Some Blue Jay examples
The Blue Jays haven’t had a teenager debut in recent history, but they have had a pair of 20 year olds on the lineup card.
The most recent was in 2015 when Roberto Osuna unexpectedly broke camp with the Blue Jays out of the bullpen. Both he and Miguel Castro were thrust into important roles early in the season, and handled it with the grace of men much older than they were at the time. By a couple months into the season, Osuna had become the youngest closer in baseball, and finished the season with 22 saves and a 2.59 ERA in 68 appearances.
While his career is currently facing other obstacles, there’s little debate about whether or not Osuna was ready for the big leagues. Some folks might point to the anxiety issues he struggled with last year, or the legal troubles he’s currently in, as signs that he needed more time to mature mentally, and physically. However, the success he has found on the diamond is unprecedented for a closer, as he became the youngest to reach 100 saves earlier this year.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays also have a classic story of a player who was brought up too early, or at least that’s the common belief. At the ripe age of 20 years old, Travis Snider received 73 at bats with the Blue Jays in 2008, and hit .301/.338/.466 with two home runs, 13 RBI, and six doubles. It was an exciting debut for the former first round pick, and it mounted some big expectations on his shoulder from the Blue Jays and their fan base.
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Unfortunately Snider never found his groove for an extended stretch at the big league level. His best season came a couple years later at 22 and tantalized the Jays even further when he hit .255/.304/.469 with 14 home runs in just 298 at bats in 2010. However, due to a variety of injuries, struggles at the big league level, and being yo-yo’d back and forth between Triple-A and the Major Leagues, Snider is one of the great “what if” stories in Blue Jays’ history. Still just 30 years old, he hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since 2015 when he split the year between Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
What do all of these names have to do with Vladimir Guerrero Jr? Well, obviously we’re looking at the effect of debuting at a very young age, and for some prospects that’s more than they can handle before they’re old enough to buy their own liquor. That’s also okay, for what it’s worth.
When it comes to the Blue Jays and the best prospect in the minor leagues, the most important question has to be “what is best for his development at this age?”. I don’t think you will find a lot of people who doubt his hitting ability, but being a big leaguer is more than that. Is his glove ready to play at the highest level? Will it harm his development defensively if he spends time DH-ing this year? Is he mentally ready to play against the best players in the world, even if his talent speaks for itself?
These are all questions that I’m sure the Blue Jays front office are grappling with, and the more than Vladdy hits, the more they have to face the reality of a pending decision. Personally, I hope he spends some time in Triple-A before being called up to Toronto, but I think it’ll be a matter of time before he proves he’s too much for that level too. At that point, the Blue Jays will have to make a decision on their teenage phenom, and my guess is we’ll see him in a Blue Jays uniform before the year is out, and before his 20th birthday.