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Today we look at the depth in the system at the shortstop and catcher positions. On the field Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. went back to back with home runs. Bichette was on the way to a 3-5 night and a batting average over .400. Mike Bolsinger pitched eight shutout innings to give Buffalo a much needed win. Josh Winckowski, a 15th round pick last season, struck out nine hitters in 4.2 innings. It was a three true outcomes start, nine K's, two walks and two solo home runs. Hagen Danner played his first game in the GCL and drove in two runs with a single.

The Blue Jays are developing some depth at a couple of key, up the middle, positions. Those positions are catcher and shortstop and I thought I would look at the depth in the system for those two positions today. Both of them were strengthened in the recent draft.


The top placed shortstop prospect is Richard Urena who is in AA. Urena is a top ten prospect but that positioning is in jeopardy based on his 2017 performance. Urena was promoted to AA in late 2016 and now has over 400 at-bats at that level. In those 400 at-bats Urena has an OPS of approx. 640. He had an OPS of 678 in 124 at-bats in 2016 and this year in 285 at-bats his OPS is 622. The monthly numbers for 2017 do not show much growth.

Urena continues to be a free swinger, he strikes out less than 20% of the time but he walks even less, his K:BB ratio is 3:1. Urena is a switch hitter and this year his OPS numbers are similar from the right and the left hand side.

On the positive side, Urena is still just 21 years old and will not be 22 until spring training next year. He has time to learn but does he have the willingness to learn? Only his coaches really know that. Defensively, Urena has major league abilities.

2017 is a stall year for Urena and he could find himself back in AA in 2018 unless he improves.

Lourdes Gurriel will likely not be a shortstop but the Jays are playing him there and thus he is in the queue. As Gurriel has just started playing we don't know much about him yet but he has made a lot of errors. Gurriel is somewhat of a wildcard, he could stay in Dunedin for the rest of the season or the Jays could give him a taste of a higher level. He might even have a September call-up in his contract. Will Gurriel still be a shortstop in 2018? If so, will he leap over Urena and go to AAA or will Urena go to AAA and Gurriel to AA?

The Jays have two shortstops in Lansing, Bo Bichette and Yeltsin Gudino. With the year that Bichette is having, Gudino is flying under the radar but he is having a decent season. Gudino has improved his batting average every year he has been in the system, this year its .256. Gudino had a reasonable strike out rate of 14%, his walk rate is down this year but it is around half of his K rate. Power is not part of his game but he is still young. It seems likely that Bichette and Gudino could be sharing short and second base again next year, this time in Dunedin. Bichette is, like Gurriel, likely not a shortstop long term but I assume he will play there next year. His shortstop abilities are likely the biggest obstacle to an immediate promotion to Dunedin.

There are three candidates to play shortstop next year in Lansing. First we have the current Vancouver shortstop Kevin Vicuna. Vicuna held his own when he was parachuted into Dunedin earlier this year and now is generally leading off for Vancouver. The next logical progression is Lansing in 2018. Then we have this years draft picks, Logan Warmoth and Kevin Smith. Both are college players who should be in Lansing next year.

The age profile of these candidates is as follows, showing month and year of birth:

  • Gurriel - 1993-10
  • Warmoth - 1995-09
  • Urena - 1996-02
  • Smith - 1996-07
  • Gudino - 1997-01
  • Vicuna - 1998-01
  • Bichette - 1998-03

Even if we take Gurriel and Bichette out of the shortstop role the Jays still have five good shortstops to give at-bats to next season. However all seven of them could be getting time at short next year. Seven players for four full season teams will mean a lot of time at second base for some.


The Jays also have depth at catcher. This time lets start with the birth dates:

  • Max Pentecost - 1993-03
  • Reece McGuire - 1995-03
  • Danny Jansen - 1995-04
  • Riley Adams - 1996-06
  • Javier Hernandez - 1996-07
  • Yorman Rodriguez - 1997-07
  • Hagen Danner -1998-09

There is a jam at the AA level with Jansen, McGuire and Pentecost all capable of playing there. It doesn't matter at the moment with McGuire and Pentecost injured but it could become an issue soon. And it will be an issue next season. Who plays everyday in AAA? I assume Pentecost will catch in AA. Does Jansen go to AAA or does he stay in AA? Jansen is also the youngest of the three.

