The Toronto Blue Jays have conducted a rebuild almost under the noses of their fans. Gone are veterans Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson, in are youngsters like Rowdy Tellez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen, and Billy McKinney. All these young players got their feet wet last season with the big club and did well.
But there’s also the next wave, and two Blue Jays prospects are soon to reach the roster - outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and infielder Bo Bichette. Interestingly, both players come from deep major league baseball bloodlines.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vlad Jr. is the son of 2004 AL MVP and nine-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero, who played 16 major league seasons with the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles. Vlad Jr. was seen as the top international prospect when he signed with Toronto for $3.9 million in July 2015, the second-highest bonus in Blue Jays’ history.
He didn’t disappoint. In his first professional season in the Appalachian League, at age 18, he batted .323 with 13 homers playing for Single-A Lansing and Dunedin and was named a Midwest League All-Star. He hasn't slowed down as he’s been promoted through the ranks. At the Double-A level in 2018, he batted .410 in his first 54 games, but sustained a strained patellar tendon in his left knee and was placed on the disabled list in June.
Blue Jays fans should enjoy watching Vlad Jr. play. His raw power will fit nicely into the Blue Jays’ Rogers Center. A right-handed batter, he can hit to all fields and is blessed with bat speed, physical strength, and great hand-eye coordination. He’s like his father in those respects.
Unlike his father, he doesn’t swing at anything the pitcher throws (Vlad Sr. was one of the best bad-ball hitters in the history of baseball). Vlad Jr. has plate discipline and regularly walks more than he strikes out. He’s finished among the Minor League leaders in on-base percentage.
The Blue Jays look to move Vlad Jr. from the outfield to third base where he will eventually take the place of departed Josh Donaldson. Although he has below-average speed and range, he has above-average arm strength. He’s still maturing and, as a good athlete, he should grow into the position.
Blue Jays fans should be prepared for a hitter who hits for both average and power. There’s no reason to believe Vlad Jr. won’t easily put up 30-homer seasons, and do that early in his career. He’s not threatened by major league pitching. Scouts expect he will become an offensive powerhouse with All-Star potential.
Talented Blue Jay prospect Bo Bichette is the son of four-time All-Star Dante Bichette, who played 13 seasons with the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Cincinnati Reds, and Boston Red Sox.
Bichette has both impressive pedigree and hitting ability. He’s ranked second on Major League Baseball's 2018 Top 30 Blue Jays prospects list right after Vlad Jr., and ninth on the 2018 Top 100 MLB prospects list. Bichette is seen as the third-best shortstop prospect in baseball.
After signing with the Blue Jays, Bichette batted .427 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. In 2017, he followed that impressive start by leading all Minor League with a .362 average in the Midwest League, where he earned MVP honors. Moving to Double-A in 2018 was more difficult (batting only .286), but he was still named a mid-season All-Star in the Eastern League.
Bichette is a strong batter, both for average and for power. He won the Under Armour All-American Game home run derby in Chicago in 2015.
Like Blue Jays teammate Randal Grichuk, Bichette swings hard. His hard contact, yet controlled bat speed, sprays the ball all over the field and make scouts believe he’ll become an above-average hitter with power. He has good range at shortstop, which might be his position with the Blue Jays. Others believe he'd fit better as a second baseman — especially with Gurriel Jr. currently at shortstop and Guerrero Jr. as a potential third baseman.
The Best Is Yet To Come
The Blue Jays are fortunate. Neither Vlad. Jr. nor Bichette reached their offensive ceilings. There’s no reason to believe the pair won’t become part of a promising Blue Jays future. Both have the potential to be all-stars who regularly compete with each other for batting titles.