Blue Jays’ Vlad Guerrero Jr. getting historic praise at 18 years old

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. /

Arguably the most talked about player in the Blue Jays system this offseason has been Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who won’t turn 19 until March and has only played one professional season. When you’re that good, people take notice and start talking.

With just a couple weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin for spring training, we’re starting to get a pretty good idea of what the Blue Jays will look like for the 2018 season. There is a strong possibility that Ross Atkins and company add another pitcher or two before the season gets underway, but for the most part the offseason work has been done.

In an offseason that had headlines around whether the Blue Jays would trade or extend Josh Donaldson, the departure of Jose Bautista in free agency, and the trade additions of Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, and Randal Grichuk, it’s been relatively quiet all things considered. It’s been an offseason full of speculation, mostly because we didn’t have much else to do as we waited for movement on the free agent hot stove.

We did have another thing to focus on and celebrate though, and that was the ascension of several prospects in the Blue Jays’ minor league system, no one more prominent than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 18 year old phenom tore apart the Low A Midwest League with the Lansing Lugnuts, and then did the same or better after a promotion to the Dunedin Blue Jays in High A. All said and done he finished with a slash line of .323/.425/.485 with 13 home runs. 28 doubles, and 76 RBI in 119 games played. Not bad for a guy who was barely old enough to vote.

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It isn’t just the great numbers that Blue Jays fans can dream on, as the praise for the young slugger is coming from noteworthy sources all over the game. He was recently ranked as the #3 prospect on Baseball America’s prospect rankings, and was in the same spot in MLB Pipeline’s list as well. Keith Law at ESPN likes him even more, listing him as the #2 prospect in baseball at the moment.

As wonderful as those rankings are, some of the quotes coming in from notable sources might be even better, and that’s saying something. For example, Vlad Jr. has always had some pretty talented people around him, starting obviously with his Hall of Fame father Vladimir Guerrero Sr. It was hardly limited to his pops either, as his Godfather is none other than Pedro Martinez, who thinks pretty highly of his godson.

Jim Callis at MLB Pipeline has heaped praise on the spawn of one of baseball’s newest Hall of Famers as well, routinely talking about the kind of star potential he sees in the teenager. MLB Pipeline also awarded Guerrero with their first ever score of 80 for a hit tool, which shows that they see his ceiling as a hitter to be as good or better than….. well, anyone.

Hopefully all of this discussion and excitement won’t prove to be too much pressure on the youngster, but you have to think his confidence has to be pretty high right now with all of the recent reports. In fact, if that whole “hit tool” thing is a little foreign for you, here’s some context:

No wonder the Blue Jays refused to consider trading him this offseason, as it was reported that the Marlins at least asked about him in discussions for Christian Yelich. There are varying philosophies about how to handle prospects as assets, but when you’ve got someone who projects to hit as well or better than Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, you hang on to him regardless of the trade target.

The Blue Jays have decided to keep both Guerrero and fellow teenager phenom Bo Bichette back from big league camp this spring, and as disappointing as that news was it makes perfect sense. There’s no point in rushing the pair, especially as they both have plenty of development to make yet, and are blocked by guys like Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki/Yangervis Solarte and more. There’s a good chance both will start in AA with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and if things go really well they could make another advancement before 2018 is over.

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But for now, the Blue Jays can dream big about a future that includes a hitter that’s being regarded as a potential Hall of Famer, receiving praise from every corner of the game and including some of the most respected minds in baseball. It doesn’t get much better than that.