TORONTO – Lacking the hype surrounding some of his more heralded teammates on the low-A Lansing Lugnuts, Bradley Jones is quickly slugging his way to notice in the Toronto Blue Jays system.
An 18th-round pick in the 2016 draft from the College of Charleston, the 21-year-old is off to a sizzling .365/.414/.712 start with five homers through his first 14 games.
Small sample size caveats certainly apply at this time of year, but the corner infielder primarily seeing duty at second base right now is picking right up from his strong pro debut last year at rookie-league Bluefield, where he slashed .291/.336/.578 with 16 homers and 18 doubles in 256 plate appearances.
"He’s got a very good professional track record, a decent amateur track record," says Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins. "It’s hard to decipher what to make out of college performers and guys like that, but what I can tell you is our area scout (Chris Kline) loved him, he had really good role grades on him, really good character and makeup. He liked the overall player, good athlete."
Jones played all around the diamond in college but was drafted as a third baseman, a position that belongs to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., on the Lugnuts. With first baseman Nash Knight and Christian Williams also on the roster, Jones has found himself playing lots of second base alongside shortstop Bo Bichette, with Yeltsin Gudino, another middle infielder, working his way into the mix.
"The only reason we’re doing that early is because of having multiple guys in similar situations and as opposed to just zeroing in, let’s just have them play," explains Atkins. "There are other pieces to the equation and feeling like versatility will be best for them early and as we assess where they are, make adjustments from there."
The Blue Jays are planning to take a similar approach with the versatile Cuban Lourdes Gurriel Jr., although a hamstring issue delayed the start of his year, and he exited his season debut at single-A Dunedin after re-aggravating the injury. The Blue Jays plan to take a conservative approach in getting him back to action.
The end goal isn’t to try and develop a Ben Zobrist-type player, but rather to give the organization a chance to "see what becomes more natural and adjust from there," says Atkins. "It’s not going to be something we do for their entire career, I’d imagine."
Guerrero will be exempt from the bouncing around at Lansing as the Blue Jays want to give him a chance to develop at third base.
"For Vladdy, it will be all about how he gets the most out of his body and to make sure he’s a strong physical individual," says Atkins. "If he can maintain all his athleticism and get everything out of his strength and power, he’ll be able to (to stay at third) because he has the hands and arm."
Jones, meanwhile, can keep hitting his way onto the radar.
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B/DH
Acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 45 PA | 2 HR | .167/.222/.310 | 3 BB | 12 K
Dwight Smith Jr., 24, OF
Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft
Season to date: 47 PA | 2 HR | .357/.426/.548 | 5 BB | 7 K
First baseman Rowdy Tellez got off to a hot start with homers in his first two at-bats of the season but is in a 1-for-20 rut. The top prospect also started slowly last year at double-A New Hampshire, when he batted .164 in his first 19 games. … The Bisons lost a strong defensive catcher when Juan Graterol was designated for assignment and traded to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named or cash, but the recent addition of Luke Maile, claimed on waivers from Tampa Bay, made him expendable. … Left-handed Matt Dermody had a short one-day stay with the Blue Jays, getting rocked by the Baltimore Orioles for five runs while recording only one out, but manager John Gibbons took the blame for that, saying he threw the southpaw specialist to the wolves against a series of hard-hitting righties.
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher-Cats
Anthony Alford, 22, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date: 48 PA | 1 HR | .475/.563/.625 | 8 BB | 8 K
Reese McGuire, 22, C
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 34 PA | 2 HR | .185/.294/.407 | 5 BB | 4 K
Harold Ramirez, 22, OF
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 35 PA | 0 HR | .125/.171/.219 | 1 BB | 10 K
Richard Urena, 21, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Season to date: 52 PA | 0 HR | .217/.288/.261 | 5 BB | 15 K
Conner Greene, 22, pitcher
Acquired: 7th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 3.94 ERA | 16.0 IP | 11 BB | 16 K
Jon Harris, 23, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 9.64 ERA | 9.1 IP | 3 BB | 9 K
Sean Reid Foley, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 5.68 ERA | 6.1 IP | 6 BB | 8 K
Top pitching prospect Sean Reid-Foley is off to an unusual start as weather disrupted New Hampshire’s entry to the campaign. The right-hander pitched twice in four days as a result of the twice-delayed opener, the Blue Jays deciding to limit his workload in both outings. He went only 1.2 innings both times out, allowing a total of four runs on six hits and three walks, and then back in routine this week, he threw 72 pitches over three shutout innings, allowing two hits with three walks and three strikeouts. He was removed early because of how stressful his innings were. … Back in double-A after an injury-marred 2016, centre-fielder Anthony Alford hasn’t stopped hitting since the season started, as he’s 19-for-40 with three doubles, a homer and six stolen bases in seven attempts. … Right-hander Conner Greene’s third start of the season Wednesday was his best one yet, as he walked just two batters with five strikeouts over 6.2 innings of two-run ball. He’d walked nine in 9.1 innings over his first two outings.
Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays
Lourdes Gourriel Jr., 23, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date: 2 PA | 0 HR | .500/.500/.1000 | 0 BB | 0 K
Max Pentecost, 24, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 37 PA | 2 HR | .286/.324/.514 | 2 BB | 6 K
T.J. Zeuch, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 1.64 ERA | 11.0 IP | 3 BB | 11 K
Max Pentecost played his first game at catcher since 2014 on Wednesday, the product of a long, slow rehabilitation process from a series of shoulder surgeries that stalled the 2014 first-rounder’s progress. He’s also played at first base this year after being limited to DH duties last year. The plan for the time being is to continue to rotate him between catcher, first and DH
Low-A Lansing Lugnuts
Bo Bichette, 19, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 47 PA | 1 HR | .385/.489/.564 | 7 BB | 8 K
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 18, 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date: 54 PA | 2 HR | .295/.426/.500 | 9 BB | 7 K
Justin Maese, 20, pitcher
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 7.47 ERA | 15.2 IP | 8 BB | 11 K
Bichette continues to tear up pro ball and is currently riding a nine-game hit streak, and has hits and all but one of his 11 games so far. He’s slashing .385/.489/.564 with four doubles and a homer, but just as impressive is that he’s walked seven times against eight strikeouts.