Jays Talk FAQ: This is the year to find out who are McKinney, Hernandez

Toronto Blue Jays' Billy McKinney (28) looks out on the field as he crosses home plate to score during first inning MLB baseball action against the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (Frank Gunn / CP)

In this regular Sportsnet.ca feature, Blue Jays talk host Scott MacArthur answers some frequently-asked Blue Jays questions.

Since opening a three-game set in Anaheim two weeks ago, the Toronto Blue Jays have played 12 games. They have lost 10 of those games. Six of those losses have been by four or more runs. Three of those losses have been by three runs. Both victories have been by one run, including a 12-inning, marathon 1-0 victory in Texas on May 3.

In this span, they’ve have been outscored 69-24, including a systematic deconstruction by the Minnesota Twins in a three-game series sweep at Rogers Centre in which they were outscored 20-1.

Callers to Blue Jays Talk reflect the results. You’re angry and that’s good! To quote the great writer Elie Wiesel, "the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference." Indifference leads to the slippery slope of irrelevance and here’s hoping this period of time is reflected upon as the low point for a franchise trying to build itself back up.

On with this week’s most popular questions…

Q. If this year is about finding out who and what these young players are, why aren’t Cavan Biggio, Anthony Alford and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. up here, and Teoscar Hernandez and Billy McKinney elsewhere?

A. Interesting in that the answer is contained in the question without the asker even realizing it. This is the year to find out exactly who are Teoscar Hernandez and Billy McKinney, among others!

However, we are all prone to the quick-fix and give-me-results-now default settings of this day and age. Is Hernandez a below-average big league outfielder? So far, yes. Is he barreling enough baseballs this season to mitigate his defensive challenges and vie for the odd game at designated hitter? Nope. McKinney is a below-average league hitter who also happens to be the American League rookie co-leader with eight doubles (shared with Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe). The defensive metrics aren’t kind to McKinney, either, but there’s nothing from the eye test that’s stood out as troubling.

Both of these guys may be just that, guys. I do advocate for being sure, however, and I’d like both players to get more than six weeks of this season to advocate, through quality of play, for their future spots with this team.

Biggio and Gurriel, in a meritorious world, would be in Toronto by now. I’ve covered my thoughts on Biggio, understanding if he comes here he must play. He cannot be stapled to the bench because such a scenario would stunt his development. Gurriel is hitting at Buffalo and playing a solid corner outfield. The Blue Jays need more offence from their outfield spots, the club believes in Gurriel’s bat, and if he can hit and play the outfield, Gurriel’s infield throwing problem becomes nothing more than a bad memory.

Alford is slashing .176/.263/.363 and has struck out 40 times in 115 plate appearances (34.7%) at triple-A Buffalo.

I firmly believe we’ll see Biggio and Gurriel this season. Gurriel’s return, potentially, will be very soon.

If you’ve already decided on Hernandez and McKinney, my question for you is this: What will you decide about Biggio if he struggles in his first month in the big leagues?

Q. What do the Blue Jays do with their starting staff now that two guys (Matt Shoemaker and Clay Buchholz) are hurt?

A. Welcome to the Edwin Jackson experiment. Let’s hope Jackson has something left to offer as the Blue Jays need someone to eat up innings, which none of the starters has been doing enough of lately, and the only way for him to do that is to pitch reasonably well.

Otherwise, outside of scouring externally for another arm, I don’t have an answer for you. I think it’s OK to say "I don’t know," by the way, because it’s better than lying to you, and I also don’t think the club knows the answer yet either.

Q. What is your impression of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. so far?

A. Vladdy reached base in five consecutive plate appearances on Saturday and Sunday. He’s hitting the ball hard, including a first-inning single past White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson on Saturday, which MLB’s Statcast clocked at 118.9-mph off the bat.

There have been a couple of near-misses of pitches, which if Vladdy squared up would have gone for home runs.

He’s close. I understand and acknowledge Vladdy’s start hasn’t been what the hype sold. However, we’re not at a point for rash judgment and we aren’t yet at a point where an optioning to Buffalo is required for some kind of reset.

Let’s let the kid keep playing.

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