As the great debate continues about whether to promote Vladimir Guerrero Jr, let’s take a look at others who have debuted as teenagers, and how they fared.
When you have a prospect as special as Vladimir Guerrero Jr in your minor league system, it’s both a blessing and a (small) curse. The blessing is obvious, as the son of a Hall of Famer is displaying the kind of talent that scouts dream about, and he’s only 19 years old. On the downside, deciding how to best handle his development is a tricky question, and one that comes with criticism and analysis at every corner.
For the Blue Jays in 2018, the question started out as whether or not Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could be ready to perform at the highest level. Now that we’re in the middle of May, it’s not really an ‘if’ anymore, and has become a question of when. As of this writing, the young slugger is slashing .421/.472/.697 with eight home runs, 45 RBI, and 16 doubles in just 39 games played. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s walked 16 times against 15 strikeouts in 152 at bats.
To say that he’s ready to move on from Double-A would be a gross understatement, at least on the offensive side of the ball. It’s expected that the Blue Jays will have to move him up to at least Triple-A in the next few weeks, but from there it’ll just be a matter of time before the pressure mounts on him to come to the Blue Jays. When you combine his hitting heroics with the epic struggles of guys like Kendrys Morales in the bigs, it makes promoting him that much more enticing.
That said, is it best for his long term development, or for the Blue Jays’ franchise? That’s a question that I have no doubt that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are struggling with daily. While it’s difficult to find a proper comparison for a young phenom like Guerrero, there have been a few youngsters who debuted at a very early age, and could give a window into how it either helped, or hindered their development. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll be focusing on some of the more recent 19 year old call-ups.
Let’s have a look.