IT WAS less than a year ago when Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio were lighting up Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. Three of baseball’s most talked-about prospects, two the sons of Hall of Famers, were all in the same place, overflowing with seemingly endless potential. They were the future of the Toronto Blue Jays, rays of hope for a successful rebuild.
With Bichette’s call-up to the majors on July 29, the entire trio is now in the big leagues and the Blue Jays are hoping to get a glimpse of their future over the final months of the season.
It’s been a long time coming. Had he not suffered a fractured hand after being hit with a pitch in a spring training game on April 23, Bichette likely would have made his MLB debut much sooner. Instead, he was ruled out for 6-8 weeks. Rather than being on the same course as Guerrero and Biggio, Bichette was forced to watch while the other two ascended to the bigs.
Now that the time has finally come, he’s excited to get things going.
“This is something we’ve (Bichette, Guerrero, Biggio) been talking about for years now, being up here together,” Bichette told MLB.com on Wednesday. “Obviously, they’ve had a month or two under their belts, but I’m happy to join, happy to get it rolling and see what we can do.”
At 45-67, the Blue Jays sat 26 games out of first place in the American League East and 18½ games back of the second AL wild card spot through Friday’s games, making a serious run at a postseason berth highly unlikely this year. That doesn’t mean they won’t be one of the more intriguing teams down the stretch.
After a slow start, Guerrero is hitting his stride, hitting .304 over the last month with five home runs and 24 RBIs. Meanwhile, Bichette has come out of the gate on fire, posting a .385 batting average (10-for-26) with one home run under his belt.
Biggio, on the other hand, has struggled recently. He owns a .155 batting average over the last month, bringing his season-long number down to .212, and has left the yard just twice. Biggio knows it’s all about the process, though, and is confident in the team’s direction.
“We could see the writing on the wall with the stuff we were able to do in the minor leagues, and the way the organization was moving, with a bunch of young guys coming up,” he told MLB.com. “We all saw it as a good opportunity for us to come up and shape out what we were going to do in our time here. We all knew it was going to be something special.”
Between Guerrero, Bichette and Biggio, Toronto has three foundational pieces already in place, with a handful of pitchers rising through the organization, including Nate Pearson and the recently acquired Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson, who the Blue Jays got in return for former Fisher Cat Marcus Stroman when they traded him to the New York Mets.
The talent is there, and with it comes high expectations.
“Bringing a lot of wins,” Bichette said. “Me, Vladdy, Cavan, we all work pretty hard. We play pretty hard. We have an idea of what we want to accomplish. And one of those things is to win a World Series, so that’s something we always talked about — man, we can get up there and create a culture and create an atmosphere that’s fun to be around and win games. That’s what we’re going to try and do, so hopefully we can start that today.”
Ross Atkins and the rest of the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office were busy in the days and hours prior to Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline, yet the Fisher Cats went largely unchanged.
Of the five prospects acquired in deals that saw the franchise send out established big leaguers, only one, Thomas Hatch, is certain to make an impact in New Hampshire in 2019.
Hatch, who the Blue Jays received in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, started 21 games for Double-A Tennessee prior to the move, posting a 4.59 ERA over 100 innings pitched. He’s considered to be an average prospect, not ranking among the organization’s top-30.
The real prizes came in the form of Kay and Woods-Richardson.
Kay, the no. 31 overall pick in the 2016 draft, required Tommy John surgery shortly after he was drafted but bounced back fairly well in 2018. He was dominant for Double-A Binghamton in 12 starts this year, posting a 1.49 ERA and striking out 70 batters in 66 ⅓ innings.
He’s struggled against more polished hitters, though, posting a 6.61 ERA in seven starts with Syracuse and was roughed up in his first start with the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday, giving up six runs on 11 hits and three walks in a loss to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
At 18 years old, Woods-Richardson is much farther away from contributing at the major league level with MLB.com pinpointing 2022 as his estimated time of arrival to the show. He owns a 4.39 ERA in 21 starts between Single-A Columbia and High-A Dundedin.
His strikeout numbers are what impress the most, striking out 102 in 82 innings pitched.
Kay and Woods-Richardson rank as the no. 5 and 7 prospects in the Blue Jays’ system. Kyle Johnston and Derek Fisher, whom they acquired in trades with the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, respectively, are not ranked and Johnston has yet to be assigned.
Fisher is expected to join the big league club.
Finishing their regular season 26-18, the Keene Swamp Bats earned the top seed in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Northern Division — a half-game up on the Valley Blue Sox.
Keene will receive a bye in the first round of the NECBL playoffs and will await the winner of Valley and the third-seeded Vermont Mountaineers for a three-game series.
Whomever comes out on top will then advance to the finals, where the Swamp Bats would be looking to end a six-year championship drought after winning it all in 2013.
Amherst’s Beth Greenwood was named to the 2019 USA Baseball Women’s National Team Development Program on Tuesday, joining 33 other women who will train in Carrollton, Texas, from Aug. 7-10. The program handpicks players to attend and provides them with the chance to meet USA baseball staff in preparation for a national team experience in the future.
Greenwood, who plays catcher, was also chosen last year and will look to be one of the 20 players chosen from the group to make the final roster. That team will also train in Carrollton, from Aug. 11-14, before heading to Aguascalientes, Mexico, to play in the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships from Aug. 18-25. The top four finishers in the tournament will earn a bid in next year’s world championship tournament.
NH Baseball appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Tim MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org.