Blue Jays fans are eager to welcome Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to Toronto in 2019 but how long will they need to wait to welcome Bo Bichette?
On March 10 it was announced that MLB’s number 1 prospect Vlad Guerrero jr would miss at least three weeks with an oblique strain. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, they don’t need to look far for another young prospect to be excited about.
Bo Bichette has been one of the standouts in his first official MLB spring training. The Jays 2nd ranked prospect (11th in MLB) is hitting .387 with a 1.230 OPS. He is currently 2nd on the team with 31 at-bats.
Anyone who knows anything about baseball will tell you that spring training stats don’t mean anything. When hitters do well, who are they hitting against? MLB pitchers, minor league prospects or guys who may never make it to the show? Usually, the preseason is used to get into game shape. Pitchers don’t always throw 100%, maybe 70%. Maybe they use the opportunity to try out a new pitch, one that might never see the light of day once opening day bell rings.
But at the very least it isn’t a bad thing that Bichette is making the most of his Grapefruit League opportunity. The question is what does this mean for his immediate future?
If he were legitimately competing for a big league job when camp breaks, they would have to give him strong consideration based on his performance to date. In reality, it’s doubtful that they are looking to bring him up in 2019.
Bichette and Guerrero Jr. both put up eye-catching numbers in rookie ball in 2016 and as teammates with two A-Ball affiliates in 2017, helping the Dunedin Blue Jays to a co-championship title. It was in 2018 that their paths began to diverge. Playing at AA New Hampshire, Guerrero continued to demonstrate that his hitting was more advanced than his level. Bichette, however, struggled early on by his standards for the first time in his pro career.
While Guerrero hit .402/.449/.671 in 61 games at AA before being promoted to AAA, Bichette didn’t do nearly as well early on. His OPS in April was .750 and in May it was .763. Those stats weren’t terrible especially for a 20-year-old playing at AA but they didn’t scream “I’m too good for this level” as Guerrero’s did and as Bichette’s had done earlier in his career.
Bichette spent all of 2018 at AA. He looked more like his old self at the plate later in the season. After the All-Star break, he had a very fine OPS of .888 as part of the champion Fisher Cats team.
So when can Blue Jays fans expect to see Bichette playing for Toronto?
He won’t break camp with the Jays in 2019. There is no reason for the organization to bring him to MLB having never played a day in AAA, especially since it took him a couple of months at AA to hit the way everyone has come to expect. Would they consider bringing him up at roughly the same time as they are rumoured to be bringing up Guerrero – once he has spent the first few weeks of the 2019 season in the minors thereby allowing the Jays an additional year of team control (and all of this assuming he is healthy)?
Again it is highly unlikely.
Regardless of how well Bichette does at AAA the most likely scenario is for them to let him play there for all of 2019. There are a number of players in the organization with more MLB experience at shortstop who can fill whatever needs arise this season. Freddy Galvis was signed to be the everyday SS. Lourdes Gurriel jr split time between SS and 2B in 2018. Richard Urena has had a cup of coffee with the Jays over the last two seasons, and Eric Sogard was signed as additional middle infield depth. This allows the Blue Jays to take their time with Bichette’s development.
If Guerrero and Bichette had continued to hit at a similar pace in 2018, it would have been interesting to see if management would have promoted both of them at the same time. The downside to doing so is that the club would have been at risk of losing them both to free agency in the same season or at the very least having to pay big money to both to try to keep them around long term.
In that way, Bichette’s relative offensive struggles early in 2018 may have been a blessing in disguise. Assuming he does well at AAA in 2019, expect to see Bichette in a Blue Jays uniform a few weeks into the 2020 season.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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