Despite the Toronto Blue Jays’ best efforts, there are some things that happen in baseball that are beyond their control
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The Toronto Blue Jays have one of the more exciting futures in baseball is their young core can live up to expectations. The trio of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.are filled with as much potential as any three in baseball. They are joined by Nate Pearson, who fans will fall in love with, if they haven’t already. This organization has put a lot of effort into grooming their youngsters for future glory. But, there are things that they cannot control, things that we are seeing play out in front of us.
It is no exaggeration to say that there was a real possibility the Blue Jays could compete in this weird, shortened season where playoffs have been expanded to 16 teams. It is an idea that would have sounded a bit out there months ago and, after 1/4 of the season has passed, it may be just as far out there, if not more.
The Blue Jays’ offense has struggled to find it’s groove and much of the negative reaction has been centered around Vlad Jr. Sure, guys like Randal Grichuk, Danny Jansen, Travis Shaw and Rowdy Tellez have yet to find their offensive upside, but it is the much hyped son of a Hall of Famer that folks seem to wonder about.
Recently, manager, Charlie Montoyo, spoke on his struggling slugger: “Anybody who is 21, 22, 23, a 10-year-old, if he’s not really doing what everybody thinks, the confidence is going to come down. That’s when our coaches come and try to keep working with guys and get that confidence back. The only way you can do that is by getting hits and stuff.”
Part of why Montoyo was brought in to manage this team is because of the youth that needed guidance. His experience in the minors would lend itself well to this. The player spent time working out in the offseason, working on physical conditioning, etc. While many fans resort to thinly veiled fat shaming to explain Vlad’s struggles, there is obviously more going on.
The Star’s Gregor Chisholm (linked above) says the fixes are easy. Anyone who has been paying attention will know that there are far too many ground balls (62.5%) coming off the bat of Vlad Jr. He’s hitting the ball hard (85th percentile for Exit Velocity and 82nd percentile for Hard Hit), but it is going for ground outs, etc. Hitting the top of the baseball requires attention to swing path and other adjustments that coaches can use video to help with.
But, what also seems to be plaguing the young star is something much trickier to help with. The pressure of performing at the big league level is something that can ruin many a career. Once the mental side of the game creeps in and takes over, bad things happen. Chuck Knoblauch is a good example of this. Obviously, Vlad has more inherent talent than the former second baseman, but he needs to be able to overcome the effects of his struggles to date.
When the Blue Jays drafted the likes of Biggio and Bichette, they felt that their being children of successful big leaguers would give them an advantage, that the bright lights and attention of paying in the big leagues wouldn’t bother them as much. That is obviously not happening with Vlad Jr. This is where the club needs to figure out how to deal with the human side of the game, the side that takes part in a player’s head.
Dante Bichette was brought in to help in that regard. We’ve heard on broadcasts how the elder Bichette would not let players get down on themselves and help them learn to battle with two strikes, or maybe even break slumps. He’s got his work cut out for him with Vlad. The Blue Jays will also need their training staff, the high performance folks, to concentrate on their future star.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.is a stud. He has all the ability in the world to become a monster at the plate. He has yet to really tap into that and, at least part of, the reason is he is human. Just about anyone would be overwhelmed with the hype that followed him through his minor league career and increased once he made his big league debut. No matter the effort the club puts into mitigating this, the proof is in the pudding. They’ll need to figure out how to best help him overcome this and breathe easier. If they can, his natural ability can take over and he can enjoy the success that follows.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.