As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays’ cadre of young talent, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. bore the weight of significant expectations after making a solid rookie debut last season.
Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, the beginning of his sophomore crusade almost immediately spiralled into a deep-seated disappointment, as he failed to make a formidable defender at second base, and was continually struck out by some of the league’s lesser aces.
Toronto sent him down and converted the infielder to left field.
Since being called back, Gurriel’s defence has markedly picked up, and his batting has seen improvement. He’s posted a .295 batting average, 40 RBIs, and 19 home runs.
Should He Stay?
For a team that’s trending younger and looking toward the future rather than the present, it would seem that Gurriel falls right into the blueprint of the Jays’ current plans.
Now the number three hitter in the lineup (he returned on Sept. 14 after a month out due to injury), it hasn’t just been Gurriel’s defence that’s improved since his demotion.
No longer just attacking fastballs at the plate, he’s become much more adept at nailing sliders and curveballs, waiting until the opportune moment when the ball enters the midst of the strike zone before hammering it into the stratosphere thanks to the timely restoration of his power.
“We saw that [promise] in him as an amateur,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told David Singh of Sportsnet. “It’s interesting because the bat has always been the carrying tool. He was a versatile player as an amateur, and the player we are seeing today is the player that was described to us by our scouting department.”
By all accounts, even with the growing he needs to do to really begin an ascendance towards the next stage of his development, Gurriel is exactly the type of player the Jays will be looking to hold onto.
Should He Go?
If Gurriel hadn’t been sent down to the Minors and had continued to carve out a horrendous season, then perhaps the Blue Jays would have been more willing to look into this possibility.
As things stand, the experience of his relatively short sabbatical became a seminal moment in turning his season around, and he appears to have regained the good faith that might otherwise have been lost.
Add that to the fact that he has the highest ceiling of the Jays’ outfield options right now and that he’s only in the third stint of a seven-year contract he signed in 2017, and it would seem only reasonable that moving Gurriel is not something the Jays are considering.
The Verdict Is …
While consistency is still something Gurriel needs to work on, he’s the best and most promising outfielder the Jays have presently. With the team focused on building around their young core going forward, Gurriel should be considered an important part of that process.
Like the rest of the youth, he will be given time to grow and prove whether or not he has the mettle to survive as a key piece of a winning core.
For now, it would seem not only that Gurriel’s spot on the team next season is inevitable, but also that the investment in him is ideally long-term.