Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got his first at bat against the Houston Astros top prospect on Saturday, and it went well for the future Blue Jays.
Since I’m having a tough time enjoying the World Series this year (Red Sox, you know what I mean?), it’s been pretty easy to pay attention to the Arizona Fall League.
Even if the Blue Jays were in the World Series there would be cause to pay attention though, and that’s mostly due to the ridiculous play of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The 19 year old seems like he’s in the headlines on a near daily basis, but when you’re performing the way he is, there’s good reason for it.
After his first 12 games in the AFL, Guerrero is slashing .458/.491/.604 with seven doubles and 13 RBI. This after dominating the Double-A and Triple-A levels earlier this year, and again, he’s still a teenager.
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On Saturday young Vlad was tasked with a matchup against another elite prospect, Forrest Whitley of the Houston Astros. Whitley is ranked as the #8 prospect according to MLB pipeline (and the top pitcher), and is expected to be an elite performer someday after he arrives at the big league level. At just 21, there’s a good chance that he and Guerrero Jr. could have many a battle as professionals, and the first of which took place on Saturday.
Guerrero continued to show why he’s the top hitting prospect in baseball (and all-time), and patiently waited for Whitley to throw him the pitch he wanted to hit. When it finally happened, Guerrero socked the offering into the outfield for a double, winning the first direct competition between the two future stars.
For his part, Whitley has been very impressive in AFL action, and there’s good reason that some folks on Twitter were calling the at bat the “matchup of the season”. The young right-hander now sports an 0-2 record and a 3.86 ERA, but the rest of the stats tell a far more impressive tale. He’s struck out 34 hitters in just 26.1 innings, and has held opponents to a .160 batting average. If not for a disappointing 2018 season that included a 50 game suspension for violating the drug program, and a couple trips to the DL, there’s a good chance Whitley would have been pitching for the Astros down the stretch.
He shouldn’t feel too bad that Guerrero got the best of him this time though, as he’s joining a long list of pitchers who have been picked on by the Canadian-born slugger. The accolades and high praise keep coming for Guerrero too, as he well deserves. In a recent article, Josh Norris of Baseball America said:
"“It’s not men among boys, it’s a monster among men. He’s as good as the hype and then some. This is the best hitter on the planet in the Minor Leagues.”"
There’s a very good chance that both elite prospects will make the leap to the big leagues sometime in 2019, if not at the beginning of the season. This will of course lead to plenty of chances for the two to try and best each other, and I’m sure they’ll be battling it out directly for years to come.
As far as Round 1 is concerned though, it goes to Guerrero, giving Blue Jays fans yet another reason to be excited for the future.