Blue Jays: Can Vladimir Guerrero Jr. maintain a .400 average?
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. entered Tuesday night’s game hitting an even .400 on the year. Can he maintain that number for the last few weeks of the season?
For those of us that are old enough to remember, 1993 brought a ton of excitement to Blue Jays fans, both from a team and an individual standpoint. Obviously the World Championship ranks supreme here, but we saw many remarkable seasons, including the Blue Jays having the top three in the batting race with John Olerud finishing first at .363, Paul Molitor second at .332, and Roberto Alomar coming in third with an average of .326. The trio were commemorated in a bobble head giveaway just this past weekend.
It was incredible to see the Blue Jays sport the top three hitters in the league, but for awhile that wasn’t even the narrative that everybody was talking about. Olerud’s season in particular was something to behold, and he was the first player in many years to flirt with the .400 mark for an entire MLB season. He was still hitting .400 on August the 2nd (according to baseballreference.com), and entered September with an average of .382. Incredible stuff.
We haven’t seen anything like it around the Blue Jays since, despite the presence of several great hitters over the last couple of decades. However, we are witnessing something almost as impressive in what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is doing in the minor leagues this year.
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Granted, the young slugger missed several weeks with a knee injury, but he’s now played in 78 games across four different levels. He played in 61 games in Double-A before being promoted to Buffalo, and also had four rehab games split between Rookie Ball and High-A. After Tuesday night’s contest (he went 1-5), Guerrero is now hitting .397/.452/.672 through 290 at bats, collecting 18 home runs, 69 RBI, and 24 doubles. He’s also had just 34 strike outs against 31 walks, so he’s been impressive across the board.
On one hand, it’s difficult to even talk about Guerrero’s season in comparison to Olerud’s, simply because of the difference in the level of competition. Make no mistake, hitting at the big league level is a different animal than Triple-A, as many former minor league stars-turned fizzled out big leaguers would tell you. That said, we can’t forget that Guerrero is only 19 years old, and this is just his second full season of professional baseball. He played 62 games of Rookie ball as a 17 year old in 2016, 119 games last year between Low and High-A, and the 78 he’s appeared in for 2018. That’s it.
I’m sure it won’t be at the forefront of Guerrero’s mind, but I’d bet that he’s aware that his average dropped below .400 for the first time since the season’s first month. If he can push it back over that mark and maintain it, he would become the first hitter in 57 years to achieve the feat at any level of professional baseball. Over at mlb.com, Manny Randhawa had an excellent piece yesterday detailing Guerrero’s quest, and pointed out that the last hitter to hit over .400 was back in 1961 by Aaron Pointer of the Chicago Cubs organization. Pointer achieved the number in a season played between Class D, and Triple-A, and it hasn’t been done since. Erubiel Durazo did it in 1999, but understandably couldn’t keep up the pace after being promoted to the big leagues.
Assuming the Blue Jays don’t call him up in September (it’s not going to happen), the Bisons have just 20 regular season games left for Guerrero to keep up the offensive numbers. While he’s just 13 games into his stint at Triple-A, and there’s no doubt it’s a step up from the pitchers he’s countered for most of the year, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him pulling it off. That statement seems ridiculous when we’re talking about a 19 year old, but “ridiculous” has been a word we’ve used to describe Guerrero all year long, in the best possible way of course.
There’s a reason he’s been ranked the number one prospect in baseball by several outlets this year, as his tender age hasn’t stopped him from terrorizing pitchers at whatever level he’s played at in 2018. A few more hot weeks with the could earn him a historic mark, which might just be the first of many in a long and successful career.