Toronto Blue Jays are stocking up on middle infield prospects with Richard Urena and Bo Bichette leading the way
It wasn’t too long ago that Toronto’s farm system had a handful of impressive infield prospects. Leading the way was Franklin Barreto (a key piece in acquiring Josh Donaldson), Dawel Lugo (traded for Cliff Pennington), Richard Urena and Christian Lopes.
The 21-yr-old Barreto is tearing up Triple-A pitching and is considered by many as the A’s top rated prospect.
The 22-yr-old Dawel Lugo is batting .273 with 10 doubles and 5 HR in Double-A and is ranked as the Arizona Diamondbacks 2nd best prospect.
Still in the System
The 21-yr-old Urena was just starting to show promise as shortstop prospect when the Blue Jays traded away Barreto. The steps taken in Urena’s development during the 2014 season may have allowed former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos to part with Barreto. The free-swinging Dominican shortstop has shown power (.129 ISO at AA in 2016) at every level. He’s struggled so far in 2017, batting .220 but still shows a lot of promise.
Christian Lopes lost his ‘Top Prospect’ label a couple seasons ago but at 24-yrs-old Lopes is doing his best to re-establish as a prospect. The former 7th round pick hit .275 in April, playing every day with the Triple-A Bisons. He’s struggled in May with a .203 batting average while playing out of position (3B) for the first time in his minor league career (466 minor games at 2nd).
New to the System
The younger brother of Christian Lopes, Tim Lopes joined the system this offseason as a player to be named later completing the August 6th Pat Venditte to Seattle trade. Tim Lopes, also a second baseman, batted .325 in his first month with the Fisher Cats and looks like he has the makings of a very good Double-A second baseman. Like his brother, Tim has struggled in May with a .174 batting but continues to be productive with 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 10 walks.
First Full Season
Cavan Biggio, last year’s 5th round pick, is playing for the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays and has looked good. Strikeout numbers a little high (24.3K%) but the rest of his game has been excellent. The 2nd baseman is walking (13.9BB%), hitting for decent power (.091 ISO) and providing the D-Jays with a productive middle infielder (.350 wOBA).
Bo Bichette, last year’s 2nd round pick, is quickly becoming one of the system’s best prospects. The 21-yr-old Bichette has done it all with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts, batting a Midwest leading .362. Bichette has shown impressive power (.205 ISO) with 13 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 HR in just 32 games. Bo, drafted as a shortstop, has seen some time at 2nd (7GP @2nd and 22GP @SS).
Yeltsin Gudino, a 2013 international free agent, continues to climb the organizational minor league ladder playing with the Lansing Lugnuts. After batting a career-high .226 with the Short-Season Low-A Vancouver Canadians, Gudino has taken a giant step forward in his development this season. With a .224 batting average in April, it looked like Gudino would once again have a disappointing season with the bat but the 20-yr-old out of Venezuela has batted .302 in May and .257 for the season. Yeltsin, like Bichette, has split his time between 2nd and SS.
Keeping an Eye
Kevin Vicuna, a 2014 international free agent, a surprise call-up to Dunedin on April 22nd is an infielder to keep an eye on. Despite batting just .215, the 19-yr-old out of Venezuela has looked good. Vicuna is a skinny middle infielder with a good glove and some offensive projections. He has hit at every level, batting .268 in the DSL (2015) and .258 in the GCL (2016), while showing some plate awareness (32BB/84K) and some speed (21 steals and 7 CS). He’s struggled a bit with D-Jays (3BB/16K in 20GP) but that shouldn’t be a surprise since he bypassed 3 levels (Bluefield, Vancouver, and Lansing).
The Lopes brothers could push for a bench role if Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney are moved or the team decides not to re-sign the pair this offseason. It’s also possible that either Lopes can be included in trades to upgrade the club in other areas but a starting job with Toronto is highly unlikely.
The group of Urena, Biggio, and Bichette will continue to develop in the minors with Urena heading to Buffalo in 2018, possibly repeating the in 2019 while providing the team with a high ceiling option to replace Tulo or Travis if the pair suffers an injury.
Bichette will surpass Biggio and will challenge Urena as the first infield call-up come 2019. Biggio will likely fall into the same situation as the Lopes brother currently find themselves in.
This infield depth will allow Gudino and Vicuna to slowly develop be used in trades.
FYI- I decided not to include Bradley Jones (.316 BA, 6-2B, 3-3B, 7HR, and 29 RBI @Lansing) who has played 16 games at 2nd this year in this piece because I see him as a corner INF more than a middle INF. Feel free to ridicule me in the comment section.
*Featured Image Mandatory Credit: Kris Robinson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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