Blue Jays: Vlad Jr is raking in Double-A, and we shouldn’t be surprised

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

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has opened the season on a torrid pace in Double-A, and despite being just 19 years old, no one should be surprised.

The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten off to a great start to their 2018 season, going 9-5 in their first 14 games before being rained out against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. There has been a lot of pleasant surprises, solid contributions from the new additions, and a great energy around this year’s version of the Blue Jays.

Because the big league club has been thriving, it’s a little easier to miss what’s been going on in the Jays’ minor league system, which was the most talked about topic of the spring this year. Despite bringing in a host of new faces and having a healthy Aaron Sanchez back in the rotation, all anyone wanted to discuss in March was Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and other budding stars in the minor league system. Based on the performances of the youngsters, you could hardly blame anyone for being excited about the future.

That future may be even closer to the present than I, and many of us expected. It’s extremely early in the Double-A season, but Guerrero and Bichette has thrived at the next level of competition, and the rest of their team ain’t half bad either including the likes of Lourdes Gurriel Jr, Cavan Biggio and more. The duo mashed their way through Low and High-A ball in 2017, also looking great in Grapefruit League action, earning their way to the next phase of their minor league development this season.

More from Jays Journal

Bichette has played his usual ‘Robin’ to Guerrero’s ‘Batman’, so I don’t want to discount what he’s done here. The son of former Colorado Rockie Dante Bichette, has slashed .350/.422/.450 through his first 40 at bats. The sample size is small, but he looks more than ready to have another big year in Double-A, and could push for another promotion before the 2018 season is out. Gurriel has been very impressive as well, picking up nine RBI with a .324 batting average.

As impressive as the group as a whole has been (they’re 7-2 so far), Guerrero has stood out as a man among boys, which is odd for a teenager. He’s currently riding a seven game hit streak after picking up his fourth multi-hit game of the year on Saturday. He’s slashing .361/.419/.639 with an OPS of 1.057, and has two home runs, four doubles, and 12 RBI to his credit. This is only 36 at bats we’re talking about, this is getting a little ridiculous.

I’ve been among the voices all along that have said it won’t be until the 2019 season when we see the phenom at the big league level. I still believe that will be the case, especially with the way this season is going so far for the Blue Jays, and the depth they’ve already got at the highest level. Even with Josh Donaldson on the disabled list, they’ve got Yangervis Solarte stepping in, and could use other options like Gift Ngoepe, Danny Espinosa (who would need to be promoted), or even Russell Martin until the former MVP is back. If and when Troy Tulowitzki returns from the disabled list later this year that just further clogs the infield depth chart.

However, I won’t deny what’s happening, which is that Guerrero is proving time and time again that he’s a super prospect that will eventually become a star. You don’t expect 19 year olds (he just turned 19 on March 16th) to push for a big league job, especially on a potential contender. That said, if he continues to perform like this it will be hard to deny him the opportunity, whether the team is in the playoff race or not.

It’s only been nine games and 36 at bats, but so far Double-A hasn’t looked like enough to cause Guerrero Jr. to break a sweat. He’ll need to continue to hone his defensive chops and prove that he can sustain at or near this production (he can’t keep up that OPS, for example) at the plate, but so far that hasn’t looked like a problem at all. The kid is very much for real, and no one should be surprised.

Next: Blue Jays Injury Notes: Donaldson, Estrada, Travis