Is the Vladimir Guerrero Jr., era in Toronto set to begin sooner than we thought?
The hype train has been smoothly and steadily picking up momentum with every massive dong the 19-year-old crushes into the left-field bleachers, as broad expectations of his Major League debut-date keep shifting and creating debate amongst Baseball Men and Women. Coming into the 2018 campaign, most pegged Guerrero Jr., to be MLB-ready by ’19 at the earliest. But after a strong spring showing following his success with Dunedin and Lansing last year, a September call-up date started to seem realistic.
Now, five weeks into the Big League season and 24 games into his ‘AA’ career, the voices calling for VGJ’s call-up are growing louder and more prevalent — and maybe they’re onto something.
Through his first 93 at-bats in the Eastern League, Guerrero Jr.’s start with New Hampshire has been nothing short of special. More than five years younger than the average AA player, the FisherCats third-baseman has slashed an egregious .398/.455./624 with three knocks and 30 rib-eyes. His batting-average tops Eastern League, his OBP ranks second, and he currently sits 7 RBI clear ahead of second in the EL.
To say he’s been mashing is an understatement.
Vlad Jr just freaking absolutely crushed this Baseball pic.twitter.com/qcH2LDRjoc
— Sammy Da Bull (@SDLOVE77) May 4, 2018
It’s been less than two months since Vlady’s 19th birthday and the possibility of Junior joining the Blue Jays this soon seemed like a pipe dream just a short time ago. However, with top-tier prospects now making their MLB debuts younger than ever — former No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna most recently got a call-up to the Braves and is thriving, so far, at age 20 — and VGJ absolutely torching AA New Hampshire through the early going, is there a chance we see Guerrero Jr., with the big club in the next month or two?
There are, of course, several potential implications to a move of this stature for both player and club.
Cons – Don’t do it!
His development could be stunted. Though he’s mashed the ball and hit for average at every level he’s played, rushing him to the Majors to face the best pitchers in the world could put throw a serious loop into VGJ’s growth as a hitter. The increase in velocity, movement and pitch-variation he’ll see from the big-league arms he’ll face as a not-yet-20-year-old would present a challenge to anyone at this stage in their career, let alone a kid who hasn’t even seen 100 AB’s in AA yet. Injuries aside, Confidence issues may be the only thing that could derail or slow the development of a prospect like Vlady, so why risk even the slightest chance that he struggles out of the gate because he came up too early.
Hasn’t proven enough yet. Sure, his numbers are pretty mind-blowing but the sample size, especially in AA, is so damn small still. If he finishes this season anywhere near where he’s at now, then damn, get him up immediately following New Hampshire’s campaign. But until he gets a full season under his belt in the Eastern League and even some games in AAA — as Acuna did to finish 2017 and at the start of 2018 — there’s no point in rushing Guerrero up, especially with Josh Donaldson seemingly healthy again at third and a surplus of options in the outfield.
The Team will be in a playoff race. This isn’t any clearly-in-rebuild/tank-mode club. The Blue Jays will likely be battling for one of the two AL Wild Card spots down the stretch and, unless you decide to ship assets out at the deadline or are certain that VGJ will give you more offensive production than some of the team’s current roster options, it’s no time to throw Vlady in to the fire to “see how he does” or “evaluate.”
What if he’s a bust? The anticipation of Christmas morning is always always more exciting then the actual gifts, and postponing his call-up will delay the inevitable feelings of disappointment and unmet expectations that Toronto fans know all too well. Let us dream for a couple years longer, is that too much to ask?
Pros – Bring him up!
He appears ready to go, and succeed. Look, if you didn’t know this kid’s age, calling Vlady up to the big club wouldn’t even be a question at this point. His numbers at single-A, high-A, and ‘AA’ have all been ridiculously impressive and he’s improved steadily in every offensive category month-over-month since he burst onto the scene with Bluefield in 2016. There’s really not much left for VGJ to prove outside of of the Majors and, as MLB.com’s No. 1 prospect posting some of the craziest numbers a teenager has ever put up in the Eastern League, it’s doubtful that a bunch more reps against minor-league pitching will do him any good.
Getting non-garbage time reps and AB’s. Instead of calling Vlad up near the end of the season if, say, Toronto is out of the playoff hunt, why not get him up mid-season when each at-bat is actually meaningful for the Blue Jays. The benefits for Guerrero: he gets to see action during an important time of the season and test his skills with a little bit of pressure lingering — he can really see where he’s at and where he needs to improve. Benefits for the team: he may actually help Toronto’s chances at grabbing one of those WC spots because, well, he’s nasty.
See what you have. The sooner Toronto can find out if Vlad will be an impact player the big leagues right away, the easier it will be to dispose of Josh Donaldson for a return before inevitably losing him in free agency this summer. If Guerrero Jr., is ready to go and can step in at third, the Bringer Of Rain can turn into a Bring Of Assets for the Blue Jays. Also, Kendrys Morales is trash and literally any bat other than his will be an upgrade — why not make it Vlad?
And, maybe the biggest pro of them all: We get more sweet, sweet Vlady #content.