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

PlayerYearLevel Jump
Willie Upshaw1978Double-A to MLB
Brian Milner1978High School to MLB
Pete Hernandez1979Single-A to MLB
Paul Hodgson1980Single-A to MLB
George Bell1981Double-A to MLB
Fred Manrique1981Double-A to MLB
Jesse Barfield1981Double-A to MLB
Lou Thornton1985Single-A to MLB
Manuel Lee1985Single-A to MLB
Cecil Fielder1985Double-A to MLB
Jeff Hearon1985Double-A to MLB
John Olerud1989College to MLB
Tom Quinlan1990Double-A to MLB
Ray Giannelli1991Double-A to MLB
Shawn Green1993Double-A to MLB
Sandy Martinez1993Double-A to MLB
Shannon Stewart1995Double-A to MLB
DeWayne Wise2000Double-A to MLB
Josh Phelps2000Double-A to MLB
Devon Travis2015Double-A to MLB
Anthony Alford2017Double-A to MLB
Richard Urena2017Double-A to MLB
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.2018Double-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.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

2 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Blue Jays Position Players Who Leapt From Double-A to MLB

  • May 11, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Milner was drafted. Part of agreement was a ticket straight to bigs. 2 games up, sent down never back.

    • May 11, 2018 at 4:37 pm

      I did some reading on Milner – it’s a fascinating story. Signed on a weekend and was playing the following week. To this day, he’s still the youngest player to ever suit up for the Blue Jays at 18 years old.

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