The Jays are not as strong top to bottom here as shortstop. Other than the three headed mashup above, Adams and Danner will be prioritized. Hernandez can catch but is not a great hitter while Rodriguez can hit but is not a great catcher. Adams is probably Lansing bound for 2018 while Danner will head for a short season destination. Ridge Smith and Ryan Gold could also fit in somewhere. Gold is a 1997-10 birthday which makes him second youngest of this group. Gold can hit but his catching is further behind. It will be interesting to see how many at-bats the Jays give him this season and, if he develops, he could find a starting job in Vancouver or Bluefield next year as a 20 year old.

When teams have an abundance of talent like this other teams can come calling. The Jays may field offers in the post season for catchers or shortstops to fill other needs.

Wednesday's Action

Other than the introduction above, Sean Reid-Foley was taken deep three times in six innings. In total he allowed eight hits while picking up six K's. Jordan Romano was somewhat wild, he needed 97 pitches to get through 4.2 innings. Four walks and eight strikeouts racked up his pitch count. Casy Clemens hit his second home run, one of two hits on the night. Ryan Noda, Sterling Guzman and Ryan Gold each had two hits to keep their averages above .400 for Bluefield. As was mentioned above, Gold can hit and it will be interesting to see how much playing time the Jays give him.


3 Stars

3rd star: Josh Winckowski

2nd star: Mike Bolsinger

1st star: Bo Bichette


Jays minor league blogger Clutchlings had a mid season interview with Gil Kim earlier this week.

Shortstops and Catchers | 22 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
bpoz - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 08:49 AM EDT (#344540) #
I enjoyed the interview with Gil Kim. We have some excellent prospects. Quite a few at AA.
lexomatic - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 09:09 AM EDT (#344542) #
Urena has needed to adjust to each level in the past, but it hasn't happened yet so far. The optimist's view is that it's just taking longer. I think I saw that he's had a few decent games recently? Maybe he has a good enough 2nd half to salvage the season. I would argue with the following sentences, though: "Even if we take Gurriel and Bichette out of the shortstop role the Jays still have five good shortstops to give at-bats to next season," and "The Jays are not as strong top to bottom here as shortstop."
I'm not particularly excited by this SS group, unless Urena makes an adjustment, or Warmoth develops like his comps. There's a lot of no-hit, average field potential that smells like IF at best. A lot of those guys it seems too early to tell.
I definitely like the catchers more.
I think that if Jansen keeps up his AA performance for the rest of the season, he earns the call-up to AAA - because of his age, I also feel it's okay to switch him with one of the AA guys if they do well while he stumbles. It's better than anything McGuire ever did offensively, and a year lost to injury means he needs to prove himself again. That's a perfect situation to platoon with Pentecost at AA. He can come in defensively for Pentecost (shifting Pentacost to 1B). Pentacost can play 1B and DH (I think he should learn to play corner OF, too).  Pentacost also provides some potential as a versatile bat who might platoon with Tellez if the latter only develops a little more, as a stop-gap 1B situation.
Another reason I like the catchers is that there's a mix of offense and defense (even if not all in the same players) that makes it more likely one will be useful at MLB.

This was a fun overview, and useful at getting a sense of depth in the org that doesn't really happen with prospect reviews. Any other position reviews in the works?

Gerry - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 09:15 AM EDT (#344544) #
This went live before I had a chance to finish it, it should be done now.

Gerry - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 09:17 AM EDT (#344545) #
lexomatic, nothing planned but I will do a few more as the season progresses.
Mike Green - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 09:23 AM EDT (#344546) #
Bichette homered and doubled last night.  He's at .402/.461/.638.  I don't quite get the logic of keeping him in the Midwest League to improve his shortstop play if you don't actually believe that he has a decent chance to be a shortstop at least for a few years at the major league level.  It may be that the real question is whether he plays second base, third base or a corner OF slot by the time he arrives. 

Lugnut Fan, do you have any comment on Bichette's arm and his footwork around the bag?

bpoz - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 09:51 AM EDT (#344549) #
Gerry you wrote an article in either this or last off season. You based it on your long experience following the minors. The biggest thing I gained from that was that my unbridled enthusiasm for various hot prospects would not translate into ML success. You gave plenty of examples and reasons.

