4
Photo Credit: Joel Dinda on Flickr/CC

Just In Case You Forgot, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is Only Eighteen

What in the hell of Canadian-teenage-suburbia were you doing at eighteen? Because I don’t know about you, but when this hoser was that age, I was hanging out with my buddies in my best friend’s parents’ basement with a Big Gulp, 7-Eleven nachos, a side of serious oh-how-I-miss-those-days laughs, while playing hours of N64 4-player Golden Eye 007 and 2-player WCW vs. NWO too.

They were the good ol’ days of driving around in endless circles a bit scared of the changes that awaited ahead, once we all went our separate ways, as we made the amiable epic academic University plunge that September of 1999.  

The interesting thing here is that while we were living out the last months of our teenage suburban lives, a little baseball prodigy was born. Specifically, on March 16, 1999. And that human, of course, is Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

This young man at eighteen isn’t driving around aimlessly like the rest of us were at that age. When he travels down the pavement paths to South Bend, Fort Wayne, or Cedar Rapids on the Lugnuts’ bus, he does so chasing his dreams, as he continues to develop his skills.

This summer many Blue Bird fans have been chiming in on so many thoughtless Internet threads (mostly in Reddit, the Blue Jays Internet armpit) about how the team should promote the kid to Buffalo. But, of course, if you have any baseball sense, you know then, why the cuss would the team cussing do that for fuck sakes? Seriously though!

And, yes, the kid is absolutely awesome, as he has slashed a great line of UN/BE/LIEV/A/BLE, BUT he’s still ONLY eighteen years old. Maybe simmer down on the Bisons talk! – Just sayin’ folks.

And every Jays zealot out there has every goddamn bat-flipping right to be super excited about this prodigious kid because he is HOLY-FUCKING-SHIT-AWESOME, but let’s say we just sit back, take a breath, and wait.

Mark ShapIro spent a significant part of his career in player-development and he understands the importance of a deep farm system, which is pretty rock-the-casbah-cool if you ask me. And in an interview earlier in the Spring, ShapIro said while discussing prospects in the system that, “If you are pinning all your hopes on two or three prospects as being absolutely crucial to your plans, and they’re at double-A and A-ball, you’re in big trouble.”

And, ahh, holy shit, yes, don’t you think? And the Blue Jays aren’t doing that, BUT they do have an exciting trio down in the Capital City of Michigan State — that’s for goddamn sure, isn’t it?

So it should make you feel a bit better knowing that ShapIro’s team isn’t going to rush players through the system. He later went on to say that, “if they (Steve Sanders and Tony LaCava) then go into a player development system that’s focused on developing the players mentally, physically and fundamentally to be the best to their potential, and we ultimately build a major-league team and transition those guys into a big-league culture that is aligned with how we identify and develop and is committed to those players to maximize their potential, then we’re going to be in a good spot.”

And a big baseball amen to that kind of thinking, am I right?

Now the reason I wanted to share some of ShapIro’s thoughts with you is because it’s important to understand the culture down in the farm, and the approach that is being taken by the organization. It seems to me that ShapIro understands the importance of developing players mentally and physically at the MiLB level, which all Birds fans should feel good about — the organization strives to develop its prospects with the right pedagogy.

So I reached out to ‘the Great’ (as Stoeten refers to him) Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, who is the MiLB prospects ‘Oz’ whisperer, and also the man who has the privilege to watch the buzz that feeds your baseball sabermetrics twitter from these Lansing stars.

I sent him an email explaining to him that I wanted to write a “simmer down folks” article about not rushing Vlad Jr., and he got back to me without any soapboxing, so let’s take a look at his thoughts about Vlad Jr. too.

* * *

Why do you think it is important that Vlad Jr. isn’t rushed through the system?

The Minor League experience is designed to get a player ready for the Major Leagues. This incorporates everything from dealing with slumps, adjusting to pitchers, handling the rigors of travel, recovering from injuries, playing in cold/rainy/windy weather, managing time effectively, developing a routine, and learning to be a good teammate. All of these aspects need to be experienced and learned from, so that there are no surprises at the MLB level.

What do you think are his baseball strengths? 

His personal magnetism/social skills, his instincts, his confidence, his ability to learn and improve, his pitch recognition and plate discipline, and his arm.

What skills do you think he needs to continue to develop, as he makes his way through the Blue Jays system to the ‘big show’ in Dome land?

He’s a hitting prodigy, but not a finished product – he just needs to continue his development, and he’ll be just fine. It’s the same thing with all of the rest of skills. He’s continually moving in the right direction, but he’s not where he wants to be yet.

The numbers are there and the fans are real excited about all that stat jazz, what would you tell the fans that want to see him rushed through the system?

It’s going to be worth it if you wait. Get some amnesia. Forget about him for the time being. Then get to know him anew in a couple of years.

A fun little prediction, when do you think Vlad will hear his name called at the Rogers Centre?

If all goes well, I believe he’ll be in Dunedin by the end of this year, in New Hampshire sometime next year, and in Toronto in late 2019 at age 20.

* * *

By 2019, AND, ah yeah, doesn’t that make sense, right? And a holy-shit-why-the-hell-not, eh! That prediction is worth a big Wayne Campbell thumbs up ‘excellent’.

And I kind of had the same timeline imagined in my timbit-hoser-head as Strassler here — that Vlad should be ready (if all goes kosher like a Reuben sandwich well) to be in the Major Leagues at age 20.

The thing is folks, the team is only a couple years away from looking completely different than the team that is on the field now. And the good Birds of summer are going to get younger, they are going to get faster, and they are going to be more than just a homerun team too.

So should we all be excited about the future Birds of summer? Umm, why the fuck wouldn’t you be, BUT simmer down on the whole rush Vlad along train because it choo-choos to the nowhere land of nonsensical thoughts and that’s jut nonsense, eh!

Don’t forget that it’s fun to be a Blue Jays fan these days (even during all the piss soaked 2017 cries) because the team is competitive today and it’s going to be competitive tomorrow. What the hell else could you ask for? Am I right?

  • ErnieWhitt

    It’s nuts to be planning on teenaged prospects arriving in MLB but it’s not without precedent. I’m not saying he’s ready or will be any time soon. But at some point he will be the best organizational option for the team at a position and then it will be the hardest thing in the world to keep him out of the big leagues.

  • dylcoch

    Great article. It is hard to put into perspective that this guy should have had his prom a week ago, and I’m all up for not rushing him and letting him excel at every level before the call-up

  • dolsh

    I agree with everything in here. My only counterpoint would be to look at a-rods age 18 year.
    IF Vlad were to progress through the minors in a similar way (and he was out performing a-rod at that age the last time I looked) AND Toronto finds itself out of the hunt in September, I could see an 18 year old debut at the dome this year. More to all of the points mentioned above too – give him another opportunity to learn. Even if that happens, I don’t think he’s a regular contributor until 2019.
    The other way to think of it:
    The last 18 year old debut in the AL was Alex Rodriguez. It doesn’t happen very often. You’d have to go back to Tim Conroy and Robin Yount to find the two prior. 19? Sure! Trout was 19. And he didn’t become godly until 20. Heck, even Harper was 20 when he ascended.
    So I guess I’m saying maybe, but probably not.