Flashback Friday: Blue Jays Position Players Who Leapt From Double-A to MLB
There is nothing Blue Jays fans would love more than to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. called up from Double-A New Hampshire. That single roster move would send the fan base into total hysteria. Heck, I encountered people at the Home Opener who had Vlad Jr. jerseys already.
As cool as it would be to see Guerrero Jr. in Toronto in the very near future, the truth is position players very rarely make the leap from Double-A to “The Show”. The journey from the minor leagues to Major League Baseball is often long and methodical as prospects graduate from one level to another.
It’s much more common to see pitchers pulled up from Double-A, but organizations take their time promotion position players. But there are some exceptions.
To the best of my knowledge, these are all the Blue Jays players who made the leap from Double-A (in some cases, Single-A, college or even high school), to Major League Baseball.
Blue Jays Players Who Went From Double-A to MLB
|Willie Upshaw||1978||Double-A to MLB|
|Brian Milner||1978||High School to MLB|
|Pete Hernandez||1979||Single-A to MLB|
|Paul Hodgson||1980||Single-A to MLB|
|George Bell||1981||Double-A to MLB|
|Fred Manrique||1981||Double-A to MLB|
|Jesse Barfield||1981||Double-A to MLB|
|Lou Thornton||1985||Single-A to MLB|
|Manuel Lee||1985||Single-A to MLB|
|Cecil Fielder||1985||Double-A to MLB|
|Jeff Hearon||1985||Double-A to MLB|
|John Olerud||1989||College to MLB|
|Tom Quinlan||1990||Double-A to MLB|
|Ray Giannelli||1991||Double-A to MLB|
|Shawn Green||1993||Double-A to MLB|
|Sandy Martinez||1993||Double-A to MLB|
|Shannon Stewart||1995||Double-A to MLB|
|DeWayne Wise||2000||Double-A to MLB|
|Josh Phelps||2000||Double-A to MLB|
|Devon Travis||2015||Double-A to MLB|
|Anthony Alford||2017||Double-A to MLB|
|Richard Urena||2017||Double-A to MLB|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||2018||Double-A to MLB|
First off, the most recognizable names: George Bell and Jesse Barfield. Bell was acquired as a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies and made his Blue Jays debut at the very beginning of the 1981 season. Barfield was a September call-up after spending his 1981 season with the Knoxville Blue Jays.
There are two players on that list who never saw a lick of minor league action before making their big league debut. John Olerud went straight from college to the Blue Jays in 1989. The story of Brian Milner is a fascinating one (which I’m hoping to find more dirt on for a future article). Legend has it Milner signed out of high school and was called up by the Blue Jays shortly thereafter.
Most recently, Devon Travis made his MLB debut on Opening Day 2015 after spending the previous season in Double-A with the Tigers Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves. Anthony Alford and Richard Urena shot up from AA to the Blue Jays last season and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. did it this year.
In total, it looks like only 23 position player prospects skipped Triple-A and leapt from Double-A (or lower) to suiting up in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. In the franchise’s 41 year history, 1,779 position players have played for the Blue Jays, meaning only 1.3% of all position players have ever jumped from Double-A to MLB.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could become part of that incredibly exclusive 1% club in Blue Jays history. But more likely than not, he’ll just keep punishing poor, defenseless baseballs at Triple-A before making his way to Toronto.