Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will no doubt make an impression with his bat when he finally makes it to the big leagues, but will his defence be good enough for him to actually stay at the position long term?
We’ve covered Vladimir Guerrero Jr. many times here on Jays Journal, and I myself even did an article on him when we wrote about our Top 30 Blue Jays Prospects. We obviously had Guerrero at the number 1 spot. He is, after all, the best prospect the Blue Jays have ever had by far. (Sorry, Travis Snider) But he does have one big question mark about him. How is his defence?
One thing for sure is it isn’t Gold Glove worthy. Through Triple-A last year, Guerrero earned himself a fielding percentage of .937 through 216 innings. His percentage was quite a bit better in Double-A when he had a .955 percentage, through 447 innings. Throughout his whole 2018 career which not only includes Triple-A and Double-A, but Rookie ball, Plus-A ball and the Arizona Fall league, he has done pretty good. He’s had 217 defensive attempts all season, and only 12 errors to his name. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs has him listed as a 45/45 with the glove tool, and a 60/60 for his arm from third base.
Looking at some of the more simple numbers, if his fielding percentage from Triple-A stayed the same, he would be good enough to be the 19th best third baseman on defence in the big leagues, right between Miguel Andujar and Rafael Devers. Pretty prestigious company if I do say so myself.
But honestly, this is serviceable defence. Not great by any means, but it could be enough for him to stick at the position. The real question we should be asking is if Toronto can really get the most bang for their buck. They will have a drastic influx of infielders coming on to the main roster in the next few years. A lot of them have the ability to move around the diamond, so the team will have to experiment a bit to find out what will work best in the mix of having the best hitters, as well as the best defence in Charlie Montoyo‘s system. Let’s look at a few players who can come in and possibly compete for the third base job down the line.
Since coming on board, Groshans has shown flashes of brilliance at the plate and has quickly earned his spot at #8 in Toronto’s system. He has seen some time at third base as well, in fact it’s half of his playing time. He seems to find more success at third than short as well, posting a .930 fielding percentage. It’s not good, and not better than Vlad Jr.’s, but it is a small sample size too. That said, he will have to better himself if he wants a starting spot with the Blue Jays.
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There is also the fact that Groshans is only in Rookie ball, so Guerrero can sleep easy knowing his position is safe. At least for now.
Another member of the “At least two years away squad” is Kevin Smith. Smith is the number six prospect in the Jays’ system and he too has seen some time at third base. Though not as much time as Groshans, Smith has thrived when given the opportunity.
Smith, like Groshans, is a shortstop but has seen some time at third. Not a whole lot, but with the amount of shortstops Toronto has in their system, they will probably move some people around a little bit.
Posting a .939 fielding percentage at the hot corner, it is slightly better than Guerrero’s Triple-A numbers. We’ll see what the Jays will do with him as he progresses. Something tells me he will see some more time at the position this upcoming season for depth purposes.
Brandon Drury will likely be on the Opening Day roster and be playing third for the Blue Jays, but he probably won’t stay there too long. Drury is likely to be a temporary solution for Montoyo until the arrival of Vlad Jr.
Drury was acquired during the J.A. Happ deal and has been a solid addition for the Jays, but he definitely won’t fit with the future, or be a future starter unless he shocks us all.
On offence, he has hit .154/.241/.231. And better yet, he fields a percentage of .931. Like I said, he’s a temporary solution as a starter and will probably ride the bench for a majority of this upcoming season.
As you can see, Toronto’s third base depth is very limited as to how they will have future success. For now, expect to see a season or two of Guerrero playing third and seeing how things go. Who knows, he may be very successful at it.
But I can’t stress this enough. Toronto will do anything to get the best defence and offence. If there is a better defensive third baseman who can boost the teams batting average, as well as overall offensive production, I wouldn’t be offended if Guerrero changed positions.
Just don’t be too surprised if they decide to move him over to first base or even a designated hitter later on. His big upside is his bat, and his defence might not cut it. That’s okay. I will take a future David Ortiz any day of the week, but for now, Guerrero has earned the right to play third.