Ris­ing sons have given re­build­ing Blue Jays rea­sons for op­ti­mism

The Peterborough Examiner - - >>SPORTS - IAN HAR­RI­SON

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays feel good about four ris­ing sons who made big strides in 2019 and fig­ure to be­come lineup fix­tures mov­ing for­ward.

The pitch­ing, how­ever, re­mains a work in progress.

The Blue Jays went 67-95, six games worse than last year. It was Toronto’s first 90-loss sea­son since 2004, and their poor­est per­for­mance since a 95-loss show­ing in 1980.

One sil­ver lin­ing? Strong per­for­mances from four play­ers with fa­mous fa­thers, in­clud­ing two sons of Hall-of-Famers.

Slug­ging third base­man Vladimir Guer­rero Jr. im­pressed as run­ner-up in the Ma­jor League Base­ball all-star home run derby, and led Amer­i­can League rook­ies with 126 hits. Flashy short­stop Bo Bichette set one ma­jor-league record by dou­bling in nine straight games, and an­other mark with 13 ex­tra­base hits in his first 11 games.

Ca­van Big­gio played four po­si­tions and showed a vet­eran’s eye, lead­ing AL rook­ies with 71 walks. Af­ter a shaky start as a se­cond base­man, sopho­more Lour­des Gur­riel Jr. was de­moted to triple-A, re­turned as a left­fielder and hit 20 home runs in 71 games.

Those per­for­mances give the Blue Jays rea­son to ex­pect bet­ter in 2020.

“I think we’ve got a chance to sur­prise a lot of peo­ple next year and come out here and be a team that peo­ple don’t want to face,” Bichette said.

Guer­rero’s fa­ther and Big­gio’s dad, Craig, are both in Coop­er­stown. Bichette’s fa­ther, Dante, starred for the Colorado Rock­ies, while Gur­riel’s fa­ther is a Cuban base­ball great whose el­der son Yuli plays for the Astros.

Hopes are high for many of Toronto’s young­sters, but high­est for Guer­rero, 20, and Bichette, 21.

“They’re go­ing to be the guys cat­a­pult­ing this team,” catcher Danny Jansen said. “It’s go­ing to be fun to watch.”

Blue Jays pitch­ing wasn’t al­ways fun to watch in 2019. In­clud­ing open­ers, Toronto used a club-record 21 starters, the se­cond-high­est to­tal in ma­jor league his­tory. Only the 1915 Philadel­phia Ath­let­ics (24) used more.

Gen­eral man­ager Ross Atkins has spo­ken of build­ing mul­ti­ple “waves” of mi­nor league pitch­ers, the first of which is poised to start con­tribut­ing next year.

Here are some other things to know about the Blue Jays this off-sea­son:

Vlad in re­view

Af­ter mak­ing his much-an­tic­i­pated de­but April 26, Guer­rero hit .272 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs in 123 games. He drew 46 walks, none in­ten­tional.

“Ev­ery time he goes to the plate peo­ple ex­pect so much, but he’s 20,” Mon­toyo said. “I thought he did a great job.”

The wait for Nate

Toronto’s top pitch­ing prospect is hard-throw­ing right-han­der Nate Pear­son. He’ll likely be­gin 2020 in Buf­falo, but could join the Jays by May or June.

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