LANSING, Mich. via TORONTO, Ont. - It's no secret that the Blue Jays system is stacked with infielders, all with excellent potential and youthful skill that excites every baseball fan.
Even beyond Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio lie names like Kevin Smith, Santiago Espinal, and Logan Warmoth, all of whom could go on to have fruitful major-league career.
Among the plethora of names that dot the depth chart is Jordan Groshans, 19, who was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft and has quickly become a name to watch.
As surprising as it may sound, Groshans, star shortstop for the Lansing Lugnuts and the No. 5 prospect in the Blue Jays organization, didn't thrive as spectacularly as one might think as a young player.
In fact, he had to work quite hard to get on his high school baseball team, often spending long days with his brother, Jaxx, and his father, Thomas, just trying to improve as a baseball player.
To this day, he maintains that, no matter how hard you work, there's always someone who'll want it more than you. Of course, he had a lot of encouragement from his brother, who is currently lighting up the college circuit as a catcher for the University of Kansas Jayhawks.
"We were raised to love the game, have fun with the game, and respect the game," he said of his family's love for baseball. "It's a big part of our lives."
No matter how tired his father was after coming home from work, he'd always find time to play with his sons. Thanks to a backyard batting cage built by their father, Jaxx and Jordan learned the value of consistency and sticking to an offensive approach.
Even now, he carries the lessons he learned from his father and always consults with him when he's going through a slump. As he gets older and more experienced, he becomes aware of the entire field, and tries to go the other way instead of always pulling the ball, he observed.
"When I was younger I was a big pull guy," he noted. "As I face tougher guys and guys who throw with higher velocities, I think I'm able to use the whole field a lot better than I used to."
As a high school senior at Magnolia High School in Magnolia, Texas, he hit .444 with 11 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 36 RBIs and an unbelievable 1.509 OPS.
Groshans believes in evaluating a pitcher throughout the at-bat as to get a sense of what he's trying to do to him. With a methodical approach that involves pitch elimination and recognition, working with his Lugnuts coaches and teammates, he has developed strategies to get to know a pitcher before even stepping into the batter's box. For him, that process starts in the on-deck circle. "What did he throw the two guys before me?" he asks himself. "What's his better pitch? What does he like to throw in certain counts? Are his pitches on that night? It's a lot."
Though he is currently on the Injured List, Groshans opened the year slashing .337/.427/.482 in 23 games and is looking to improve his quickness on the basepaths, with a special focus on going first to third and reading balls better when they're hit to various parts of the field.
With help from Lugnuts position coach Dave Pano and manager Dallas McPherson, Groshans is learning the importance of reading balls in the dirt, something that has already come in handy on a few occasions this season.
"Dirt ball reads, baby, that's all I'm looking for," he said with a laugh. "We're working on reading the flight of the pitch and trying not to wait until it hits the ground the make a decision."
Groshans is no slouch with the glove, either. Though he stands at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds - a build many scouts believe might be better suited at third base - Groshans says he wants to try and stick as a shortstop for as long as he can.
Due to his large stature, he has to get creative in order to "get low" enough on hotshot grounders and tough plays. Still, Groshans is proud of his progress in the field, especially considering his age.
Since joining the Blue Jays organization last year, Groshans has had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with some incredible young talents, among them first baseman Ryan Noda and Lugs utilityman Nick Podkul.
"Working with them on everyday things, it's a big deal," he said. "I know I have high expectations for myself and I couldn't be more thankful for them."
Now one of the organization's top prospects, the Fortnite-loving Groshans will look to continue to improve as an athlete, learning everything he can about the culture and experience of playing minor-league baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.