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Will the Blue Jays call up top prospects in 2021?

The Toronto Blue Jays have some of the more exciting prospects in baseball. Will we see them in 2021?


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The Toronto Blue Jays are built to contend for a playoff spot in 2021 and like all playoff contenders they will need reinforcements during the year. These reinforcement usually come via trade or the upper minors. The trade possibilities are endless and no doubt will be discussed and debated over the coming months. There is lots of help for the pitching staff in the upper minors ready for a chance to contribute at the major league level, names such as Kay, Hatch, Merryweather, Zeuch, Thornton, Murphy, Wageuspack are well known and will play significant roles this year.

 

Jordan Groshans, Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson are three very young top 100 prospects who have an outside shot at making their major league debut this year, with the possibility of making a significant contribution to a playoff stretch drive. For the sake of brevity I will not profile each of these players in this article. Excellent profiles have already been provided by Jays From the Couch writers earlier this off season and can be found by following these links: Groshans, Martin, SWR.

 

There has been a lot of talk about the Blue Jays front office not wanting to trade their top prospects. Well if they don’t want to trade them for help, maybe the prospects can help the team themselves. The circumstances would have to align perfectly in order for this to happen. Obviously, in order to be considered for a mid season call up these three top prospects will have to be performing very well after a few months in the minors, not only statistically but also with regards to their preparation, approach, conditioning, etc.

 

In the past few years this front office has shown a willingness to bring up young prospects, but also to wait a while when deemed necessary. Below is a list of players on the current roster showing their age of debut and the number of at bats they received at the highest level played in the minors:

Santiago Espional 25 y/o 104 AB AAA

Cavan Biggio 24 y/o 138 AB AAA

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 24 y/o 270 AB AAA

Danny Jansen 23 y/o 438 AB AAA

Rowdy Tellez 23 y/o 445 AB AAA

Reese McGuire 23 y/o 322 AB AAA

Bo Bichette 21 y/o 222 AB AAA

Alejandro Kirk 21 y/o 233 AB A+

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 20 y/o 140 AB AAA

 

I think the biggest take away from the above list is that the front office is being flexible in this regard and is letting the player make the decision for the team, rather than having a set age / number of at bats before the player is brought to the big leagues. This bodes will for Groshans, Martin and Woods-Richardson. While Groshans only has 269 minor league at bats, and Martin has zero (with 543 at bats over three years at Vanderbilt) the pandemic has changed everything for these and other top prospects.

 

I believe that the front office would prefer to have Cavan Biggio as a super utility type of player and he is only holding down third base until either of Groshans or Martin force their way into the lineup. Hopefully this happens this year, however next year is acceptable to the team as well. We may be able to tell what the front office is thinking in this regard by where they assign each player for the upcoming minor league season. An assignment to AA or AAA means the organization believes that if the player meets all goals set for him during the first few months of the season the player could contribute to the major league team this year. Furthermore, if the team believes that either of these players could be an everyday player next year, bringing them up at the midway point of this year will still guarantee six additional years of control over the player, provided current player control rules are carried over into the next collective bargaining agreement.

 

Many will suggest that with the lost minor league season last year, a full season in the minors is even more important this year and the players should not be brought up to the bigs. In this regard, I would suggest that the time spent in Rochester at the alternate site playing against older, more polished minor league players and learning from the organizations best coaches may have been better for their overall development than a year in high A or AA.

 

In fact, depending on how some of the top prospects across baseball show this year, the alternative site experiment could actually change how top prospects are developed. It has been about 100 years since Branch Rickey developed the minor league system as we know it, just maybe the pandemic of 2020 will lead to a new method of development for top prospects which includes a combination of game competition and intensive training with specialized coaches at a non-game site (ie. the new training facility in Dunedin for the Jays).

 

Not to be lost in all of this is the possibility of Simeon Woods-Richardson making his major league debut this year. While only 20 years old, by all accounts he is a confident, polished pitcher already. He has four above average pitches and his control is ranked as the best in the Blue Jays system. While he only has 124 innings pitched in the minors during the last two years, this is eerily close to the 123 innings Nate Pearson logged in the minors before his debut.

 

Given the impacts of the pandemic on player development, more than ever front offices all over baseball will have to look at results (both statistically and mental approach to the game) and be willing to move outside of their comfort zone with regards to prospect assignment. However you look at it, these three prized prospects may not be that far from helping the major league team contend for a playoff position. I for one am hoping that they do this in a Blue Jay uniform and are not traded for short term help.

 

 

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