Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his professional debut with the Toronto Blue Jays rookie ball affiliate in Bluefield this season
Rarely has a Toronto Blue Jays positional prospect generated the level of hype that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has after one pro season. Especially at just 17 years old.
Debuting with the Bluefield Blue Jays, Guerrero was one of the league’s best players at his level despite being over three years younger than his average competitor. Early Wednesday, Baseball America named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. their number one Blue Jays prospect. (Subscribe and read the full list here).
“Guerrero covers the plate well and should be an above-average hitter with 30-plus homer potential down the line,” writes John Manuel. “Some club officials have compared his overall offensive profile to that of Edwin Encarnacion, though with more speed, as he’s actually an average runner.”
Manuel also compliments Guerrero’s defence, which does have the potential to become something other than a weakness in his overall game. Guerrero’s build as a teenager has left some to question his long-term role in the field, but there is a sneaky athleticism to the young Dominican that could allow him to develop the tool well through the minor leagues.
A first-hand look at Guerrero in Dunedin this spring showed that his conditioning had taken positive steps, which is something that Baseball America adds the Blue Jays and their high performance team will need to continue working on. With a thick waist and upper legs, Guerrero has a power-first body, which is acceptable given that’s where his truest value lies.
With Bluefield, Guerrero put up a slash line of .271 / .359 / .449 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in just 62 games. He also surprised with 15 stolen bases — not something that will develop into a 30-30 MLB season by any means, but again, it’s indicative of his athleticism.
Alongside the raw power, which Baseball America grades as a ’70’ on the 20-to-80 scale, Guerrero’s greatest weapon may be his plate approach. With 33 walks and 35 strikeouts, his eye at the plate could allow him to avoid one of the most common traps for power prospects in the upper-minors and majors.
“He figures to reach low Class A Lansing in 2017, Manuel adds, “and he could make it hard for the Jays to keep him from getting to the big leagues by the time he’s 20.”
Guerrero has stated — more than once — that he intends to push for a Major League roster spot before the age of 20. A season ending with the Lansing Lugnuts at age 18 would set him up for runs at advanced-A Dunedin and double-A New Hampshire as a 19-year-old the year following.
As he’s shown so far, however, the hype is warranted.