Ah, spring training. The time when the frosty depths of winter don’t seem so bad up here in Toronto. As we watch the Toronto Blue Jays getting into the swing of things, we’re noticing a lot of names that we don’t normally associate with the big club. I mean (aside from us here at Blue Jays from Away) who’s heard of Kevin Vicuna or Edward Olivares? Jordan Roman or Justin Shafer? The Blue Jays have been using a lot of their youngest players this spring and there’s more to come.
First of all, why are we seeing so many minor leaguers in the Blue Jays’ lineups this spring? There’s a simple answer for that. This year’s edition of the Grapefruit League is long. Last year, spring training games started in early March while we’re getting games in late February this year. The World Baseball Classic is the main culprit for this, allowing players to get their work in early before leaving to join their country’s team. The Blue Jays have several players who will be leaving including Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, Jose Bautista, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada.
Additionally, the Blue Jays are working some of their regulars in slowly with Russell Martin getting eased into action and Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson yet to get into games. That’s opening the door for the Blue Jays to take a look at some of their younger players, sending them to the road games, particularly, without stressing the veterans or getting them action too early in what is already a longer spring training than usual.
So who is benefiting from this early action? The biggest name that you’re hearing mentioned around Blue Jays camp is Rowdy Tellez. Tellez has already played in six games (not including getting the start at first base today) and has impressed with his patience at the plate. Anthony Alford is also getting a lot of playing time, hitting a double and a home run in 12 at bats so far.
Richard Urena is another player who gets a start today and is benefiting from the slow start for the Blue Jays’ infielders. He’s had four hits in 11 at bats (not including today). Other players who are among the leaders in at bats for the Jays are Jon Berti, Darrell Ceciliani, and Dwight Smith, Jr.
Over on the pitching side of things, Tim Mayza is getting a lot of word of mouth after hitting 98 mph on the radar gun the other day. Mayza’s thrown two innings so far, allowing tow hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Other prospects seeing action include Conner Greene (seven runs in two innings), Matt Deromdy, Wil Browning, Ryan Borucki (two scoreless innings) and Casey Lawrence (three scoreless innings). Moving down the depth chart, Jordan Romano has made an appearance as have Justin Shafer and Chris Rowley.
We’ll continue to see a lot of minor leaguers as we progress into WBC territory so kep an eye out for those players you’ve never heard of before, they could be heading to Toronto sooner rather than later.
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