Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Stooges In The Dirt

The good ol’ dirt road is full of twists and effin’ shouts, as all of us hardworking people know. You can walk in the dirt, you can question the dirt, and you can think as you travel down it like a lost Hobo in search of some kind of definitive answer, or next sip of booze. But, either way – scholar or hobo – we keep on in search of some great wail late into the night.

And that wail that we seek comes with its howls when the moment doesn’t seem right. And those howls that get lost in the wind turn into a quick silence when the road straightens out. But, even if it seems like the perfect dirt road to press your foot on the pedal and cruise down, there is no way of knowing how it will all end, or where the next sip of something might come from. And who really gives a shit, just as long as there’s a yearning inside.

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Now, while we’re on this conveyor belt of time, we can all act like know-it-all cool kids spitting out our know-it-all thoughts – I do it all the time. And most of the time I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but honestly who does?

Now, the Blue Jays organization is cruising on its path to the future, as we sit here and sip our wine. And the dust seems to have settled. Many Jays fans squawked like a bunch of stooges for Shapiro and Atkins to blow up this team and do a hard rebuild, which was an easy hard pass for these two executives.

And the way they have decided to take this road to the future is something that every Jays fan should be thankful for. This team is slowly becoming youthful and providing ol’ Gibbers options and a reason to use his baseball thinking cap. The current regime wasn’t about to let this team turn into a bunch of crusty punks, who sit on a corner in Kensington Market crushing back tall cans of Holsten like a bunch of effin’ goofs.

I don’t know why anyone would have wanted this organization to roll around in the dirt and take the Chicago White Sox road to a rebuild – that’s just not fun. So, with all of the sneaky depth moves the Jays made this offseason working out so far, the team definitely seems to be in a position to try and punch another Wild Card ticket while they move closer to the Vladdy Jr. future that fans are excited for.

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And with our old friend Alex Anthopoulos recently promoting Ronald Acuña to the Atlanta show, the Birds now have the top prospect in all of baseball. Vladdy Jr. is only 19-years-old and is dominating the Eastern league, where the average age of players is about 24.

This prodigious punk rock sultan-of-future swat is pressing his baseball foot to the damn pedal and will be playing for the Blue Jays next season if everything continues as is. And isn’t it crazy to think that Vladdy Jr. was born in 1999? Maybe it’s crazy to me because I’m just getting older and the days of playing N64’s Bond in my friend’s basement are long past us. And the Carlos Delgado era, too.

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I digress. Now, there is no reason that the Blue Jays front office can’t merge this future with some of the 2015/16 veterans from yesterday’s bat-flip past, sort of like what the dumb New York Yankees have done. And I think this will probably be their approach this offseason. Whether they are able to merge the Josh Donaldson era with the Vladdy Jr. era is some sort of other tune I’m not going to focus on right now. But, there is no reason why both these players couldn’t co-exist and it would be damn cool if this actually happened. But, let’s just carry on… (and enjoy what will probably be Donaldson’s last season with the Birds… Anywho!)

Now, when Shapiro took over the front office, the farm system had been emptied by AA for everything bat-flip fun. But since then, the organization has quickly been able to feed the pipeline with talent. In its current state, it is so rich with infield players – not quite there with their pitching or outfield yet – that they could probably consider using some of these prospects in a trade if it brought back something that the brass thought was of value, of course.

Bleacher Report had the Blue Jays farm system ranked 25th, post 2016 MLB Draft. At that time, Anthony Alford, Sean Reid-Foley, and Jon Harris were the top 3 prospects in the system. This past March, MLB ranked the Jays system as the 9th best in the league. It has only taken the organization two years to turn around what was – a couple of years ago – a bleak farm system.

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I feel like the focus in this year’s draft will be on pitchers and outfielders, but I honestly don’t know shit about this – it’s just a thought. It will be interesting to see what Gil Kim and company does come draft time. But, I’m confident that soon the noise being made in the system will come from the Jays’ pitching prospects. However, I think it’s important to remember – as a lot of you already know – that a prospect is only that until the player proves himself in the MLB. It’s fun to gush over prospects, just don’t lose perspective in the hype. Travis Snider is a sobering reminder of this for many of us fans.

As of right now, it’s safe to say – even though no player is every really a sure bet – that Vladdy Jr., Bo Bichette, Anthony Alford, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Guerriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and Nate Pearson are going to be a part of the new wave Birds.

But there are many other fringe prospects that could contribute to this future, or be a part of a trade: Richard Urena (SS), Rowdy Tellez (1B), Ryan Borucki (P), Cavan Biggio (2B), Jordan Romano (P), Sean Reid-Foley (P), Andrew Case (P), T.J. Zeuch (P), Riley Adams (C), Logan Warmoth (SS), Kevin Acuna (SS), Cullen Large (2B), Kevin Smith (SS), Kacy Clemens (1B), Zach Logue (P), and Yennsy Diaz (P) are a core of prospects that could become valuable pieces in the future – or be used in deals to bring back some players that the organization currently has a scout courting.

But, if you specifically focus on the amount of depth the Blue Jays have at shortstop and second base, it’s fair to think that they will trade Devon Travis to open the door for Bo Bichette. And with Guerriel Jr., Urena, Warmoth, and Acuna – at this point positioned up the middle – the Jays currently have a lot of young talent there.

