Despite increasing fan pressure to bring Vlad Guerrero Jr. up to the majors, the Jays are doing the right thing by keeping him in the minors … for now
Fans and writers (and yes, we *can* be both at the same time!) are increasingly calling for the Jays to bring Vladimir Guerrero Jr. up to the majors. His bat is ready, the argument goes, and the Jays are in a pennant race and need to use every weapon at their disposal. Plus, having Vladdy on the major league team would help with attendance. So there is no possible reason to keep him down.
I beg to differ.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant at the plate. Bringing Vladdy up early will start his service clock early and get him to arbitration and free agency early. In a year when the Jays are contending this should not be the major factor, but it *is* a factor.
Toronto Blue Jays
People gush over Vladdy’s bat, and rightly so. But there is considerably more debate about his glove, with many major prognosticators assuming that he will end up at first base, or even DH. Junior’s bat might well be good enough to carry him in a (largely) hit-only role, but would you prefer he turn into a David Ortiz (lifetime wRC+ of 140) or a Josh Donaldson (lifetime 141)?
To maximize the odds of Vlad staying at third, he needs to play in the field every day. Not one or two games a week, with the rest of the time at DH. Every day. And with a recent MVP holding down third for the remainder of 2018, he will not get those innings in Toronto.
Most Vlad-right-now scenarios are essentially based on relegating Kendrys Morales to a bench role and reserving DH for Vlad and Donaldson. Granted, Mo Mo has had an <ahem> “slow start”, batting .208/.317/.396 for an 83 wRC+. But he is doing that with a BABIP of .222 (his career average is .295) and with a hard-hit percentage of 56.4% (11th best in the majors). His two home runs last night were at 108 mph, with 99% and 100% hit probabilities. So it might be just a bit premature to take the bat out of his hands.
Reserving DH for the two 3Bs could also limit the Jays in playing matchups and giving other players a rest. But every DH game the Jays give to Granderson, or Pearce, or Smoak is another game that Vlad is not playing and not developing.
As good as Vlad Jr. is, he has played a total of 21 games above A ball. Granted, he has played brilliantly in those 21 games, but to suggest that he has completely mastered everything that AA/AAA could throw at him (pun intended) in such a small sample is perhaps a bit optimistic. As for example – even the best players have slumps. I would ideally like Vlad to experience that in AA, and learn to accept it and deal with it there, before he experiences it at the MLB level and has it mess with his mind.
The attendance argument
Some writers argue that bringing Vlad up would have a positive impact on attendance. Toronto fans love stars, they say, and will show up in droves to see the young gun. An interesting theory, but (other than accelerating an initial blip) the evidence suggests otherwise.
The bottom line
Some writers have suggested that the Jays should make their decision on bringing Vlad Jr. up based on immediate need. If he makes the team better, they suggest, then the Jays should carpe the diem. While I agree that short-term success is an important consideration, I do not agree that it is the only one. In my view there are two other tests that need to be considered. First, what is best for the team, long-term. And second (or possibly first), what is best for the player himself? I do not believe that an immediate call-up would pass either of those tests.