Blue Jays infield prospects Espinal, Vicuña, and Rodriguez are all Rule V eligible if not added to the 40-man Roster in November
INF Santiago Espinal
The 24-yr-old middle infielder had another impressive season in 2019, splitting time between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Steve Pearce in 2018, Espinal spent most of 2019 with the Fisher Cats where he primarily as the team’s 2-hole hitter (61GP) and second baseman (52GP).
The former 2016 10th round will be Rule V eligible for the 1st time this December.
Espinal went deep 7 times, 5x in AA and twice in AAA. He collected 27 doubles, 21 in AA and 6 in AAA, one triple, 57 runs, 71RBI, and 12SB (13CS, not good). He hooved around a .100ISO with a .104ISO in 94 games with New Hampshire and .115ISO in 28 games with Buffalo. His offensive production was above league average with .331wOBA and 115wRC+ in AA and .348wOBA and 105wRC+ in AAA. Espinal posted a .310BABIP with the Fisher Cats and a .392BABIP with the Bisons (small sample size???)
Santiago Espinal slashed .278/.343/.381 and .317/.360/.433 in AA and AAA. His strong OBP is a product of good at-bats and a good eye at the plate, walking 8.6% and 6.3%. Espinal’s K% skyrocketed from 12.2% to 20.5% upon his arrival in Triple-A.
SS/2B Kevin Vicuna
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2014, Kevin Vicuña will be Rule V eligible again this offseason. He was left unprotected last offseason. The 21-yr-old is a slick-fielding middle infielder with a strong slender frame. He doesn’t hit for power, struggling to crack .100ISO throughout to career.
Vicuña spent the 2019 season serving as the Dunedin Blue Jays primary SS (94GP) with a couple of games at 2B and 3B. The light-hitting native of Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, batted all over the D-Jays order, batting leadoff (30GP), 2nd (24GP), 8th (22GP), 9th, (14th), 7th (12GP), 6th (8GP), and 3rd and 4th (once each).
Kevin Vicuña posted strong numbers in May and August, slashing .286/.314/.398 and .290/.338/.391. He struggled in June and Jule, slashing just .229/.312/.277 and .194/.256/.264. Overall, he produced close to league average with .302wOBA and 93wRC+ to go along with a .250BA in 112 games with the D-Jays. He set career-highs with 19 doubles, 19 SB, 30BB, and 82K while chipping in 4 triples, one HR, 55 runs, and 36RBI.
Vicuña walked 6.8% and struck out 18.6% with a .314OBP and .311BABIP. He is a worm killer with 52.3GB% and 32.2FB% while only posting a 15.5LD%.
He got a surprise call-up to Triple-A to fill a need at SS. A super sample 3 game size but he held his own, batting .429 with a triple, 3 runs, and one SB.
Another IFA from 2014, the 22-yr-old will be Rule V eligible for a 2nd time. Rodriguez has slowly developed, spending two seasons with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays in ’15 and ’16 with a stop in the GCL in ’16. He split ’17 between Bluefield and Vancouver, returning to Vancouver in ’18 and ’19.
The 5-foot-10 first baseman dominated the Northwest League, batting .369 with 6 doubles, two triples, 4HR, 21RBI, and 25 runs in 40GP. He joined the Lansing Lugnuts on August 9th and just kept on hitting. In 22 games in the Midwest League, Yorman batting .344 with 7 doubles, two triples, one HR, 19RBI, and 17 runs.
Yorman Rodriguez posted strong wOBA and wRC+ at both levels. .421wOBA and 159wRC+ with the C’s and .385wOBA and 141wRC+ with the Bolts. He possesses more gap power than over the wall power, posting a .140ISO and .146ISO in his two stops.
Yorman Rodriguez demonstrates excellent plate coverage. With Vancouver, he finished with 0.75 BB/K, 5.3BB%, and 7.1K%. With Lansing, he finished with 0.33BB/K, 2.0BB%, and 6.1K%. His strong batting averages allowed him to finish with strong .406 and .354 OBP.
After splitting the past 4 seasons dividing his time in the field between 1B and C, the organization appears set on deploying him at 1B (51GP vs 6GP at C).
Christian Williams (Double-A, 25yrs-old)
Alberto Mineo (Double-A, 25-yrs-old, could test FA)
Jesus Navarro (Advanced-A, 21-yrs-old)
Luis De Los Santos (SS A-Ball/A-Ball, 21-yrs-old)
Ronny Brito (SS A-Ball, 20-yrs-old)
Jesus Lopez (SS A-Ball, 23-yr-old)
Protect or Not to Protect?
Unlike the OF edition I recently did, this one is more straight forward. Obviously there isn’t much of a need an everyday infielder/catcher with the Blue Jays’ infield is set for the foreseeable future. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, and Reese McGuire are pretty much written in stone. Rowdy Tellez is almost a certainty, almost.
There are could be some movement with Luke Maile, Brandon Drury, Richard Urena, and Breyvic Valera. Urena, Valera, and Maile are all out of options so some decisions will need to be made there. Urena is just 23 with a limited upside. Valera, Maile, and Drury are between 27 and 28 and appear to be what there are.
Adding Espinal is a no-brainer. Not adding Vicuña and Rodriguez are also no-brainers. Leaving Santiago Espinal unprotected would be a very risky move. At this stage in Vicuña’s and Rodriguez’s development, no team will want them taking up a spot on their 40/26-man roster.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of R.Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.