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:
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:
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.
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.br/>
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.