Stroman: ‘Legends’ Guerrero Jr., Bichette ready to help Blue Jays now

Marcus Stroman made his spring training debut as the Toronto Blue Jays split squad beat the Canadian Junior National team 11-3. A special moment as Roy Halladay’s son Braden, pitched a scoreless inning in the loss.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – The chances of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette reaching the big-leagues at some point in 2018 appear remote. The chances that either top prospect makes the Toronto Blue Jays‘ opening day roster are flat-out non-existent.

But Marcus Stroman has been watching Guerrero Jr. and Bichette closely this spring and, based on what he’s seeing, he thinks they’re capable of helping now.

“I’m ready for Bo and Vladdy to be on the big-league roster, to be honest,” Stroman said. “I don’t think those guys should wait. I want them on my team. I think they can help us win.”

Guerrero Jr., who turned 19 on Friday, ranks third among all prospects, according to Baseball America. Bichette, who turned 20 on March 5, ranks eighth. Both reached high-A Dunedin last year, but neither has had an extended test against pitchers in the upper minors.

“I feel like these guys are legends that you’ve never seen,” Stroman said. “Those guys are special … I’m not going to sit here and say they should wait in the minors. I see what they’re capable of. I see the at bats that they take. I see the potential they have. I would love to be playing with those guys behind me.”

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Both prospects played behind Stroman in his spring debut against the Canadian Junior National Team on Saturday. Not only did they play stellar defence, Bichette went 3-for-4 with a homer and Guerrero Jr. went 2-for-4 with a walk.

Blue Jays decision-makers place considerable emphasis on player development, so it’s hard to envision a big-league promotion before Guerrero Jr. and Bichette prove themselves against advanced pitching and refine other aspects of their game such as defence and baserunning. Plus, promoting them now would mean burning one of six (or perhaps seven) years of service time — a precious commodity when discussing players with this kind of potential impact.

Asked last off-season whether Guerrero Jr. could reach the big-leagues in 2018, GM Ross Atkins downplayed the possibility.

“I don’t ever put ceilings on any human being. That’s why we do this. That’s why we love working in sport,” Atkins said. “Now, the likelihood that he impacts our 2018 team I think is very low. But at the same time, I would never put a ceiling or a limit on a player.”

Eventually, Guerrero Jr. and Bichette will be Stroman’s teammates, just not quite yet.

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