Blue Jays: When we can realistically expect Vlad Jr.
With talent like what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. possesses, it’s hard not to dream about what future Blue Jays’ lineups might look like. That said, he’s still just 18 years old, so when could we realistically expect him to become a big leaguer?
If you’re looking to get excited about the future of the Toronto Blue Jays, look no further than the Lansing Lugnuts and the slew of talent on their roster. Youngsters like Bo Bichette and Bradley Jones have been putting on an offensive show. Bichette leads the Midwest League in hitting and is currently slashing .388/.462/.626 with 25 doubles and 39 RBI in 206 at bats.
Bradley Jones was hitting .326 with 9 home runs and 39 RBI before he was promoted to High-A Dunedin. Jones is 22 and a first baseman, so he’s naturally a little further along in his development, but his talent is immense as well.
The last of the trio is young Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose name alone brings excitement to the Blue Jays’ fan base. When you look at what he’s doing on the field as an 18 year old, it’s hard to hold back from letting your expectations get out of hand. Thus far he’s hitting .340/.426/.500 with 18 doubles, 36 RBI, and 4 home runs in just 200 at bats. Barely old enough to buy a lottery ticket, Vlad Jr trails only Bichette for the league lead in batting average.
Knowing that he’s just 18 and playing in the lowest rung of the minors, it’s important to keep our expectations in check for the youngster. That said, he’s absolutely raking in his first full season, and it won’t be long before the Blue Jays consider giving both him and Bichette a promotion in the Minor League system.
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The son of “Vlad the Impaler” has plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the ball, but has been reasonably sure handed at third base this year, committing just 4 errors thus far. That said, scouts aren’t sure if he’ll be a third baseman by the time he reaches the big leagues, speculating that he could end up at first base, or possibly in one of the outfield corners. He’s athletic enough, but where he sticks will be determined by how his glove develops, and possibly the organization depth chart. For example, we know that barring a trade, he won’t be playing third for the Blue Jays until 2019 at the earliest.
Which might be a somewhat realistic timeline for the Canadian born infielder, as he’ll at least be 20 by that time. Looking at some recent examples, there aren’t many that make the ascension to the minors at his age, with Bryce Harper being the most recent example, when he was a regular in 2012 at 19 years old.
Mike Trout debuted at 19 in 2011, as did Justin Upton in 2007. 20 year olds include the Blue’s own Roberto Osuna in 2015, Texas’ Rougned Odor in 2014, and Raul Mondesi in 2016 with the Royals. On the pitching side, Madison Bumgardner, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez all debuted at 19. It takes some pretty otherworldly talent to pull it off at that age.
Then there are the examples of those who may have been rushed, such as Travis Snider with the Blue Jays, who debuted in 2008 at 20 years old. Willy Mo Pena started in the big leagues at 20 in 2002, and never developed into the All-Star many believed he would. Lastings Milledge was a first round pick and debuted as a 21 year old with the Mets in 2006, and hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2011.
Which is why we can’t expect Guerrero to make the jump too quickly, and the same goes for Bichette and Jones as well. It’s entirely possible they force the hands of the Blue Jays’ brass in the same way that Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro did in 2015, but there is still plenty of experience to gain, and development to make before Guerrero will be ready.
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His play is making it very easy to dream about though, and it won’t be long before the second generation of Guerrero is terrorizing the Rogers Centre in much the same way his father did (Sr. had .333/.385/.569 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI lifetime against the Jays). This time, it’ll work in the Blue Jays’ favour, and my guess is he’ll debut before he’s able to purchase an adult beverage.