Rising sons have given rebuilding Blue Jays reasons for optimism
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.