Youth movement key for Blue Jays in 2019

March 26th, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays' 2019 season ultimately will be remembered as the year super prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his Major League debut, but Toronto's current youth movement goes beyond just one player.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Billy McKinney, Danny Jansen and hopefully the recovering Ryan Borucki (left elbow) are among those preparing for their first full seasons in the Major Leagues. Not far behind is Guerrero, Bo Bichette and a slew of prospects in Triple-A Buffalo.

This season is about turning the page on the past and embracing the future. Here's a closer look at what to expect from the Blue Jays in 2019:


The goal is to find out which of the young players are going to be a part of the long-term future. This is the year that Teoscar Hernandez and McKinney will be evaluated to see if either one deserves a permanent spot in the outfield. This is when Jansen gets the first crack at becoming the Blue Jays' everyday catcher, that Borucki tries to establish himself as a mainstay in the rotation. The top priority is to develop the youngsters and project the future so that the right additions can be made for 2020 and beyond. If the club ends up contending for a Wild Card spot, that would be a pleasant surprise, but the early expectations are lower than that.


New manager Charlie Montoyo's plan is to be different. Toronto doesn't have a prototypical leadoff man, so instead he's going with slugging threats in Randal Grichuk and Brandon Drury. The four-man outfield might become a regular thing vs. top power hitters, and so will aggressive infield shifts. Expect this team to follow the Rays' approach by attempting to think outside the box. Later in the season, the youth movement will continue as well. Bichette is not expected to make his debut this year, but that might change if he forces the club's hand with a big year in Buffalo. Cavan Biggio, Anthony Alford, Hector Perez and Rowdy Tellez are others who could be up by the end of the year.


The Blue Jays are carrying a lot of risk in the starting rotation. Aaron Sanchez and Matt Shoemaker haven't pitched full seasons since 2016, Marcus Stroman dealt with shoulder issues throughout 2018 and Clayton Richard is coming off knee surgery. The youngest arm of the bunch, Borucki, is already experiencing left elbow soreness. In the bullpen, the Blue Jays might struggle to bridge the gap to closer Ken Giles. The club lacks a reliable left-handed setup man, and there's an overall lack of bullpen depth. There's also still too much swing-and-miss in the lineup without enough hitters who post high on-base percentages, so this team might struggle to score when the ball isn't leaving the park.


There are a lot of breakout candidates on this roster. Drury will open the year as the everyday third baseman until Guerrero is ready. Gurriel should receive the bulk of the duties at second, and Jansen will be behind the plate. All three could surprise, but the most intriguing player on the roster might be Hernandez. The 26-year-old is coming off a strong spring and he possesses incredible power, but in order to become a breakout star, he will have to make more consistent contact. With 22 home runs in his first full season last year, Hernandez showed he can get the job done, but there's a lot more potential in the bat than the .239/.302/.468 slash line he posted.