The Toronto Chapter of the BBWAA have announced their annual award winners highlighted by the selection of OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who earned both the Neil MacCarl Award as player of the year and the Most Improved Player Award. Also recognized were RHP Ken Giles, who earned the Pitcher of the Year, SS Bo Bichette as the Rookie of the Year, and 1B Justin Smoak as the John Cerutti Award recipient for displaying goodwill, cooperation and character.
Bichette, 21, began his Major League career with an 11-game hitting streak, the longest in team history to start a career and the third longest in MLB history by a player 21 years old or younger. During that stretch, he also became the first player ever to hit a double in nine consecutive games. The shortstop went on to record 15 extra-base hits in his first 15 career games, which were the most by any player in MLB history. Bichette recorded 39 hits in the month of August, the most all-time by a Toronto rookie in any month. He finished the season with 61 hits and 11 home runs in 46 games played, both the most by any Blue Jays batter to begin a career.
Giles, 29, ranked first among American League relievers in strikeout rate (39.9%), third in ERA (1.87) and tied for eighth in saves (23) last season. The 6-3, 210 lb. right-hander led the Majors with a 95.8 save percentage, and finished the season with a 2-3 record, a 1.00 WHIP, 17 walks and 83 strikeouts. His 98.0 save percentage over the last two seasons (49-for-50) is tied with Canadian Eric Gagne (2003-2004) for the highest over any two-year span since saves became official in 1969.
Gurriel Jr., 26, slashed .277/.327/.541 in his 84 games for the Blue Jays in 2019 while reaching the 20-home run mark for the first time in his career. The 6-3, 215 lb. right-handed hitter also spent time with Triple-A Buffalo and twice landed on the injured list. Over the course of the campaign, he led all Major League left fielders with nine assists – doing so in just 63 games – and became the first player in MLB history to lead his team in home runs at the All-Star break (16) after hitting zero homers in the club’s first 50 contests.
Smoak, 32, hit 22 home runs and drove in 61 runs in 121 games last season. The 6-4, 220 lb. switch-hitter drew a team-leading 79 walks, which ranked 8th among American League batters, and was nominated for a Gold Glove Award after posting a .995 fielding percentage. In five seasons with the Blue Jays, Smoak has recorded 117 home runs, 321 RBI, and 304 walks, leading to a .796 OPS and an All-Star appearance in 2017. His 117 homers are the second most by a switch-hitter in team history, trailing only Jose Cruz Jr. (122). Over the course of his 10-year Major League career, the first baseman has combined for 191 home runs and 555 RBI in 1,250 games.