“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut
As different as we all are, there are certain things that we all understand together. And one of these things we all have to accept with its unforgiving ways, in this crazy hell of a thing we call life, is time. It spins us around on this old rock, which dances quickly around the sun.
I can remember 1993 like it was something I just finished watching on Netflix. I was a little red headed squirt with freckles whose favourite movie was The Sandlot, who had a nice collection of grunge tape cassettes, and the complete 1991 and 1992 Upper Deck baseball set, too.
Now, we can all remember being in our early teens, and feel nostalgic for the music and movies of that time — or the teams and players that we used to cheer for — can’t we? And we can all remember what we thought of while riding the school bus with the prospect of the future in our eyes too. At least I can, can you?
I dreamt of playing in the NHL, the MLB, and being a cool-as-Kurt rock star who made his own rules too. But none of those dreams came true. I just didn’t have the skill set to have those dreams quickly turn into my reality, as time chased me through my teen years.
And most of us had these kinds of big dreams which we held close to our hearts as teenagers, didn’t we? But for the majority of us, our futures had different roads to different dreams than the childhood ones that we once hoped for, as we still continue to jump cliffs and develop our wings on the way down.
The funny thing about time is that the future is always a thing that seems so far away, but it is also the thing that is so near, and it’s usually the moment that we are living in today, as time just continues to push us around into one long tomorrow that is always a new day.
Now, it’s important to understand time when you think about all aspects of your life from family, to your career, to even your favourite baseball team — who are, of course, the Birds.
Many Blue Jays fans today are swimming in the fret of the moment, as this season has been an unpredictable blue story that has already pushed its way into mid-summer. And the point of all of this time talk is to reinforce how close the future always is, because it is always only one tomorrow away.
So when you look at the good Birds of summer, I think that it’s important to not just see the moment that they are in, but to understand the direction where they are going — and that’s right into the goddamn future flame tossing sun of — dare I say it — Golden Flags.
The future of this team is very close to being ready. It’s actually closer than, I believe, you think. And with players like Osuna, Stroman, Sanchez, and hopefully Josh Donaldson, as the core to build around, you kind of have to like what this team already has, as they push forward on this baseball diamond world and into future World Series runs.
Mark ShapIro and Ross Atkins are going to continue to trust in Steve Sanders and the scouting system that they put in place, as they develop and find the future stars that are dreaming of their baseball tomorrow right now.
I had the chance to interview Jesse Goldberg-Strassler about some of these future prospects that dream of playing for the Birds. And he, too, knows that the future is bright. So you better get your Ray-Bans! That close tomorrow is almost to-day.
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So your Vlad prediction for this year came true! I asked you this in my Just In Case You Forgot, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Is Only Eighteen article: “A fun little prediction, when do you think Vlad will hear his name called at the Rogers Centre?” Here’s what you said: If all goes well, I believe he’ll be in Dunedin by the end of this year, in New Hampshire sometime next year, and in Toronto in late 2019 at age 20.
Now, do you feel the same way about Bo Bichette too?
I have heard from a great many people who believe that Vlad is more advanced than Bo, yet all I see is Bo continuing to hit wherever he goes. Will this keep up? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. His approach is sound, his determination is strong, his bat speed is special, and his mentality is beyond his years.
What excites you the most about Bo Bichette’s skill set? And what type of player do you think he has the potential to become in the show?
It’s his mind for hitting. He’s terrifically athletic, but what uplifts him is that he knows exactly what the pitcher is trying to do to him and he knows how to counter it. Both he and Vladimir Jr. are highly intelligent.
And how about another fun little prediction, when do you think Bo will hear his name called out at the place we Torontonians refer to as ‘the Dome’?
I’ll go out on a limb and say that he and Vlad are called up to Toronto to debut on the same exact day in 2019, with Vlad batting sixth and Bo batting eighth. (Can’t put too much pressure on them right away.)
Is there a player down in Lansing right now who you think has been quietly forgotten about because of all the media attention focused on the Vlad/Bo tag team, that the fans should know about?