I fully realize now, for me any way, that having a surplus of Ml stars at one position and SP Aces is unlikely, even though we often seemed headed in that direction.
SK in NJ - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#344556) #
Maybe once Warmoth starts playing, it will cause a chain reaction as far as promotions. I don't know where they plan on starting him, but putting him in Vancouver, moving Vicuna to Lansing, and then Bichette to Dunedin makes sense.
uglyone - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 11:42 AM EDT (#344558) #
speaking of Vicuna - he's off to a very solid start in Vancouver, even though he's still young even for that level.
85bluejay - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#344561) #
I don't expect Bichette or Gurriel to stay at SS - I'm not excited about Urena because of his strike zone issues - I'm more optimistic about Gudino & Vicuna.

I like Jansen, but Pentecost I have questions about his durability long term - I expect he will be traded.
Gerry - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 12:32 PM EDT (#344566) #
Bichette and Vladdy have been chosen for the futures game rosters.
Gerry - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 12:48 PM EDT (#344567) #
Hagen Danner just hit a home run in his first at-bat today.
James W - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 01:34 PM EDT (#344569) #
On television last night Hazel Mae said both Warmoth and Pearson were going to Vancouver.
uglyone - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 04:28 PM EDT (#344581) #
Jim Callis ✔ @jimcallisMLB
1st-rders Logan Warmoth, Nate Pearson sign w/@BlueJays. Warmoth gets $2,820,200 ($25k over slot), Pearson $2,452,900 ($150k over) @MLBDraft
1:22 PM - 29 Jun 2017
Mike Green - Thursday, June 29 2017 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#344592) #
Bo Bichette has homered and walked so far tonight.
whiterasta80 - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 09:13 AM EDT (#344607) #
I have to ask the question at this point. Has anyone ever performed at the level Bo Bichette is, for as long as he has, and not been promoted?

You don't hold back a bat this advanced just to improve his defense.
uglyone - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 10:08 AM EDT (#344611) #
no, nobody ever has, at least as far back as fangraphs tracks milb stats.

that being said, someone did point out to me recently that literally every teenager who has dominated low-A has still stayed there for 300-400ab, including the mike trouts of the world.
Mike Green - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 10:22 AM EDT (#344612) #
Alex Rodriguez dominated the Midwest League at age 18 and had 278 PAs there- he advanced quickly though and made it to Seattle in time for a September cup of coffee.   Bichette now has 283 PAs in the Midwest League.

Bichette has put up a more impressive slash line (at age 19) than Rodriguez or Trout did at age 18.  The extra year is, of course, more important, but it also cuts in favour of an earlier promotion.  Bichette might be a great major league player as early as age 21, and you ought not to hold him back.  It does seem pretty clear that he is going to make his living with his bat, and you want to let him do that.  I'd be inclined to stick him in a corner outfield spot and let him just hit. 

bpoz - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 10:48 AM EDT (#344618) #
Trout and A Rod also worked very hard at improving what ever needed improving. Bichette seems the same. I would expect his defense to improve because of hard work and good coaching.
uglyone - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 10:48 AM EDT (#344619) #
my favorite part about Bo is how he's actually improved in most important areas over his surprise-apparently-unsustainable start in rookie ball last year.

more walks, less strikeouts, (and WAY fewer swinging strikes - from 24.5swstrk% all the way down to 10.0%, just a massive drop), raising his already phenomenal 27.3% linedrive rate all the way up to 32%, and putting up a similar line overall but with less reliance on babip and a more sustainable power level.

I doubt the rankers will suddenly admit that they missed that bad on this kid this soon, but I mean he's got a legitimate case to be a top-5 prosepct in baseball.
lexomatic - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 11:59 AM EDT (#344623) #
I wonder if there's any commitment to Gurriel for time at Ss that is delaying things due to his earlier injury.
If so, I think that sounds be a mistake, but that is the wildest speculation... Mostly because I can't think of another reason not to promote soon.

uglyone - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 12:16 PM EDT (#344624) #
speaking of which, it sure would be nice to see gurriel start hitting even a little bit.
PeterG - Friday, June 30 2017 @ 03:54 PM EDT (#344637) #
It' been almost 18 months since Gurriel has played baseball but for a few spots in ST and half a game at Dundedin. I would not even begin to make any judgement until August. As far as I am concerned, he has a free ride till then. It may well be next year before we see the real Gurriel. Patience is needed here but once he gets going, he could move quickly. Multiple scouts and observers would have to be wrong for him to fail in the long run.
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