By Cole Parkinson
The celebration and extreme joy from watching the Toronto Raptors winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy earlier this month still hasn’t died down.
Not many people gave them a shot heading into the series but they were the better team for the majority of the six games, save for a few quarters namely the third quarter in Game 3 where the Raps were absolutely atrocious.
While the celebration continues, speculation on if Kawhi Leonard resigns will no doubt be major talking points until that decision is reached.
Shift over to the Toronto Maple Leafs and its the same story, minus the championship celebration (that’s coming…I hope) as Mitch Marner’s new contract is the central focal point in Leaf Land.
The funny thing is there is still a Big 4 team playing in Toronto and they are way down in the list of things Toronto sports fans are talking about.
Hell, even the Toronto Argos may have more hype this season and that is saying something.
Of course, I’m talking about the Toronto Blue Jays who are well on their way to a 100 loss season and are bound to be worse after the trade deadline passes on July 31.
Like the Leafs and Raptors, the Blue Jays do have a budding superstar on their roster in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who has been up and down since getting the call in late April.
While Jays fans alike were hoping it would be a shot in the side for the team and hopefully build some sort of excitement around the team, it really hasn’t done much.
Sure, hardcore Jays fans like myself who are gluttons for punishment are still tuning in each night to watch them lose but the fair-weather fans from 2015 and 2016 are all but gone, waiting for that next winning season.
Just look at the Rogers Centre at the next home game, there’s barely any people there and it’s hard to blame anybody not wanting to shell money out to watch this product on the field in its current state.
The good news is the team is committed to playing their young players in Vlad, Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Trent Thornton.
And more are coming in the near future.
The Jays number one prospect Bo Bichette is no doubt getting the call this year once there is a spot up the middle for him.
It’s hard to see both Freddy Galvis or Eric Sogard on this roster come August 1 and at this point, you may as well field a team full of young guys who have to prove they are ready for major league life.
Beyond Bichette, Ryan Borucki showed some good signs last year but has been out all year with elbow issues.
Once they heal up, expect him to take a starting spot, especially if one or both of Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman are shipped out.
Anthony Alford has been on a tear recently in Triple-A, hitting almost everything and you’d have to think they give him another MLB shot this year.
Alford, who turns 25 in July, has shown flashes of why he was considered one of the Jays top prospects but overall he hasn’t been able to hold a spot in the team’s outfield.
With Gurriel Jr. nailing down left field for the time being, Teoscar Hernandez playing centre and Randal Grichuk locked up for long term in right field, Alford will have to prove he belongs.
Sean Reid-Foley, David Paulino and Julian Merryweather may all make an appearance on the mound this year in the coming months too.
SRF has been shaky in both the MLB (13.50 ERA) and Triple-A (over 5 ERA) this year so unless he figures it out, he may be stuck in the minors for the foreseeable future.
David Paulino had a chance to possibly make the team out of Spring Training but was sent down to Triple where he has been fairly effective sporting a 3.45 ERA over 28 and 2/3rd innings due to injury problems.
Merryweather, on the other hand, is just beginning his rehab appearances after coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Acquired straight up for Josh Donaldson, the 27-year-old right-hander has been hitting 100 miles per hour during his rehab assignment and he is slated to make his way to Triple-A once read with the major leagues waiting after that.
While Merryweather’s age was the big concern as he was traded for the MLB 2015 MVP, the Blue Jays staff obviously saw him as a potential start for the squad and I’d imagine if he’s healthy, he’ll find his way on to this Blue Jays team.
As for Double-A New Hampshire, there are plenty of intriguing players though many are longer shots at seeing any major league playing time this season.
The easiest target when looking in Double-A is Nate Pearson who has been the Blue Jays top pitching prospect for some time now.
An injury derailed most of his season last year which has led to the Blue Jays putting him on a five-inning followed by a two-inning rotation.
Throwing well over 100 miles per hour with the fastball, the 6’6 right-hander has already racked up 31 K’s over 26.2 innings.
If there is one arm to be excited about in the Blue Jays farm, it’s Pearson’s.
As far as hitters go, Kevin Smith, Logan Warmoth and Santiago Espinal are all intriguing prospects, albeit needing more at-bats in the minor leagues.
As far as the major league roster looks right now, there are no doubt going to be changes.
And at this point, it is more than obvious the Blue Jays will want to acquire more young assets from teams looking for a boost from veteran players.
So more losing is on the way but really, the more losses means the better draft pick and the Blue Jays certainly need a good pick rather than winning meaningless games.
So while this season and likely next season are going to be painful, you just have to hope the Blue Jays management staff develops and picks the right players to send this rebuild the way of the Houston Astros.
While that is no sure thing, the team has plenty of great building blocks in Vlad, Bichette and Pearson which has to have fans feeling incredibly optimistic.