besides players that grew up in MLB clubhouses, the Blue Jays also have a flamethrower in 23-year-old righty Nate Pearson. Pearson has yet to make his MLB debut, but as mentioned earlier, Pearson has raw power and actually hit 100 MPH on March 1st. But Pearson also has two promising breaking balls and has been working on his changeup that is coming along nicely.
Behind the plate is 24-year-old Danny Jansen. Jansen didn’t have a great 2019 campaign, as he hit only .207, but he does have promise as he hit .234 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs from June 1st through the end of the season. In 103 games behind the plate, Jansen gave up 42 stolen bases, but gunned down 19 runners, with a caught stealing percentage of 31% (top 5 CS% ranged from 46%-37%).
As stated earlier, the AL East is currently locked up between the Yankees and the Rays, but with the Red Sox all but beginning a rebuild after trading Mookie Betts, and the Orioles having no idea what they’re doing, I believe the Toronto Blue Jays will soon be atop the AL East.
Featured Photo Credit: Mike Rosa – GCSN
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