Blue Jays: Will Vladimir Guerrero Jr. force the Jays’ hands?

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

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues to put on a show in Double-A New Hampshire as the youngest player in the league, and arguably the best hitter too.

There have been a few times this spring that I’ve thought to myself, “okay, let’s move beyond the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. discussion and focus on the big league club”. With the Blue Jays sitting at 14-9, that should be easy enough to do given their success to start the year.

That said, it just hasn’t mattered. We can’t stop talking about this kid because he won’t let us. Not at the rate he’s performing as a 19 year old against grown men.

“Vladdy Smash” (it’s a new nickname I’m trying out) has been unbelievable since turning pro as a teenager, but what he’s doing this season is bordering on ridiculous. After the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, he has slash line of .353/.407/.529 across 17 games and 68 at bats. He’s also collected a pair of home runs and 22 (!) RBI already, again, in just 17 games. In case that went over your head for some reason, he’s averaged around 1.3 RBI per game, As the youngest player in Double-A. I know it’s a small sample size, but c’mon.

More from Jays Journal

Being the son of a Hall of Famer and one of the top prospects in baseball comes with a lot of pressure for most people, but with Guerrero you’d hardly know it. At the start of the year it was widely believed that he would benefit from a full season of Double-A and the assessment would be made from there regarding his future. There was also plenty of talk about not rushing his development, regardless of how exciting his upper echelon potential might be, and the same went for his dynamic duo partner, Bo Bichette. The duo destroyed Low-A with the Lansing Lugnuts last year, and were promoted together to the Dunedin Blue Jays of High-A where they continued to rake. Bichette has been outstanding this season as well (.303/.376/.434), but Vlad Jr. may be finally separating himself a little bit.

When it comes to the next promotion, Guerrero doesn’t look like there’s a challenge he isn’t ready for so far. He’ll continue to play in Double-A for at least a little while yet and likely for a few months at a minimum, but who knows. At the moment there are plenty of MLB-level options ahead of Guerrero on the organizational third base depth chart, including Josh Donaldson when healthy, Yangervis Solarte, and potentially others like Lourdes Gurriel or Aledmys Diaz. However, it’s not Guerrero’s glove that will carry him to the big leagues as a youngster, and if the Blue Jays are contenders later this season the idea of promoting him could be all that much more enticing.

I’m not suggesting that he’s coming for Kendrys Morales‘ job this year necessarily, but I’m not ruling it out either. The Blue Jays and especially John Gibbons have shown a tendency to ride the “hot hand” over the last few years, as we’ve seen recently with Teoscar Hernandez and Steve Pearce getting more playing time while they’ve been hitting well, and Randal Grichuk sitting after a lot of struggling. Right now the Blue Jays are also facing a potential situation where they’re going to struggle to play everyone, especially once Donaldson is healthy. With that in mind, forcing Guerrero into an already crowded lineup doesn’t make much sense either.

All it would take, though, is an injury to someone like Morales later in the season, and an opportunity for the young phenom to show what he can do. I wouldn’t expect him to be a star right out of the gate, but I’d be surprised if he wouldn’t be able to hang at the highest level already, and him flourishing wouldn’t shock me either.

Maybe that chance never comes this year with the amount of other suitable DH candidates and the depth at third base, but the more I watch and read about what he’s doing again this year, the more convinced I am that he could help the Blue Jays at some point in 2018, and that it will inevitably happen. I’ve been on record as saying I hope the Jays don’t even go there until 2019 at the earliest, but sometimes talent forces an organization’s hand. At this rate, I’d be surprised if Vlad Jr. didn’t do just that at some point this season.

Next: Kelly Gruber arrested for driving while intoxicated