Lourdes Gurriel Jr., joined the Toronto Blue Jays without a set position and as he approaches the end of his first professional season in North America, his flexibility around the diamond is something the team wants to develop into an asset.
“We’re trying to create some consistency but ultimately we see him as a player who can play multiple (spots), not just two infield positions but potentially play the outfield as well,” general manager Ross Atkins said recently. “We want to do that gradually and see how it works.”
To that end, the 23-year-old has been playing mostly second base with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats since his mid-July promotion from single-A Dunedin, where he almost exclusively played shortstop. During his six seasons in the Cuban National Series before coming over, Gurriel played 76 games at second base, 40 in left field, 15 at first base, 12 at shortstop and two at third base.
The bouncing back and forth this year hasn’t bothered Gurriel, who at six-foot-two and 185 pounds doesn’t have a natural spot in the field, but is athletic enough to perform competently all around.
“Previously I’d played a bunch of different positions, but here they’ve been focusing me more on second base. That’s where I now feel more comfortable but I still like playing shortstop, as well,” Gurriel said in a recent interview through interpreter Xavier Rentz, an account executive with the Fisher Cats. “People have been saying from Day 1 I’m tall for a second baseman, but the quickness is still there. It’s always something I can keep working on, but I have the talent of being quick.
“Between second base and shortstop there’s not a whole lot of difference, but in a game situation, having that extra step at second base can help out.”
Gurriel’s progress in the field is especially important for the Blue Jays, who have uncertainty up the middle with the injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis plus holes to patch elsewhere, making a Ben Zobrist-like player particularly useful next year. The Houston Astros, for example, are benefitting greatly from the positional flexibility provided by Marwin Gonzalez, who has played at six different positions this season and been strong at shortstop covering the absence of injured all-star Carlos Correa.
Working against the Blue Jays is a hamstring injury that truncated Gurriel’s spring, cost him some time at the beginning of the minor-league season and, to some degree, slowed his timeline to the big-leagues. Replacing the lost reps on defence is impossible, but to his credit his hitting has come along.
He hit only .197/.217/.258 in 18 games at Dunedin, but on Thursday he ripped his second homer at double-A and third of the year in New Hampshire’s 9-6 win over Akron.
With the Fisher Cats he’s slashing .267/.301/.419 with five walks and 15 strikeouts in 24 games.
“From Day 1 they’ve told me it’s a process, you move up through the ranks, through different levels. I didn’t expect to be here (in double-A) this quickly,” said Gurriel, who is studying English daily to help overcome the most difficult part of his acclimation to life in North America. “Since these are the best players in the world I have to work and be ready at a high level offensively, defensively and running.”
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
Notes: Lefty Tim Mayza has allowed only two earned runs in 17.1 innings over 10 appearances since his early-July promotion to Buffalo. … First baseman Rowdy Tellez takes a nine-game hitting streak (15-for-33 with eight RBIs and four walks) into Friday’s contest against Toledo. … Catcher Danny Jansen’s spectacular season continues as he’s 7-for-15 with three walks through his first five games at triple-A Buffalo, his third level this year. He was promoted when Raffy Lopez joined the Blue Jays on Aug. 4.
Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B/DH
Acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 368 PA | 6 HR | .223/.292/.340 | 37 BB | 80 K
Danny Jansen, 22, C
Acquired: 16th round, 2013 draft
Season to date (three levels): 368 PA | 7 HR | .332/.407/.476 | 34 BB | 34 K
Dwight Smith Jr., 24, OF
Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft
Season to date: 327 PA | 8 HR | .278/.352/.410 | 37 BB | 55 K
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher-Cats
Notes: Left-hander Ryan Borucki’s hot start in New Hampshire is pulling him into conversations about a September callup, if not a promotion to the big-leagues even sooner. In four double-A starts he’s allowed only four earned runs on 15 hits and five walks in 26.1 innings, striking out 25. The 23-year-old is already on the 40-man roster, so the only debate for the Blue Jays is whether he’s ready enough for them to start his service-time clock. … Lefty Thomas Pannone’s first start since his acquisition from Cleveland in the Joe Smith deal didn’t go to plan, as he allowed five earned runs on six hits, two homers and three walks in 4.1 innings. He struck out six. … Centre-fielder Anthony Alford is rounding back into form since coming back from his broken hamate bone, slashing .283/.381/.415 with seven walks in his first 16 games back.
Anthony Alford, 22, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date (two levels): 232 PA | 4 HR | .294/.381/.408 | 23 BB | 42 K
Reese McGuire, 22, C
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 78 PA | 2 HR | .266/.355/.438 | 10 BB | 12 K
Harold Ramirez, 22, OF
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 401 PA | 6 HR | .264/.313/.373 | 24 BB | 54 K
Richard Urena, 21, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Season to date: 473 PA | 5 HR | .247/.291/.366 | 28 BB | 85 K
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 23, 2B/SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date (two levels): 167 PA | 3 HR | .236/.263/.344 | 7 BB | 30 K
Conner Greene, 22, pitcher
Acquired: 7th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 4.89 ERA | 110.1 IP | 69 BB | 77 K
Jon Harris, 23, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 5.26 ERA | 119.2 IP | 41 BB | 93 K
Sean Reid-Foley, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 4.44 ERA | 107.1 IP | 43 BB | 95 K
Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays
Notes: Right-hander T.J. Zeuch’s return from a lower back strain Thursday night was pushed back as Dunedin and Fort Myers were postponed by rain. … Approaching a month since their promotions, Bo Bichette has an .836 OPS while Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is at .811 with Dunedin. … Lefty Zach Jackson, a third-round pick last year, has posted a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings over 19 games since moving up to high-A, with 13 walks and 24 strikeouts.
Max Pentecost, 24, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 314 PA | 9 HR | .276/.332/.434 | 23 BB | 62 K
Bo Bichette, 19, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date (two levels): 447 PA | 11 HR | .373/.434/.567 | 37 BB | 70 K
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 18, 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date (two levels): 437 PA | 8 HR | .313/.416/.456 | 62 BB | 52 K
T.J. Zeuch, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 3.23 ERA | 53 IP | 14 BB | 42K
Low-A Lansing Lugnuts
Notes: Justin Maese threw four shutout innings against Dayton with four strikeouts in his second start since returning from a bout of arm soreness. Bowling Green roughed him up for eight runs on eight hits in three innings in his first outing back. … Outfielder Edward Olivares is quietly putting together a nice season, slashing .278/.330/.506 in 99 games with 17 homers and 18 stolen bases. The 21-year-old Venezuelan has split time defensively between centre and right.
Justin Maese, 20, pitcher
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 4.84 ERA | 70.2 IP | 26 BB | 60 K