Blue Jays fans are waiting for Vlad Guerrero Jr to live up to the hype. They need to be patient a while longer.
April 26, 2019. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. MLB’s number one ranked prospect finally made his long awaited big league debut.
The game had a storybook type of feel to it. Guerrero made a couple of very nice defensive plays at 3B. His first three at bats resulted in outs even though two of those were hit hard. Then up he came to lead off the bottom of the ninth in a 2-2 tie. His first major league hit was a double down the right field line. He was lifted for pinch runner Alen Hanson who scored ahead of Brandon Drury’s game winning 2 run HR.
Unfortunately Guerrero’s brief (so far) stay with the Blue Jays has yet to live up to the insane hype that preceded his call up.
The 20 year old who owns a slash line of .331/.413/.531 over four seasons in the minors has not been an instant success in MLB the way many people thought he would. In his first 10 games with Toronto he is hitting .162/.244/.189. He has six hits with just the one extra base hit. He has drawn 4 walks, struck out 11 times and he has one RBI.
Some of the same people who had previously been screaming for the Jays to call him up were questioning if he had been called up too soon. Some people have actually suggested that the best thing would be to send Guerrero back to the minors to work out his struggles.
I have a message for those people – chill out!
It has been 10 MLB games. Not even two full weeks yet, due to two days off for the team and two games that manager Charlie Montoyo gave the rookie off from playing.
Vlad jr is not the first talented rookie to struggle during his first shot in the show. For example his MLB Hall of Fame father Vladimir Guerrero Sr hit .172 with 1 RBI in his first 10 MLB games. Junior is in good company.
Don’t forget that he only played in six Grapefruit League games in 2019 before his spring training was cut short due to a strained oblique. He returned to action in April, playing in 12 MiLB games between A+ Dunedin and AAA Buffalo before getting the call for his MLB debut. Even seasoned veterans don’t always hit the ground running at the start of the season. Some guys just seem to need to get their timing going but at the end of the season the stats are there.
While we wait for his bat to get going – and it will – let’s take a look at what Guerrero jr is already doing well. For one thing, his defence at 3B. All through his career in the minors, the report on Guerrero has been that there is no doubt he will hit, but his defensive ability at 3B was in question. He had made routine plays and some not so routine ones as well. Fangraphs has him at 2 DRS in 10 games.
Let’s say he plays 100 games at 3B for the Jays this season. He would be on pace for 20 DRS. For perspective, the 2018 AL gold glove winner at 3B led all of MLB with 29 DRS. Not to suggest that Vlad will receive gold glove consideration but at the very least his defence has been better than advertised.
How about the base running? Statcast has measured his average sprint speed as 26.7, compared to MLB average of 27. Again not terrible, especially considering that his speed has been considered as a liability. He has been a bit better than advertised.
He hasn’t gotten many good pitches to hit. There have been some questionable “strikes” called against him. At times he has been somewhat un-Vladlike in chasing some bad pitches out of the strike zone, just the opposite of the patient hitter he was throughout his minor league career.
The jump from the minor to major league baseball is huge. Never forget the mental and emotional side of the game. Much has been written about his background. As the son of Guerrero Sr, Jr grew up around the game. He is used to the type and attention. But underneath it all, there is a human being. A 20 year old human being who is finally getting the chance he has been waiting for for years. As much as we all want him to succeed, he wants it that much more.
I am confident that he will make the necessary adjustments and become the great MLB hitter he is expected to become.
Mike Trout, who is widely thought of as the best current player in the game, also struggled when he was first called up and eventually he was sent back to the minors to sort it out. In a month from now if Guerrero Jr still isn’t hitting, then I might entertain the idea. But for now, let’s give him a little more time to sort it out.
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