11:06am: The Blue Jays have now formally announced the series of roster moves.
9:35am: The Blue Jays are set to recall infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from Double-A New Hampshire, according to Shi Davidi and Hazel Mae of Sportsnet. The younger brother of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes will be making his Major League debut upon arriving. The Jays will option fellow infielder Gift Ngoepe and lefty Tim Mayza to Triple-A in order to open roster spots for Gurriel and the returning Kendrys Morales, per the report. That also means that surging young outfielder Teoscar Hernandez will stick with the big league club.
Gurriel, 24, was signed by the Blue Jays shortly after his 23rd birthday. Under the previous iteration of the collective bargaining agreement, his age and five-plus years of professional experience in the Cuban National Series qualified him to sign a Major League contract, which he did — a seven-year, $22MM pact. (Under the current CBA, he’d still be considered an amateur, as the the age criteria was bumped up to 25.)
While his first season in the Blue Jays organization didn’t go well (.229/.268/.339 between Class-A Advanced and Double-A), the younger Gurriel played much better in the Arizona Fall League last year. In 2018, he’s exploded out of the gates with a .347/.382/.510 slash in his first 55 Double-A plate appearances. Baseball America rated him as the game’s No. 73 prospect prior to the 2017 season, and while his poor showing last year knocked him off their rankings, he’s gotten himself back on track to open the year, it seems. Gurriel played all over the diamond in Cuba, but he’s been exclusively a second baseman and shortstop thus far in the Blue Jays organization, splitting his time evenly between the two spots.
As for Hernandez, while the move to recall him initially may have been looked at as a short-term option, he’s announced his presence in the Toronto lineup by hitting .375/.400/.708 with a homer, three doubles and a triple through five games and 25 plate appearances. It’s a small sample, to be sure, but Hernandez demonstrated huge power potential with eight home runs in a September call-up last season, and he’s among the leaders in barreled balls since that time, per Statcast. No hitter who has put at least 10 balls into play thus far in 2018 has averaged better than Hernandez’s 99.3 mph exit velocity.