Blue Jays: The Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Solution
In the last two months, no issue has divided fans of the Toronto Blue Jays more than which path to take with superstar prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. While there’s no “right” answer, one temporary solution sticks out as being especially practical.
Let’s not sugarcoat it, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is obliterating Double-A pitching. With a season slash line of .435/.485/.726 (yes, you read that right), 10 home runs and 48(!) RBI through 43 games, the so-called “Son of the Impaler” is making a rather difficult sport look easy.
In addition, he’s also smashed a league-leading 17 doubles, has a league-leading 73 hits and has struck out just 17 times in 168 at-bats. These are unbelievably impressive numbers, regardless of who they’re coming from.
But let’s not get carried away. Vladdy Jr. is 19 years old, making him the youngest player in the Eastern League. He’s played only two full months in Double-A and has never even seen higher level pitching. This is not to diminish the magnitude of his dominance in New Hampshire, quite the contrary actually. His success in Manchester should be applauded, but not rewarded just yet.
At this point, the Blue Jays 2018 season is enigmatic, confusing, and overall frustrating at times. Calling up someone like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is often seen as a knee-jerk reaction to a crushing loss, or an automatic reflex to a series sweep. Still, it’s rather clear that Atkins and company are not particularly keen on calling Vladdy up just yet.
But that’s not what I’m here to say. To satisfy those who want to see some movement on the Vlad front, and to appease those who are wary of his youth, I’d like to suggest an alternative solution to the seemingly never-ending Vladimir Guerrero Jr. debate – promoting him to Triple-A Buffalo.
This is not exactly a groundbreaking revelation, but more so just one option in dealing with the phenom. Yes, it’s true that Triple-A features some “AAAA” players – those who aren’t quite permanent minor leaguers but who also aren’t quite at the big league level yet, but Triple-A can offer some new challenges for Guerrero.
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First of all, a change of scenery is always valuable in contextualizing a prospect’s success. Perhaps the division in which Vlad currently plays is filled with hitter-friendly ballparks, or maybe the crowds in Buffalo will energize (or de-energize him) into playing a different brand of ball. Again, not to say that his performance has been volatile and insufficient, but this could be just another test to see if this young man is truly ready for the show.
The team itself could also greatly be of help to Vladdy as he continues his progression through the MiLB system. Fellow prospects Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Anthony Alford are currently on Buffalo’s roster, two players who’ll surely appear on the same major league roster as Vlad one day. Building chemistry with some potential teammates is incredibly helpful if he’s going to be a cornerstone of the team’s future.
Finally, promoting Guerrero to a higher level will give the fans something to chew on as they eagerly await his arrival in Toronto. The general consensus among Blue Jays fans is that the front office is generally unwise when it comes to prospect-related decisions. A promotion for Guerrero will show the fans that the front office is thinking logically about his development, but not so unrealistically that they’ll bring him up to the bigs right away.
When you combine those three factors with the possibility of hitting against more competitive veteran pitching and the more rigorous travel conditions of AAA ball, promoting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the International League begins to sound more and more like the right path to take.
At the end of the day, though, this is all just speculation. I am but one fan in a sea of eager supporters who wish to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr with the Blue Jays, but want to see him in the majors at the right time. I would much rather see him later on and more polished than see him now as an unready, nervous 19-year old, and that’s not even taking into account the complicated and vital factor that is major league service time.
Regardless of which path is taken, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats box score continues to serve as a ray of sunlight in the virtual darkness of the current major league team. While some might be a little apprehensive about that fact, I for one, am okay with it.