And each one of these prospects I’ve mentioned clearly has a different ETA, but Mark Shapiro’s philosophy to have a fluid system of talent is well on its way to reaching his goal, as the Vancouver C’s and Dunedin Blue Jays won championships last year. And this year, the Lansing Lugnuts and New Hampshire Fisher Cats seem to be strong favourites early in this young season. And Buffalo seems to be in a better position this year, too.

Now, I’m not sure why any stooge would have wanted to do dirt for a few season like the South Side Sox are currently doing, or what the Astros did. There is no reason for that kind of suffering. And I understand that after the painful years that Astros fans had to endure, it was all worth it for the World Series banner that will hang forever. But, the Jays’ system is in great shape already and will only get stronger after this year’s draft, so there is no reason to do a hard rebuild because the rebuild is already well on its way.

If the Blue Jays front office chooses to keep the right core of veterans around for the next few years, the transition to the future is going to be a fun one. It might not even feel like they are on any road or bridge – or whatever you want to call it – to the future. This transition might just happen in a way that didn’t even feel like it happened at all. And that’s better than being dirt. And with the amount of talent that they already have in the system, Shapiro’s Blue Jays vision is slowly coming into sharp focus for even the most pessimistic and fickle of fans to see.

Call me crazy, but the team is going to get to this future we all dream of while winning some ballgames, or at the very least, playing meaningful baseball in September. And that’s the type of dirt I like to roll around in, or sip some booze in, or … you get the point.

  • Regulator Johnson

    I think it’s worth mentioning how lucky we appear to have gotten with Vladdy and Bo, neither of whom were considered “can’t miss” when acquired. If not for them, the top 3 prospects in our farm would be Alford, Jansen, Pearson, which doesn’t look a ton better than the 2016 group.

    Now obviously you can’t pretend those two guys don’t exist, but if we hadn’t lucked out on them we’d be looking at an aging, average-ish team with a mediocre class of prospects behind them.

    It’s easy to scoff at the Sox and Stros because it looks like we’ll avoid the need for a rebuild, but let’s not ignore the fact that we got LUDICROUSLY lucky to find Vlad and Bo without giving up any value. Those teams have had to get their talent the traditional way; trading away veteran talent or drafting high. I don’t think “finding generational talent in the second round” is a sustainable strategy, but it sure is fun when it happens!

    • Kristen Sprague

      We also got lucky with EE and Joey. You go with the hand you are dealt and make the best of it. Nothing wrong with luck. On the flip side we got incredibly unlucky that some Amish kid was sitting behind the outfield fence in the ALCS game 6

      • Regulator Johnson

        I don’t know why everything on this site ends up being about AA vs Shapiro. I agree we got super lucky on EE and Joey (and Donaldson too). I was just challenging the central premise of this article, namely that the choice between a full rebuild and fading into darkness is a false one because management can make smart veteran moves while the top prospects come to the rescue.

        That’s true in this specific case, but most teams get their top prospects through top picks or by trading their established talent. What Houston & Chicago did wasn’t dumb, it was just what they had to do. The fact that we don’t is very fortunate, & it’s a testament to management that they are threading that needle.

    • Barry

      There are few organizations whose prospect rankings would look impressive if you took away their two top prospects. It’s a bit unfair to say “take away the good stuff” and evaluate an organization on that basis unless you apply the same handicap to others.

      The draft is a crapshoot, and many first rounders fail to be top talent, while many later rounders emerge as elite prospects and major league stars. I couldn’t tell you offhand how many other organizations feature second-round-or-later prospects in the top-100, but I would guess that the Jays aren’t unique. I don’t get the impression from your post that you’ve done a league-wide survey of the top prospects in each organization and their draft positions, but if you have, I would be interested in seeing the team-by-team breakdown.

      I would also question your memory on how Vlad Jr. was viewed. He was one of the top international prospects and his signing was a big deal. The Jays had to make a deal with the Dodgers in order to get the pool slots necessary to sign him. He’s a legacy player, of course — signed under AA, and current management and scouting had nothing to do with it — but you seem to be downplaying how he was viewed. Granted, you merely said he wasn’t “can’t miss,” but in the context of your post, that comes off as a downplay. I would suggest that it is rarely the case that any prospect is deemed “can’t miss,” to begin with, and I am supremely confident that if you’ve done the team-by-team breakdown I mentioned, you would find very, very few teams’ top prospects were labeled “can’t miss” at the time of acquisition.

      So, while you’re right that there is luck involved, I get the sense that you are deeming the Jays’ successes “luck,” but presuming that the successes of other organizations are “skill,” and that strikes me as an evaluation that would not stand up to scrutiny.

    • The Humungus

      Let him go twice through the league. It’s always good to see how he adjusts to adjustments before you bring him up.

      I say this, of course, as a ticketholder to New Hampshire’s home games on June 8 and 10, which is basically when they finish their second trip through the league.

  • sons

    The farm had been emptied…. except for guys like Vlad that everyone is already building the next iteration of the franchise around.

    Getting sick of this sentiment. I think Thor is about the only prospect traded away in 2015 that has amounted to anything above average.

    AA inherited a shit farm and left it no worse.