Games 92-95, July 12-15: Jays at Red Sox
Result: Boston wins series 3-1
1. Jansen goes deep in Futures Game
As the big club was getting beaten up in Boston, two of the Jays’ top prospects were in Washington, D.C., for the annual Futures Game, and it was catcher Danny Jansen making an impact.
Hitting seventh for Team USA, Jansen took Team World left-hander Lewis Thorpe, a Minnesota Twins prospect, deep for a two-run home run in the fourth inning, one of eight total homers on the day in the U.S. squad’s 10-6 win.
Bo Bichette, the second-best prospect in the Jays’ stable and No. 7 overall on MLB Pipeline’s new mid-season top 100 list, went 1-for-3 with a base hit out of the two-hole in his second-straight Futures Game appearance.
Bichette is currently slashing .272/.331/.433 in his first taste of Double-A as a 20-year-old, while Jansen, 23, has enjoyed a consistent start to his season in Triple-A with an .891 OPS, eight home runs and as many walks as strikeouts (35 BB/35 K).
Jansen is expected to debut in Toronto at some point in the second half of the season, perhaps as a September call-up.
2. Post-break rotation set, but changes still loom
One of the many roster shuffles over the weekend included Marco Estrada finally landing on the DL with his strained left glute, but the 35-year-old veteran is expected to be ready to take the ball in the fourth game out of the all-star break.
Estrada will follow Sam Gaviglio, who will take the mound in the first game back Friday at home against the Baltimore Orioles, Marcus Stroman, and J.A. Happ, who’s always one phone call away from making his next start in another uniform.
Ryan Borucki, who was optioned to the minors over the weekend in a paperwork move, will start the fifth game behind Estrada against the Minnesota Twins.
Meanwhile, Aaron Sanchez (finger contusion) will spend his break in Dunedin as he tries to work his way back from his latest finger issue, one that’s kept him out since June 21.
3. Grichuk will get long look in centre with Pillar out
The contingent of fans frustrated with Kevin Pillar’s streaky bat will now get an extended look at Randal Grichuk in centre field, likely until the end of August.
With Pillar expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to a sternoclavicular joint sprain suffered on a diving catch, the Jays will be forced to turn to Grichuk in the middle of the outfield, where he’s made 168 appearances in his career.
A plus defender in right field, Grichuk has actually graded out pretty well in centre, too, posting a Defensive Runs Saved mark of plus-7 there in 2016 in 106 starts.
This season, Grichuk has been worth 4 DRS in right and minus-1 in centre in just five starts.
While Grichuk’s struggles and subsequent rebound with the bat in his first season with the Jays have been well documented, his 11 home runs and 88 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) — 100 is considered league average — are still more production than Pillar has provided with his eight homers and wRC+ of 82.
4. Gurriel’s hot streak interrupted by head injury
A collision at first base with Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez on Saturday has put a temporary halt to Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s best stretch in the majors.
After being accidentally kicked in the head by Rodriguez, who got the worst of it and could be sidelined for a significant period of time due to an ankle injury, Gurriel was placed on the seven-day concussion DL Sunday, and the timing couldn’t be worse, as Gurriel had recorded four-straight multi-hit games, raising his average from .226 to .270 with the 9-for-18 stretch.
Gurriel actually finished the game Saturday, but then reported a headache and feeling nauseous when he returned to the clubhouse.
A work in progress on both sides of the ball, to be sure, Gurriel has flashed impressive bat-to-ball skills at the plate and a strong throwing arm in the field, but there are moments of inexperience and miscues that manager John Gibbons has said he can live with when the 24-year-old is simply playing hard and being aggressive.
5. Osuna, Vladdy Jr. ramping up in Gulf Coast League
A pair of familiar names kicked off rehab assignments over the weekend with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.
On Friday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was back in the batter’s box for the first time since going down with a patellar tendon strain in his left knee June 6, going 1-for-3 as the DH in his return.
He ramped things up even more Saturday, playing third base for the first time and doubling as part of another 1-for-3 day, before getting a breather Sunday.
Meanwhile, embattled closer Roberto Osuna returned to the mound Saturday for the first time since May 6, as his 22-day rehab window opened with a scoreless frame for the GCL Jays.
Osuna allowed a base hit and struck out one in the outing.
Both players will continue their rehab assignments in the lower levels this week, and could eventually land in Triple-A together later this month.
Up next: Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre
Friday: RHP Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.35) vs. RHP Sam Gaviglio (2-3, 4.58)
Saturday: TBA vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (2-7, 5.86)
Sunday: TBA vs. LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29)