Edward Olivares sure looks like a four/five-tool player. His great speed shows up both on the basepaths (17 SB) and in the outfield. His arm is strong, his power (15 HR) is self-evident, and he’s batting .280+. A toolsy player, though, is only as good as the tools he uses during the game, not just in warm-ups – and Edward’s tools affect every game he plays.
I also love pitcher Yennsy Diaz, who has a thunderous right arm. Sleeper: pitcher Osman Gutierrez, whose velocity is now up to 97-98.
What prospect from the 2017 draft are you the most excited about?
Logan Warmoth, pick No. 1 (22nd overall). I’ve heard outstanding reports about his defense. If he can hit capably, he’s a top prospect MLB shortstop.
Sleeper: D.J. Neal, the 26th rounder who used to play wide receiver in the SEC (South Carolina) and seems like he has the potential to be an exciting outfielder.
What do you think is the major drafting philosophy difference between Beeston/Anthopoulos and ShapIro/Atkins?
I think that drafting philosophy should be chalked up to the change in scouting director rather than president/GM. Still, the 2016-2017 selections of college position players stand out. In 2016, we saw J.B. Woodman (2), Joshua Palacios (4) and Cavan Biggio (5).
This year there was Warmoth (1), Adams (3), Smith (4), Large (5), Lundquist (6), Clemens (8). That’s a lot of college position players in spots where other teams are taking gambles on high schoolers or going for pitchers.
The Jays still rolled the dice with a couple of high schoolers, like Bo Bichette and D.J. Daniels last year and Hagen Danner this year, but that’s minimal compared to a preponderance of high-school pitching and position-player draft picks before. Nothing of the sort now. I’ve heard strong reports about the great character of the players they’re bringing in, too, which is great to hear. Vlad and Bo, for instance, are two top-notch people.
Were you happy with how Steve Sanders (not the character from Beverly Hills 90210) approached the draft this year by selecting many players from the University/College circuit?
I have no opinion yet. Let’s give all of these 2017 draftees a full year or so under their belt and then begin to evaluate their development. I prefer to judge on results.
Of all the MiLB Blue Jays prospects in the system from Vancouver to Buffalo who are you most excited to see put on the Blue Jays jersey?
I think a healthy Anthony Alford will become a true star down the road. Get him back to 100%, fast forward four years, and I’ll be eager to see how he’s grown.
Otherwise, I’ll give you two very different answers: 1) Vlad Jr. in Toronto will become the most popular man in the country thanks to his combination of talent and joy for the game, 2) a lesser name like slugging Dunedin OF Connor Panas would make a wonderful story. He’s from Toronto proper and I’ve heard that the Blue Jays players love him. If he stepped into a Matt Stairs role of hitting huge pinch-hit HRs, he’s an immediate cult hero.
What would be your message to all the fans that don’t trust the ShapIro/Atkins regime?
It’s still too early to properly evaluate. They’ve installed a number of long-term strategies, from draft to development to high performance, that require more time and perspective before we can adequately judge them. Everything you’re judging them now is on their short-term moves, which don’t carry the same significance in my book. Short-term prepares the Jays for this year. Long-term prepares the Jays for the next 3-10+ years.
Do you think the future is bright for the Toronto Blue Jays organization? And do you think it will continue to get brighter as ShapIro and Atkins steer the good baseball ship (because I do)?
Yes. I think a potential MLB infield of C Jansen, 3B Vlad, SS Warmoth, 2B Bo is a distinct possibility, with the further incorporation of Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. somewhere in the field. (Not to mention Pentecost, Urena, Rowdy, etc., each of whom needs more time to see how they develop.) Be ready for more prospects to blossom, too, outside of the shadow cast by Vlad and Bo. Meanwhile, the focus will turn to developing more young pitchers next year. I expect that we’ll be hearing about all of the Blue Jays’ sudden young pitching depth in 2019.
Bold prediction: Will the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series in the next ten years?
Where do you see Jesse Strassler in the future?
(That’s Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, haha. I proudly represent both of my parents with my hyphenated last name.) In the future, I shall be watching baseball games, broadcasting baseball games, and writing about baseball games. Where? Hey, I don’t even know if it’s going to rain or not tomorrow – I just know I’ll be somewhere around a ballpark, a smile on my face.
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