Which of these Toronto Blue Jays players (not named Vlad Guerrero Jr.) is most likely to capture your imagination in 2019?
|Twitter Poll Date: 12-15-18||629 votes|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||48%|
One of the earliest responses to this recent poll on my twitter feed was predictably cynical: “This is depressing.” There was a nasty expletive thrown in there as well but I’ll spare you the minutia of fan angst and off-season bitterness.
And should it surprise us? Not really. With the remnants of the Anthopoulos “window of contention” on the trading block (Martin, Stroman, Sanchez, Pillar) and the inevitable departures of Tulo and the Bringer of Rain, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that our collective enthusiasm for next season is indubitably curbed.
Nevertheless, I’ve always believed in the value of silver linings and finding legitimate reasons to forge ahead under the most adverse of rebuilding circumstances. In that respect, 2019 will most certainly be the year of Vlad, but there are other young players giving us worthwhile reasons for hope – and here’s a closer look at four of them as voted on by you the readers:
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (48%): There’s a reason why Lourdes was considered one of the top international prospects in all of baseball; his talent is sublime, his family name radiates baseball royalty, and he was deemed worthy of a seven year, $22 million dollar commitment in what was a definitive Shapiro-Atkins acquisition. He also became the first rookie in the modern era to break a record held by Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1912 (!) which alone explains why nearly half of respondents to this poll are gushing with unbridled rose-colored glee. No one can doubt this player’s ability and pedigree, but some will take issue with his absurdly low number of walks (9) and recurring lack of plate discipline. Defensively, he was much stronger as a second baseman than a shortstop, but if he can recover from a hamstring injury suffered at the end of last year and start his season on the right foot, I have no doubt fans will be justified in their faith of this player’s future
Danny Jansen (23%): With the Russell Martin era coming to an unenviable and sputtering end, it’s nice to know that the team is in good hands with a worthy candidate whose prospect value increased exponentially as he progressed through the minors. Danny didn’t just turn heads during his time with Dunedin, Buffalo, and New Hampshire – he also justified an early cup of coffee in the show with a blistering start to his MLB career. Even though he cooled off considerably by the end of September, his hitting splits alongside intangible relationships with Ryan Borucki and Sean Reid-Foley are indelible reminders that the catching position is in good hands for the mostly distant future.
Ryan Borucki (16%): The pride of Mundelein, Illinois and official Blue Jays 2018 rookie of the year stormed his way on the scene by becoming the 12th pitcher in franchise history to throw at least six innings and allow two or fewer runs. In other words, his penchant for quality starts set him apart from other members of the rotation who were too busy making commercials for their respective brands. The novelty of steady, consistent pitching seemingly disappeared during the previous two years of woeful injuries and gratuitous underachievement, and so Ryan has the opportunity to do something truly special to build off his 3.87 ERA and remarkable 1.7 WAR in only 98 innings of work. Although he finished third in this poll, I’m inclined to give him the nod for my personal captivating prospect of the season that’s most likely to bedazzle you with his pure talent and humble reliability.
Randal Grichuk (13%): Those of you who follow me regularly appreciate how often I talk about baseball “reclamation projects” and salvaging one team’s trash as if it could one day become your treasure. Hell, last year was chock full of retreads exhibiting various degrees of success (Diaz, Solarte, Granderson, Pearce) in a lineup that was just begging for someone to take ownership of opportunities. Grichuk’s season started about as disastrously as imaginable; .106 in April before an injury rebooted his entire year in which he proceeded to hit .294 in June and .316 in August, teasing fans with offensive rewards and defensive gems in an absolutely bi-polar year. Finishing with a more-than-serviceable 2.2 WAR and a stellar .996 fielding percentage, Randal is a true darkhorse in a year where he should be playing center field and giving this franchise every chance on the planet to trade Kevin Pillar. Yes, he will whiff with reckless abundance and doesn’t believe in bases on balls, but considering his age and contract status, it’s hard not to appreciate the glass half-full that is Grichuk. One can’t help but feel that the best is yet to come for this low-risk, huge-upside acquisition.