Meet the new crop of rookies who are about to revive the Blue Jays
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Toronto Blue Jays were the oldest team in Major League Baseball, with a lacklustre record to match. Over the past few weeks, though, the organization has shed many of its 30-something veterans and officially kicked off its youth movement—a gradual rebuilding process that could put the team back in playoff contention in a few years.
Here’s what you need to know about five promising young players who are probably going to be part of that process.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vlad Jr. won’t stop. He’s hitting close to .400 in the minor leagues this year, and he’d need to go on an unprecedented slump in order to lose the 2018 Minor League Baseball batting title. He’s that good.
He has big shoes to fill: he’s the son of former Montreal Expo and recent Cooperstown inductee Vladimir Guerrero.
The Jays scouted Vlad Jr. from the time he was 14 years old and signed him as a 16-year-old international prospect for a staggering $3.9 million. He’s now 19 years old, and he’s considered the best prospect in all of baseball.
Earlier this year, Guerrero Jr. cranked a walk-off home run to cap off a Cinderella ending for the Blue Jays’ annual exhibition series in Montreal, where he wore his father’s number, 27. It was a homecoming of sorts, because Guerrero Jr. was born in Montreal.
Despite the fact that he’s tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A (he hit home runs in four consecutive games), the Blue Jays likely won’t promote Guerrero Jr. until next spring, because the team gets to keep him for one extra year if they wait it out until April of 2019. It’s a lame rationale, but other teams have done this before with their most prized prospects. In any case, it won’t be long before he’s hitting 400-foot bombs at Rogers Centre.
If Vlad Jr. is the Superman of Blue Jays prospects, Bo Bichette is Batman. Like Guerrero, Bichette is one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. Legend has it that he’s named after multi-sport phenom Bo Jackson. As a 19-year-old in 2017, Bichette was named the minor league’s best offensive player, and he continues to post impressive numbers at Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Just like Vlad, Bichette has some major league lineage. His father, Dante Bichette, had a 14-year professional baseball career. Dante later became part of the Colorado Rockies coaching staff, so Bichette grew up around the Rockies clubhouse. He witnessed Troy Tulowitzki in his prime and cites the Blue Jays shortstop as one of his biggest influences.
Aside from his on-field prowess, Bichette has another thing going for him: his spectacular hair. He uses “Mane ‘N Tail,” a shampoo originally meant for horses, to keep his long locks looking their best.
Borucki, originally from Chicago, is a pitcher. He’s best friends with fellow Blue Jays prospect Danny Jansen. The two have chased each other through every level of the Blue Jays’ minor league system and now find themselves together on the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays squad.
Earlier this year at the Blue Jays Winter Tour, Borucki said he was elated to have his friend and teammate nipping at his heels. “I make the joke that I was just trying to chase him,” he said. “I couldn’t stay away from him for too long.”
Drafted in the 16th round, 475th overall, Jansen had a lot of climbing to do if he ever wanted to make the major leagues. He has now arrived at the top of his personal Mount Everest.
Dubbed the “catcher of the future” for the Toronto Blue Jays, Jansen looks like the real deal behind the plate. He’s one of the finest all-around catching prospects the organization has produced. He can hit, he can control the running game, and he has a great rapport with the pitching staff.
Last year, Jansen put it all together, posting the best numbers of his career while skyrocketing three levels up the organization. In April of 2017, he found himself in High-A Dunedin. He finished the season with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
Jansen credits a change in eyewear with helping him turn his career around. He didn’t know he had an astigmatism until one of his teammates recommended he get his eyes checked out. It wasn’t long before he started seeing the ball in entirely new ways, allowing him to improve his game.
Finally, earlier this week, after months of anticipation, he got the fateful call to join “The Show.” He’ll likely take over for Russell Martin as the everyday catcher for the team next year.
With his signature moustache, he definitely looks like a cop, but it’s safe to say Reid-Foley isn’t some undercover poseur. He was a highly touted pitching prospect in the Blue Jays organization, drafted in the second round back in 2014. He made strides during his first two seasons in the minor leagues, but hit a wall when he was promoted to Double-A in 2017.
That was the worst year of his career, and it had an adverse effect on his future outlook. He told Amy Moritz of the Buffalo News he didn’t feel like playing baseball anymore. Then he bounced back this year, got himself promoted to Triple-A near the end of May and got the call to the big leagues earlier this week.
Reid-Foley teamed up with Jansen to become the first American League rookie pitcher-catcher combo to make their MLB debut since 1967. Another fun fact about Reid-Foley: he’s a military brat, born in Guam when his father was stationed there as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s only the second player in Major League history to have been born in that particular U.S. territory.