Blue Jays: Don’t talk to me about Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s conditioning
It’s not ideal that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is already injured, but questioning his conditioning and long term outlook is a little premature at this stage.
We got some Blue Jays news we didn’t want to hear on the weekend, finding out that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will miss at least the next three weeks recovering from a grade one strain to his left oblique.
The news is definitely unfortunate and I don’t blame fans for being disappointed, but in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t that big of a deal. It more or less puts to bed the discussion around whether or not he should break camp with the team, as he’ll need time to get up to speed even after he’s healthy, and he probably won’t be back on the diamond before Opening Day anyway.
What the injury has also done is cause panic among some of the fan base, which is both a sign that we’ve probably focused too much attention on Vlad Jr. already, and that some of us are getting a little ahead of ourselves.
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I’ve read (granted, mostly on Twitter) some folks that are calling for the heads of the conditioning coaches, as it’s unacceptable that the phenom is already hurt. I’ve seen people saying that Vlad Jr. came to camp “out of shape” and even noticed a couple go as far as to call him “fat”. While he’s no doubt a huge physical specimen, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
We have to remember that he’s still just a teenager, as he only turns 20 later this week. He’s still growing all the time, and chances are his body hasn’t even fully developed. While that might be a scary thought, sometimes you have to let nature take it’s course. As much as some of us would like to see his frame end up like his Hall of Fame father’s, it’s simply not going to happen. He’s a huge kid, and he’s going to be a giant of a man.
Vlad Jr. is destined to be a truly massive figure, both literally and figuratively. In my mind, there’s no doubt that he eventually ends up at first base, and probably finishes his career as a designated hitter, but that’s fine and it’s something we can worry about down the road. The same thing happened to Miguel Cabrera, who played third base and in the outfield before eventually moving into the primary hitting positions of first and DH. That hasn’t stopped him from bringing value to the diamond late into his career, his injury-shortened 2018 season excluded.
I think it’s wise for the Blue Jays to start Vlad’s big league career at the hot corner, and do their best to maximize his defensive potential. Maybe he’ll eventually settle into a frame that can’t move quickly enough to play over at third, but for now that’s not an issue. The kid has shown an adequate ability to move, and an above-average arm, and there’s reason to believe he can be an average, if not truly solid defender.
But what if he develops into his body and harnesses his athletic potential? Look at the ridiculous frame that belongs to Lebron James in the NBA. When you think about a prototypical basketball athlete, James defies nearly all of the odds with the way he moves. He’s a freight train, and it wasn’t until his body had fully matured that he truly harnessed the potential his body had given him. Lebron is listed at around 250 lbs, in the same range as Vlad Jr. (Granted, Vlad doesn’t have the height) but who knows if either player’s weight is accurately listed or not.
Now, I’m not saying that I think Vlad Jr. is going to develop into that kind of chiselled frame, but I don’t think we’re starring at the second coming of Cecil Fielder here either (no disrespect intended, big fella). It remains to be seen how his body is going to develop over time, but we won’t know that for at least a few years, and there is really no sense in worrying about it now.
Maybe it’s possible that he could have come into camp in better shape, but I think there are two things to keep in mind. First, he played in the Arizona Fall League to get some extra at bats after missing time because of an injury last year, so he probably needed some of the winter to recover from the longest season of his young career.
But secondly, I’m not sure the Blue Jays gave him the motivation to come into camp in the best shape of his life, knowing full well that his performance probably had nothing to do with where he started his season. I’m not saying this is the attitude he took at all, but you could hardly blame him for treating camp and the first few weeks of Triple-A as his opportunity to get tuned up for the real start of his season, his promotion to the big leagues. This could be a completely moot point I’m making here as far as Guerrero’s preparation, but all I’m saying is if the Blue Jays truly wanted to motivate him, guaranteeing him a place in the minor leagues isn’t the way to do it either.
Regardless, I think anyone who is panicking at the idea of him missing a few weeks this Spring needs to step back and remember that he’s a teenager, and that overanalyzing every aspect of his life at this point is probably a gigantic waste of time. He’s going to grow up before our eyes, so rather than fretting about his long term health, let’s just be thankful the injury was relatively minor, and that we’re about to watch one of the best hitting prospects of all time put on a Blue Jays uniform later this year.
In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin, “don’t worry, be happy”, and don’t waste your time worrying about his condition. He’s gonna be just fine.