With a minor league system flush with promising middle infielders, playing time will be hard to come by for some Blue Jays prospects
For most of the season we, Toronto Blue Jay fans, have heard how great Bo Bichette is. We’ve heard how Bichette has a chance to become part of Toronto’s future infield, as the heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki or Devon Travis.
As a fan of not only the Toronto Blue Jays but all of their minor league affiliations, the development of a premium prospect is great news. Unfortunately, Bichette’s rise has overshadowed great seasons had by other middle infielders in the Blue Jays system. Add in the fact that Toronto selected a shortstop in the first and fifth round of this year’s draft, the system appears flush with talent up the middle.
Where are they all going to play?
I am going to a stab at landing spots of some of Toronto’s top shortstops and second baseman prospects.
SS- Richard Urena (21-yrs-old)
SS- Bo Bichette (19-yrs-old)
2B- Cavan Biggio (22-yrs-old)
Split- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (24-yrs-old)
SS- Logan Warmoth (22-yrs-old)
2B- Bradley Jones (22-yrs-old)
Split- Yeltsin Gudino (20-yrs-old)
Short Season A-Ball
SS- Luis De Los Santos (19-yrs-old)
Rookie Appalachian League
If everything shakes out the way I anticipate, Toronto will have an MLB Pipeline rated top shortstop prospect at each full-season level.
Fisher Cat fans must be giddy with anticipation at the idea of having Bo Bichette in New Hampshire. The Blue Jays front office will try to slow down the progression of Bichette by keeping him in Double-A for the entire 2018 season. Problem is, Bichette’s development will continue to force the front office’s hand.
I expect Logan Warmoth and Kevin Smith to skip a level. Selected 1st and 4th in the 2017 Draft, both had outstanding rookie seasons. Warmoth is the older, more polished, and has the higher ceiling of the two.
While the other shortstops who weren’t ranked in the MLB Pipeline Top 30 List, are no slouches. Yeltsin Gudino and Kevin Vicuna were top rated International Free-Agents at the time of their signing and both had breakout seasons in 2018. Both Gudino and Vicuna will see their playing time dip with the addition and graduation of Warmoth and Smith; however, depending on where Bradley Jones plays, Gudino may spend more time at 2nd in Dunedin. Neither Gudino or Vicuna profile as prolific offensive players.
None of the Blue Jays 2nd base prospects show up on MLB Pipeline’s list but there are some good prospects here.
Buffalo Bisons manager Bob Meachem will have to decide which Lopes brother is to play at 2nd, as both split time between 2nd and 3rd for their respective teams in 2017. The twist for Buffalo at 2nd comes in the form of Lourdes Gurriel. I expect Gurriel to start the year in NH but hopefully, with his 2017 injuries behind him, he will get off to a quick start and move up to Triple-A. Gurriel split time between 2nd and SS during his first season and is expected to be developed as a utility player. His versatility should allow him to get at-bats in the outfield as well.
There were certain aspects of Biggio’s game which gave him trouble in 2017, such as, strikeouts and errors. Biggio still did enough to warrant a promotion; however, it is possible that Biggio returns to Dunedin to work on making more consistent contact.
Dunedin is where it got a little foggy for me. Gudino could slide over to assume the keystone, Bradley Jones could play more middle infield than corner infield, or a guy like JC Cardenas could be given another chance. My money is on Gudino and Bradley splitting time.
Lansing will have Cullen Large and Ryan Noda battling it out for playing time at 2nd. I give Large the edge over Noda. Despite having a more dominant season, Ryan Noda played at a lower level and was drafted 10 rounds after Cullen Large.
Heading into the offseason, the Front Office may need to dip into some of this MI depth to complete a trade or two. The emergence of Bo Bichette has made many of the names mentioned above available to other teams. We don’t always like to admit it but there is a pecking order in the minors and Bo has pushed his way to the top. This means we may hear Urena’s name in trade rumors.
We have to be okay with that. After all, it is impossible to predict how a particular prospect will respond when faced with the challenge of moving up a level. Some players excel, some stumble and some struggle to the point of being demoted. Heck, some of these middle infielders may not even be middle infielders next year at this time, they could be corner infielders or transitioning to the outfield.
I’m hoping they all excel.
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