Big decisions ahead for Montoyo as Blue Jays prepare for the new season
Charlie Montoyo is about to embark on the first spring of his managerial career. Based on the number of decisions he has to make, it’s going to be a challenging six weeks.
The Blue Jays typically report to camp with a roster that is close to complete. However, this year that isn’t the case.
Toronto’s front office and coaching staff have difficult calls to make all over the field. The roster is in a period of transition, and while that means some familiar faces have left the organization. It has opened the door for some top prospects to receive their long-awaited opportunities.
Spring Training officially opened Wednesday morning for the Blue Jays. With pitchers and catchers reporting for physicals. The first official workout is scheduled for Thursday. With position players set to follow on Monday. But which players have something to prove?
Travis may be just 27 years old, but he feels like a veteran among the young players crowding the Blue Jays infield. Travis is coming off a disappointing 2018 season. His worst since coming to Toronto in 2015. He hit just .232, the lowest of his career. While his slugging percentage declined by more than 50 points. His record was the fourth lowest among the second baseman with at least 200 plate appearances.
Chronic knee problems held Travis to just 50 games in 2017 and 103 in 2018. This was still a career high. Travis may be the odd man out in the infield rotation. With the Blue Jays making a commitment to getting younger and developing their prospects
With Travis lost in the infield logjam, the Blue Jays have even suggested they may play him in the outfield. This a position he hasn’t played since he was a minor leaguer in the Detroit Tigers organization. A strong Spring Training, however, will help Travis solidify his spot at second base which has been his for four years.
Rowdy Tellez made an immediate impact on the Blue Jays following his September call-up last season. In his first three games, he joined Joe DiMaggio as the only AL rookies since 1936 with six doubles in a three-game span. He ended up hitting .314 with four home runs in 23 games with the big league club.
The problem for Tellez as the 2019 campaign approaches, however, is there isn’t anywhere for him to play. First baseman Justin Smoak still has a year left on his deal, as does designated hitter Kendrys Morales. The Blue Jays are investing a combined $20 million in those two players this season, and they’re not paying that money for them to sit on the bench.
If the team can’t guarantee Tellez regular at-bats, he’s unlikely to stick with the club at the start of the year. Unless, of course, he shows that the hot start to his big league career was no fluke in Spring Training.
While fellow prospect Guerrero gets all the attention, Bo Bichette is also out to show he deserves a call up to the big leagues in 2019. The Blue Jays are inviting Bichette to the Major League Spring Training camp, giving him the opportunity to show what he can do in front of team management.
The 20-year-old Bichette, son of former All-Star Dante Bichette, hit .286 with 11 home runs and 95 RBI in 131 games at Double-A New Hampshire last season. The Blue Jays second round pick in 2016, he enters 2019 as the eighth-ranked prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.
Like Guerrero, who will have to wait until mid-April at least to get his callup due to baseball’s service time rules, Bichette won’t start the year in the big leagues.