There were lots of questions that needed answering at the beginning of the Blue Jays’ 2019 season and many remain. Here’s where they stand
Coming into this season it was clear that the Blue Jays would not be contending. Instead, the year was shaping up to be more of an open audition for the team’s bubble players. The Blue Jays need to know what they have in Teoscar Hernandez, Brandon Drury, Billy McKinney, and Rowdy Tellez. They’re at a weird stage in their career where they’re not prospects, will soon be out of options, and haven’t performed consistently. Let’s go through them one at a time.
Hernandez is a player that leaves you mystified over his moonshot home runs and complete defensive lapses in the field. Just when you think the nightmare couldn’t get any worse, the Jays put him in CF. Fun fact; Hernandez has hit the fifth and sixth-longest home runs by a Blue Jay this season, according to Statcast (442ft, 441ft). There hasn’t been much progression since he came to the Blue Jays via a trade with the Houston Astros. He reminds me a lot of Kevin Pillar. He is what he is. I don’t see Hernandez being a viable option in the OF or at DH. This may be a bit harsh, but his recent stretch of 9/27 with four HRs in his last eight games is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Before that, he was hitting .199/.261/.353 for a 59 wRC+ in 241 PA.
I won’t talk about Drury too much because there’s not much to say. He’ll be 27 by the end of the year and was part of the J.A. Happ trade because of his versatility. But taking a glance at his defensive metrics and he looks to be a Jack of all trades, and not very good at any of them. He owns a dreadful K% of 27.3 and a low BB% of 5.6. Drury is hitting .214/.259/.376 on the year in 286 PA. With the Jays having a lot of prospects, who can play the infield coming, I don’t see a place for him beyond this year.
McKinney is the other piece that the Jays got for Happ from the Yankees and he’s not fairing any better than Drury. He doesn’t have a stand out glove in the OF or a dazzling arm. He’ll be 25 at the end of the year, so there’s a bit more rope yet lead with him than Drury and Hernandez. He’s already been optioned to AAA twice this season and before his most recent call up he was hitting .215/.272/.369 in 164 PA. It was pointed out on twitter by Andrew Stoeten that McKinney adjusted the positioning of his hands, lowering them. Since being recalled on the 15th of July he is 5 for 19 with two HRs and a triple. One thing I can admire about Billy the Kid is his hustle. He’s trying out there, so we’ll need to revisit this at some point.
Tellez had that heater after his debut (.314/.329/.614) in 73 at-bats, but he also only had a BB% of 2.7% and very high K% of 28.8%. He was once a top 10 prospect in the Jays’ system, but that was back in 2015 and 2016 when the talk of the town was how barren the cupboards were. So, maybe his high ranking was more indicative of a weak system than it was of his talent. But, first impressions are everything and that 73 AB stint last season likely means his leash is longer than the others. He has power, but not much else hitting .227/.280/.436 with 14 HRs in 286 PA. His high K% and low BB% is still worrisome and he doesn’t exactly play a premium position at First Base. Tellez is down in AAA Buffalo working on his game.
Alright, if you’re still with me I’d like to take a look at some more encouraging prospects. I’ll call this bunch The Only reasons I Watch Anymore. It’s a group that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and Bo Bichette
The Only Reasons I Watch Anymore
I know many are still waiting for Guerrero to live up to the hype and to put up the numbers that other rookies like Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr.are. But I like him so far. There’s evidence to suggest pitchers are throwing him junk and there’s not much protection in the line-up, but good hitters adjust and get their pitch anyway. He went through a funk where his exit velocity plummeted, but he’s been on the upswing his last five games going 7 for 17 including his first career grand slam against the Tigers. Vladdy is young there’s no reason to worry about our thicc rookie.
Biggio was the inspiration for a piece I wrote about Jose Bautista’s remarkable 2011 season. He’s shown a lot of patience at the plate and his 16.8% BB rate is proof of that. At the same time, his 28.9% K rate is also troubling, but I’m more willing to forgive that because it’s just his first look at things. Biggio is in a slump this month hitting .179/.313/.214 in July, but he’s maintained a 16.4 BB%. Overall, he’s part of the future and it’s always exciting to see a piece of the new core fall into place.
Gurriel Jr. just wow. It looked like his season was in a dark place upon being sent down to the minors in mid-April. But just as pineapples do, Gurriel has flourished in the warm weather! Since coming back he’s hitting .309/.353/.647 (!!!) for a 157 wRC+ in 224 PA. He has a new home in LF and has run away with showing he can play the OF. The Blue Jays made a huge investment in him giving the 25-year-old a guaranteed MLB contract (7yr $22M) back in 2016 and it’s paying off big. They’ll have him under contract till 2023 and won’t be eligible for FA until 2025!
Jansen struggled early on hitting .169/.242/.213 in his first 100 PA and .167/.263/.262 in his next 95 PA after that. But he turned it on towards the end of June in a series against the Yankees. In his last 23 games (79 PA) he’s hit .297/.342/.622! Looking at Jansen’s track record through the minors it was always a matter of when he’d turn it around and not if. He is also one of the better defensive catchers in the league already and has produced an fWAR of 1.2 so far.
There was some drama surrounding Bichette the other week when he sent out this tweet.
No point in chasing an outcome when you can’t control that outcome
— Bo Bichette (@19boknows) July 15, 2019
He broke his wrist earlier this year, but the 8th ranked prospect in baseball has come back and made noise with AAA buffalo. He’s hitting .288/.344/.495 on the season and .319/.383/.542 in 166 ABs since coming back from injury. It’s not a matter of if he’ll be up with the big team this year, but when.
The next group is called “It’s Not Good for My Health to Comment on them”. This group includes, and is limited to Aaron Sanchez. Yikes.
Freddy Galvis and Eric Sogard will be trivia answers to questions in the not too distant future. They’re neat names and looking at what Sogard has been able to do makes me laugh. Randall Grichuk has been okay, nothing special. Certainly not shown us what made him a 52 million dollar man, that’s for sure. Smoak has been Smoak, which the last few years have meant a decent bat. Stroman is at his best again, but it looks like a deal will come any second now. Giles had a great to start the year, but he’s not long for this either.
I wish I had more to say, but the word count is already at 1382 and I don’t know if a 38-64 team that’s going to offload its more exciting pieces deserves much more than that. Maybe I wish I had more good things to say… until I find them, happy trails Blue Jays fans.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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