By: Noah Wright
All teams go through a rebuild, and the Blue Jays’ have basically done a quick rebuild. Other than Roberto Osuna, they didn’t really trade off large pieces to deepen the farm, but they have rather done it through drafting and signing prospects. So far, it’s built a really good farm system. So with that, let me go over why the Toronto Blue Jays can be World Series contenders in 2020.
The Blue Jays could have one of the best young infields by the end of 2019. We all know who could be the 2019 Rookie Of The Year: third baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr. Son of Hall Of Fame outfielder, Vladimir Guerrero, his son has so far put up legendary numbers in the minors. Last season, mainly between Double-A and Triple-A, Guerrero Jr. batted .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs in 408 plate appearances. He even had a batting average above .400 and wRC+ above 200 in AA. The only potential flaw he has in his game is his fielding, with a 45 fielding rating according to mlb.com, but has an arm strength rating of 55. However at just 19 years old, he has time to improve and as long as he isn’t as bad as Miguel Andujar was at third last season, he’ll definitely be in future MVP talks.
At shortstop, the Jays have another former All-Star’s son with Bo Bichette, one of Dante Bichette’s sons. Last season, Bichette batted .286/.343/.453 with 11 home runs, a 120 wRC+ and 32 stolen bases in 595 PA’s, all coming in AA. He’s similar to Vlad defensively, as he’s not given great overall fielding ratings, but good arm ratings. Bichette also showed some good power numbers in 2017, so it is possible his power numbers see a rise in 2019. At only 20 years old, Bichette will likely start the season in Triple-A, and with that, we’ll likely see improvements with not only his bat, but also his glove.
The Blue Jays seem to want to build an infield of all former player’s sons. Their second base prospect, Cavan Biggio, is the son of Hall Of Fame infielder Craig Biggio. In 2018, Biggio put up a 20/20 season, with 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He also put up a good .256/.388/.499 line in 563 plate appearances, all in Double-A. If the Jays don’t view Biggio as their second baseman of the future, they have a good middle infield prospect, Kevin Smith. Last season was Smith’s first full season as a professional baseball player. In 575 plate appearances (371 in High-A, 204 in A-Ball), Smith put up a 20/20 season having 25 home runs, 29 stolen bases. He had a slash line of .302/.358/.528. He’s rated a good fielder, with a 55 fielding rating, according to mlb.com. Regardless of who handles second base duties in the future, the Jays should be in good hands.
Though the organization doesn’t have a prospect of someone like Bichette level at first base, Rowdy Tellez should definitely be viewed as the team’s first baseman after Justin Smoak. Through the minors, Tellez showed decent power and when he came to the majors, he impressed. In his first 73 plate appearances, Tellez batted .314/.329/.614 with 4 home runs. That equates to a 150 wRC+.
After recently trading veteran Russell Martin, the Jays have made a path for youngster Danny Jansen. Jansen hit for a nice .275/.360/.473 batting line with 115 wRC+ in 360 plate appearances, all in AAA. While he didn’t do great when he came to the majors, it was a limited 95 plate appearances. Given a full season, the 23-soon-to-be-24 year old could be one of the standout catchers in the MLB. The Jays could also go a different route with catcher with prospect Reese McGuire. Though McGuire didn’t put up great numbers in AAA last season, he came to the majors, and batted a robust .290/.333/.581 in a limited 33 PA’s. However unlike Jansen, McGuire is considered an elite defender behind the plate, with 60 rankings in arm and fielding prowess.
Sean-Reid Foley’s 33 and a third innings MLB showing wasn’t too great, but in the minors he showed tons of promise. In 129 and two thirds innings (44 and a third in AA, 85.1 in AAA), Foley put up a 3.26 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.180 WHIP. He also gave up just 8 home runs, resulting in a .6 HR/9 rate. Plus, Foley had a good 10.5 K/9 rate with a 3.5 BB/9 rate. Another young starter the Jays have in the minors is Nate Pearson. However, he’s not seen too much pro baseball time. He’ll likely start the season in AA, and could be moved to AAA if he performs well if he performs well. MLB.com predicts the 22 year old to make the MLB in 2020.
In the majors, the Jays have 3 confirmed for 2019. Though Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman struggled in 2018, both had impressive 2016 seasons when they were fully healthy. However Ryan Borucki one of the team’s more intriguing rotation pieces. The 24 year old who will be 25 by the start of the 2019 season produced a solid 3.87 ERA, 3.80 FIP and 1.321 WHIP in 97 and two thirds innings last season. He also gave up just 7 home runs for a .6 HR/9 rate.
Right now, the Jays don’t have a great outfield. Kevin Kiermaier, Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Griuckick make up a solid, but unimpressive group. This is one area that the Jays don’t have too many good options throughout the minors. Anthony Alford, and Billy McKinney are definitely interesting options, but neither are great.
Holes That Need to Be Filled:
Any team that looks to compete will need to add from outside the organization. Though it’s harder to predict the trade market by then, it is easier to look at the free agent market. I see the Blue Jays pursuing outfielder Aaron Hicks. In 2018, Hicks put up really good numbers. With 581 plate appearances, Hicks batted .247/.366/.467 with 27 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and a 127 wRC+. Hicks has been fairly consistent, as he put up similar numbers in 2017, however in an injured amount of plate appearances. Defensively, Hicks has Gold Glove level potential. While in 2018, DRS posted him as a negative defender, he was worth 15 DRS in 2017. Hicks also has a very good outfield arm.
Another piece I do see the Jays pursuing is right hander Miles Mikolas. After posting good results across seas in Japan, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Mikolas to a 2 year deal last winter, and he turned out to be their best pitcher. In 200 and two thirds innings, Mikolas posted a 2.83 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 1.071 WHIP. Though he had just a 6.5 K/9 rate, he did have a very good K/BB ratio of 5.03, as he only walked 29 batters.
The team also would probably need to add one or two pieces in the pen or bench, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the Jays could be a World Series contender. If the Jays prospects develop as expected, and they add to the team through FA or trade, the Jays could realistically be in World Series talks by 2020.