‘How did we let him down?:’ Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins talks regression from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Photo credit:Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
7 months ago
There are few Toronto Blue Jays who have been under a finer microscope the past few seasons than that of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Following a mammoth 2021 campaign where he mashed a season-high 48 home runs, there have been some signs of regression in his play at the plate. He’s gone from a 1.002 OPS to a .818 in 2022 and a .788 in 2023 — seasons that have all earned him All-Star appearances but ones where fans have been left wanting more.
Among the issues seen last season were ones of timing for the slugger, with there seeming to be issues with his ability to get bat-to-ball in the right way. Pitch selection also became an issue, with him swinging at obvious balls that should’ve been laid off and struggling to get his bat on ones in the zone he should’ve had no issue with.
During the GM meetings in Nashville this week, Ross Atkins sat down with an MLB Network panel fielding various questions, including one about Guerrero Jr.’s season and the approach to the 2024 campaign.
Carlos Pena: “When I look at Vladimir Guerrero Jr., for example, and I know he spoiled us. He goes out there and has this monster (2021) season, and then he has solid years, and all of a sudden we’re like ‘oh, he’s struggling.’ Now, I’m thinking the league has adjusted to him, and now he needs to make adjustments to the league. What is the process with him, because we obviously know what he’s capable of doing?”
Atkins: “I think about that on a very regular basis, is how did we let him down? That’s how I think about it, that’s how I go to bed at night thinking there’s got to be a better way to have him in a stronger position on a daily basis, because the bat speed, the strength, his plan, his work, is all solid. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy this year, and into this offseason with John, with Donnie, and obviously Guilermo and Hunter thinking about better ways to streamline information and make sure we’re distilling it in a way that he can really maximize everything he’s capable of. He still had a great year, you said it well Carlos, he had a very productive year, and even when the performance doesn’t actually turn into the balls over the fence and a significant OPS or whatever it may be, the threat of him in a lineup, and the impcat that has on others, we saw it towards the end of the season seeing him get six or seven pitchers every at-bat. I’m so excited for this year for Vladdy, and I’m very much looking forward to his impact.”
Atikins had also spoken during the interview about Don Mattingly’s new role as the club’s offensive coordinator and how the organization needs to do a better job of “getting the best possible information” in front of not just Guerrero Jr. but all the Jays’ offensive players.
His comments about Guerrero Jr. are sound, and it’s curious to hear what sounds like legitimate regret in his voice about what’s transpired over the last few years.
We heard during the season from the outspoken Buck Martinez, who felt that there was such a flood of information coming Guerrero Jr.’s way, that it was causing him to lose sight of some of the basics he needed to focus on. And given Atkins’ comments, that sounds like something the club is aware of, too.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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