Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could be the team’s best hitter by 2019

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

While it seems ridiculous to think about a current AAA player being the team’s best hitter, that’s exactly what could happen with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Toronto in 2019.

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was promoted to Triple-A from New Hampshire, he left the second last rung of the minor leagues having put up numbers that we’ve rarely, if ever, seen at the level. In 61 games played, the teenager hit .402/.449/.671 with 14 home runs, 19 doubles and 60 RBI. Truly video game numbers, and proof that he was more than ready for the next level of competition.

I’ll admit, I expected that he would slow down a bit in Buffalo, and maybe even show some signs of being human for the first time as a professional. While he’s just nine games into wearing a Bisons jersey, he’s proving that he’s capable of dominating the next level of competition, just as he did with the Fisher Cats.

Again, we’re talking about just nine games here, but he might even be more intimidating at the plate in AAA than he was in New Hampshire. So far he’s slashing .462/.571/.769 in his first 26 official at bats, and has already picked up 12 hits and eight walks. He’s hit two home runs, a pair of doubles, and even flashed some leather at the hot corner. If this next level was supposed to be a new challenge for the Canadian-born slugger, so far he looks like a man among boys.

More from Jays Journal

Only the thing is, he’s the boy among men. Guerrero is still just 19 years old, and is the youngest player in the International League, just as he was the youngest player in the Eastern League in AA. He won’t actually turn 20 until March of next year, and at that age that I could barely get myself up in time for work in the morning, let alone handle the pressures that come with being the top prospect in baseball.

By now I think we’ve accepted that it won’t be until 2019 when we see Guerrero with the Blue Jays. And if I were going to put money down, my guess is he’ll debut in much the same fashion that Ronald Acuna did in Atlanta this year, starting the season in Triple-A and securing one more year of club control of the player contract. Acuna made his debut on April 25th this year, so he’s still had most of a season to impress. If Guerrero follows a similar path, and I’m pretty confident that his performance will leave the Blue Jays no other choice, we should see him taking on big league pitching by late April or early May. I’ll also go on record as saying I believe he’ll be the Blue Jays best hitter as soon as next season.

If you have a peak at the hitting stats for the 2018 roster, outside of a couple of players things are pretty rough. Lourdes Gurriel has only played in 38 games, but he did hit .322 in that stint, and was injured in the midst of an 11 game multi-hit streak. Other than him, Justin Smoak would be the only other hitter who I would grade as an asset, as he’s slashed .265/.370/.488 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 106 games.

Smoak has a club option on his contract for next season, and I’d be pretty shocked if the Blue Jays didn’t bring him back, unless they traded him. Chances are that he’ll be the most reliable hitter on the club again in 2019, unless Josh Donaldson returns on a pillow contract to try and re-establish his value, and actually stays healthy for the majority of the season. Otherwise there’s a lot of potential for this lineup to look very similar in 2019, outside of the minor league infusions that are bound to show up at one point or another.

With all due respect to Smoak and the rest of the MLB roster, does is seem impossible that Guerrero would outperform them as a rookie? Again we’re talking about just nine games in Triple-A so far, but he’s looked all too comfortable in the batter’s box and has continued his assault on pitchers. I don’t expect that he’ll hit .400 or even .300 at the big league level in his first season, but I can’t see how he wouldn’t be an asset for the Blue Jays lineup.

While it would have been great to bring him up in the midst of a pennant race, Guerrero will have the benefit of playing for a team with low expectations when he does arrive. That will change in short order as Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins continue to build the next competitive Blue Jays roster, but at least Guerrero won’t be asked to do more than he’s capable of, which should still be plenty enough.

From everything I’ve seen so far this year and especially recently, he looks like he’s more than ready to take on big league pitchers, and could probably perform as well as anyone on the Blue Jays’ team right now. We’re talking about a 19 year old who is still learning the nuances of being an adult here, and he’s only going to get better as he gains experience, and even as his body matures.

Next. Yangervis Solarte needs to set a better example. dark

If that physical, mental, emotional, and baseball maturity develops at the rapid pace that it has been since we’ve been watching this young man, don’t be surprised if he’s not only the AL Rookie of the Year in 2019, but also the Blue Jays’ best hitter.