The Blue Jays’ march to the ALCS came at a cost. In deals for David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Lowe and Ben Revere at the trade deadline, general manager Alex Anthopoulos depleted a farm system he’d quickly grown back into a strength following the R.A. Dickey and Miami Marlins deals.
Toronto’s cupboard are far from bare, however, and as Alexis Brudnicki details in this excellent piece for Baseball America, Vladdy Jr. is a centrepiece of the Blue Jays next wave. Guerrero, the 16 year old who Anthopoulos spent $3.9 million to sign this past summer, has the hitting potential to dream on.
With a thick build at such a young age, most scouts have given Guerrero a chance at manning right field, but noted that first base could likely be in his future unless his mobility and fielding improves as he matures. Instead, the Blue Jays have been giving Guerrero work at third base, his position of preference, and the early results have been encouraging.
“It’s funny,” Anthopoulos told Brudnicki. “Everyone used to put him in the outfield and say that maybe he’s got to play first base because of his body type, and when we worked him out we asked him, ‘What position do you like playing the most?’ He said, ‘Well I like playing third base,’ and no one really talked about him as a third baseman.”
Kudos to Anthopoulos and the player development staff for being open to the idea, instead of driving a hard line for their own long-term plan. Any level of positional versatility will be valuable for Guerrero, and if you look back three years at the Blue Jays roster, you’ll see how impossible it is to predict the landscape of what will be needed three to five years down the road.
Third base calls for initial quickness and reaction more than long-range speed and mobility, so the experiment makes sense. “He hasn’t played there much but we were impressed. We were pleasantly surprised with how good his actions looked at third” Anthopoulos added.
Alongside Jon Haris, Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey, Sean Reid-Foley, Conner Greene, Max Pentecost and my man Rowdy Tellez, the Blue Jays system has plenty left. With the major league club carrying over much of its 2015 roster into 2016, the hope is that this next wave will have a full 18 months to mature together before their services are required either on the field or in trade discussions.
Vladdy Jr.’s signing hasn’t gotten the press it might have received in an average, duller Jays season. The long-term potential is absolutely substantial, however, and while his own stated goal of cracking the big leagues by 18 is a stretch, he could soon be on the fast track.